We've all known a guy like this, you know the guy who claims his great to the Nth grandfather did something famous which via Fridge Logic
carries over to him? This is dedicated to any character who invokes a Famous Ancestor to help characterize himself, or is
characterized by his famous ancestor despite his own traits. Expect this as the source of a Secret Legacy
or Superpowerful Genetics
in a family line and expect a poor kid being held up to the ancestors standard.
Commons subversions occur where the character has a Famous Ancestor, but the powers or prowess eludes them and their humiliation is Played for Laughs
This is a common way for writers to grant characters powers or abilities of the famous ancestor. Bonus points if the character claims to be a direct descendant in a case that history clearly contradicts and causes Fridge Logic
. Heroic Lineage
is a subtrope, where the thing the ancestor in question is famous for was an act or pattern of heroism.
Note that while it might seem impressive to claim certain historical figures as your ancestor, anyone who lived more than a few hundred years ago and had more than a few children could very well have millions of living descendants right now. See the entries from Real Life
below. On the gripping hand though, while simple descendants of important historical figures may be common, "direct male line descendants" — presumably, from firstborn son to firstborn son — probably actually would be unique.
Contrast Amazingly Embarrassing Parents
Anime and Manga
- Arsene Lupin III of Lupin III is the grandson of Arsène Lupin, an early twentieth century Gentleman Thief from a series of books by Maurice Leblanc. Goemon Ishikawa XIII is the descendant of Japanese bandit Ishikawa Goemon, and Inspector Zenigata is a descendant of Heiji Zenigata, the hero of a series of Japanese novels. Several minor characters on the show also have famous ancestors, such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.
- Einhart Stratos of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, who is the direct descendant of Klaus G.S. Ingvalt, the legendary Ancient Belka king known for his extraordinary heroism. Unfortunately, in addition to his powers, she also directly inherited his memories and his will, which is not exactly suited for the current era of peace, giving the poor kid some extra burden she didn't really want.
- In The Kindachi Case Files, Kindaichi is the grandson of Kosuki Kindaichi. Kindaichi's grandfather taught him everything he knows about solving mysteries, pickpocketing, and slight-of-hand tricks, but most people are incredulous when they learn about the familial connection. (Primarily because of how lazy Kindaichi is)
- Masahiro in Shonen Onmyouji is often recognized as the grandson of the great Abe no Seimei, a fact that Masahiro despises.
- In Universe example from the wonderful world of Gundam: Usso Evans from Victory Gundam is descended from Char on his mother's side.
- The Mandarin in Iron Man claims he is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. It's actually quite possible.
- The DCU has Lance Cpl. David Reid, a grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
- In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Victor Van Damme can trace his lineage directly back to Vlad Tepes Dracula. And, since this is Ultimate Marvel, he probably really was a vampire.
- Colossus, a.k.a. Piotr Rasputin, is a direct descendant of the infamous Grigor Rasputin. Piotr doesn't claim kinship with any pride.
- Wynonna Earp is the great-great-granddaughter of Wyatt Earp.
- Some comics state that Bruce Wayne is a descendant of Revolutionary War general 'Mad' Anthony Wayne. (This is also a Development Gag as Batman's surname was inspired by 'Mad' Anthony Wayne.)
- In The Kents mini-series, Lois Lane mentions that she is related to famous abolitionist and Civil War general Jim Lane.
- Tintin has an amusing variation in the Secret of the Unicorn arc. When a newspaper leaks out that Tintin and Haddock are going to hunt for Rackham the Red's treasure, the Captain's apartment is flooded for people claiming to be Rackham's descendant and therefore have a claim on the treasure. Unfortunately for them, Captain Haddock also (or rather: actually) has a famous ancestor in the Chevalier de Hadocque, Rackham's Arch-Nemesis, and makes it known that his ancestor's bellicose nature sometimes flares up without warning. The Thom(p)sons are crushed by the stampede of claimants running away.
- Nero: The character Jan Spier is the last surviving descendant of Flemish resistance fighter Jan Breydel, who fought in the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302.
- In Sky High, the main character has two very famous superheroes as his parents. It appears to be a subversion of this trope, until he gains loads of powers. The busdriver is a true subversion.
- In the extremely forgettable 1989 DTV skiffy movie Arena, Steve Armstrong plays a short-order cook attempting to win the intergalactic boxing championship; it's mentioned briefly that he's a direct descendant of Neil Armstrong.
- In Buffalo Soldiers, Colonel Berman discovers he's a descendent of a Confederate General named John Bell Hood. His boasting about it doesn't go as he'd imagined.
- According to Quentin Tarantino, Django Freeman and Broomhilda Von Shaft are the ancestors of John Shaft.
- In Back to the Future Part II, a video in Biff's Pleasure Palace in 1985-A invites you to learn the amazing history of the Tannen family, starting with Biff's great grandfather Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, fastest gun in the west. And in Part III, Marty ends up going back to 1885 to save Doc from being murdered by Buford over a matter of $80, engaging Buford in a showdown.
- All the magicians in the Children of the Red King series are descendants of the Red King, from whom they get their powers.
