There are degrees of fame, of course, and not all of it the good type. So I can say I'm related to a murderer or two as well as a couple of murder victims (separate cases), a dodgy priest who was uncovered by the Boston Globe, a well-respected Victorian army piper, and a number of local worthies and 'characters'. However, while it's quite often the smaller stories and individuals I find truly interesting, there are a handful of modern 'celebrities', more widely known, that I share some DNA with. They are by no means close relationships but I can say where they sit on my family tree, so I thought it might be fun to have a look at them.
The first is Chris Farley, probably most famous for his time on NBC's Saturday Night Live during the early 1990s where he performed alongside fellow cast members such as Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Mike Meyers and Julia Sweeney. He also appeared in a handful of films, including Wayne's World and Coneheads. Farley had a number of similarities to one of his heroes, another SNL regular, John Belushi, and unfortunately that included an addictive personality - he died from a drug-induced overdose in 1997, aged just 33 years old (the same age and cause as Belushi, 15 years earlier).
Chris Farley (and his brothers, two of whom are also involved in the entertainment industry) is descended from the Henderson family who emigrated from Scotland to the US in the 1850s, becoming early settlers in some of the outpost communities of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Our common ancestors are James Ewing and Helen Clark (my 5xg-grandparents, his 4xg-grandparents), making Chris Farley my fifth cousin once removed.
Next on my list is the Queen of Brit-Art, Tracey Emin. I'd suspected we were related when I watched her 2011 episode of Who Do You Think You Are? where it was revealed she was descended from Midland Gypsies with the name Hodgkins, though hers came chiefly from Warwickshire, and mine from neighbouring Staffordshire.
At first I discovered that distant branches of our families did marry (through a very convoluted link) but it wasn't until a few key DNA matches appeared that I was able to confirm her as a blood relative and place her, fairly confidently, on the family tree. Our common ancestors are unknown, but it is highly likely that her 5xg-grandfather, Edward Hodgkins, is the brother of my 5xg-grandfather, Thomas Hodgkins, making us 7th cousins.
Finally, back to Scotland and late 1805 where a ship's carpenter, James Horsburgh, had a bit of a dalliance with the twenty-year old daughter of a local land labourer, producing a son out of wedlock. The son was named after the father but did not follow him to Dundee, where a new wife gave him several more children, this time 'legitimate'.
These Dundee Horsburghs prospered quite nicely throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, and they were joined in the city some 50 or 60 years later by a separate Horsburgh branch - actually the descendants of the 'illegitimate' James Horsburgh, though whether the two branches were ever aware of their half-cousin status after so long can't be known (unlikely).
This later Dundee branch are my ancestors and were responsible for a number of carting and contracting businesses within the city. The earlier Dundee Horsburghs are the ancestors of one Glasgow-born James William Somerville, also known as Jimmy, and the face and voice of famous 80s synthpop bands Bronski Beat and the Communards. Our shared ancestor is James Horsburgh (my 5xg-grandfather, his 4xg-grandfather) and that makes Jimmy Somerville my half-5th cousin once removed. (Sidenote: my wife's uncle, Royston Edwards, designed much of the sleeve and logo artwork for the Communards).
As you can see, these aren't close relations and I just happened to discover them while climbing down some of the outer branches of my tree. There are probably others not yet discovered, and you'll likely have some too at this range where we have thousands of relatives spreading out from our common ancestors. I have been involved in a bit of acting, I've been in a band, and I work as an illustrator, so next time someone asks if acting or music or art runs in the family, I can answer, "well, as it happens ...".