There’s only been 44 of them, but American presidents are a well-documented bunch, genealogically speaking. Some presidential blood ties are well-known: most Americans find out in elementary school about the father-son relationship of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as the fact that George H.W. Bush was dad to George W. Bush, who became president eight years later. But here are eight celebrities with White House connections that might surprise you.
1. Brad Pitt and Barack Obama (bonus Angelina Jolie and Hillary Clinton)
In July 2012, Brad Pitt’s mother made headlines with a newspaper op-ed slamming President Barack Obama. She wasn’t just scolding one of her son’s political allies — she was criticizing family. Obama, who has a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, shares with Pitt a Virginia ancestor, Edwin Hickman, who died in 1769. That makes Pitt and Obama ninth cousins. Genealogists also discovered that Pitt’s partner, Angelina Jolie, is the ninth cousin, twice removed, of Hillary Clinton, Obama’s former rival, Secretary of State, and possible successor. Both women are descendants of Jean Cusson, who died in Quebec, in 1718.
2. Ben Affleck and Barack Obama (bonus, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon)
Brangelina aren’t the only celebrities who can claim a (distant) blood tie to the 44th President of the United States. Boston-bred actor and outspoken political activist Ben Affleck is the 11th cousin to Obama via the Hinckley family of Cape Cod, Mass. The Argo director is also the 10th cousin, once removed, of Matt Damon, his boyhood pal and Oscar-winning writing partner on Good Will Hunting.
3. Margaret Hoover and Herbert Hoover
Conservative CNN political commentator and The View guest host Margaret Hoover is the great-granddaughter of Depression-era President Herbert Hoover. The author of American Individualism: How A New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party, Hoover embraces her Republican roots. When she isn’t in front of the camera or working to reform the party of her forefather, she’s serving on the board of the Stanford University-affiliated Hoover Institution, a think tank founded by her presidential ancestor.
4. Tom Hanks and Abraham Lincoln
As the star or producer of Saving Private Ryan, Apollo 13, Forrest Gump, and HBO’s Band of Brothers, Tom Hanks has been called “America’s Historian in Chief.” Turns out he’s also related to arguably the country’s greatest Commander in Chief. Hanks is a third cousin, four generations removed, of the 16th President through Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks. Maybe that connection explains why Hanks narrated the 2011 made-for-TV drama, Killing Lincoln.
5. Richard Gere and James Garfield
Richard Gere’s genes aren’t just responsible for his big brown eyes and strong chin. They’re also the reason he’s related to President James Garfield. The Philadelphia-born actor can trace his family all the way back to John Billington, a passenger on the Mayflower. Billington was also an ancestor of Garfield, the 20th President, making the assassinated president the sixth cousin, four times removed, of the Pretty Woman star.
6. June Carter Cash and Jimmy Carter
June Carter Cash wasn’t just a childhood folk star, country singer, actress, five-time Grammy winner, and second wife to Johnny Cash. She was also a presidential cousin, distantly related to Jimmy Carter. President Carter occasionally made public appearances with his cousin and her Man in Black husband. In 1980, the Georgian 39th President joked, “I haven’t just recently claimed her as a cousin. She’s been my cousin for a long time.”
7. Marilyn Monroe and the Bushes
George W. Bush’s political heritage is an essential fact about the 43rd President — he’s the son of the 41st President, grandson of a U.S. senator, and brother to former governor Jeb Bush, a possible contender for 45th President. But fewer people know that the Bushes, whose family arrived in America in the 1620s, are also related to blond bombshell Marilyn Monroe. The iconic star of Some Like it Hot was the ninth cousin, once removed, to father George H.W. Bush and ninth cousin, twice removed, to George W. Bush.
8. Richard Nixon and James Dean
It’s been said that Richard Nixon lost the presidency to John Kennedy because he looked so uncool during the country’s first televised debate in 1960. Maybe that’s why it’s surprising that Nixon, who became president in 1968, is related to James Dean, Hollywood’s ’50s epitome of cool. Dean shared his New England ancestry with Nixon, making them seventh cousins once removed.