- Charles Stross' The Merchant Princes Series has an example similar to the Charlie Bone series: Worldwalking is enabled a recessive gene which, 300 years ago, was possessed by exactly one man. All the worldwalkers now are therefore not only descended from him, but descended from him through both parents.
- Vimes from Discworld is a descendant of 'Stoneface' Vimes, who beheaded the last king of Ankh-Morpork, Lorenzo the Kind (he, emphasis, wasn't.) Vimes seems quite proud of this.
Rhys: You had an ancestor, I believe, who was a regicide?
Vimes: I've always thought that was a bit unfair. I mean, he only killed one king. It's not as if it was a hobby.
- Granny Weatherwax is a descendant of Black Aliss, the most infamous bad witch who ever lived. (Among other things, she was responsible for the Discworld version of Sleeping Beauty and Hansel and Gretel. She also turned people into gingerbread and had a house made of frogs.) This gives Granny a certain level of anxiety about turning bad herself.
- Voldemort is a descendant of Salazar Slytherin, from whom he gets his ability to speak to snakes. He transferred this power to Harry by accident. If the ring is any indication, he's also the descendant of Cadmus Peverell.
- Similarly, Sybil Trelawney decided that having a seer for a grandmother entitled her to a spot teaching Divination. She did actually have the gift of foresight, but it didn't work that often.
- Harry himself is apparently the direct descendant of Ignotus Peverell.
- In Order of the Phoenix, Sirius tells Harry that most pureblood families are related to each other in some way or another. It's simply a product of having a limited choice in who one's children can marry to keep the bloodline "clean". It's noted that even the Blacks and the Weasleys (who are purebloods themselves) share common ancestors.
- The Da Vinci Code: The holy grail, who in this story is actually a bloodline and not an object, is the descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
- It turns out in The Dresden Files that all the Knights of the Cross we've met so far are descended from royalty - Shiro from the last king of Okinawa, Sanya from Saladin and Michael from Charlemagne.
- It's been estimated by genealogists that nearly all persons with European ancestry are descended from Charlemagne.
- In a non-genetic example (but still relevant due to the importance of 'apprenticeship lineage' among wizards), the collection of journals owned by Ebeneezer McCoy strongly suggests that Harry himself carries magical knowledge originally taught by Merlin. The first one. This may explain why exactly Knights of the Cross keep trusting their swords to him.
- Played for humor in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as Mr L. Prosser (the man who wants to build a bypass through Arthur's home) is revealed as a direct male line descendant of Genghis Khan but the blood only shows up as predilection for little fur hats, a preference for axes over the door, and the occasional disturbing visions of screaming Mongol hordes on horses, houses on fire, and fleeing peasants with spears sticking out of their backs.
- In the short story The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, Sherlock Holmes claims that his grandmother was sister of the French artist Horace Vernet.
- The Bond family's coat of Arms The World Is Not Enough from the James Bond novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the same as Real Life's Sir Thomas Bond's. The relation is implied but never outright stated.
- Sun Jian from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, along with his children, all claim descent from Sun Tzu.
- Red Dwarf book Last Human has an inversion: Rimmer's one-night stand with Yvonne McGruder led to Michael McGruder's birth. To spare her embarrassment, she tells Michael that Rimmer was a magnificent hero of a man (an idea reinforced by the fact that he was the only crewman resurrected as a hologram). Michael tries to emulate his father's made-up achievements and becomes one of the best officers of the Space Corps, freezing himself in time so he can meet up with his heroic father. Needless to say that when they meet, he isn't pleased.
- In the first book of the Prydain Chronicles, Eilonwy (who turns out to be Princess Eilonwy) happens to mention that hers are the people of Llyr Half-Speech, the Sea King. In later books she self-identifies as "Eilonwy daughter of Angharad daughter of Regat of the house of Llyr." This is a bit of a subversion of the trope, however, because in Prydain it's perfectly normal to introduce yourself as 'son of' or 'daughter of.'
- Fflewder Fflam, a wandering bard (and a king, albeit of a very small, self-sufficient kingdom) is distantly related to the Sons of Don. This, unfortunately, means that he has no choice but to leave Prydain with the rest of his kin at the end of the series.
- The protagonist of J.C. Hutchins' novel Personal Effects: Dark Art, Zach Taylor, is a many times great-grandson of U.S. President Zachary Taylor.
- In Dune, it is revealed that Paul Atredies is descended from Agamemnon. This is part of the trope that good people are descended from good people and bad people from bad people.
- Agammemnon was actually quite the S.O.B. and his family - the House of Atreus - was noted for its murderous proclivities - not to mentions divine curses and general bad luck.
- Ax had this a lot in Animorphs. His brother, Elfangor, was an Andalite war hero and his name was instantly recognized by many Andalite characters when it got mentioned (although Ax didn't always say it himself).
- In Callahans Crosstime Saloon, Jose Bauer might be the daughter of science fiction author Philip Josefarmer.
- Octavian happily uses this on Rome. Even though the father he speaks so highly of was actually his great-uncle, and Octavian found out he was adopted when he read Caesar's will.
- Brutus also has a Famous Ancestor, being descended from the man who rid Rome of its last king. His mother and the men who conspire to kill Caesar often bring it up.
- Spock of Star Trek fame claims descent from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (or perhaps from Sherlock Holmes, depending on how you wish to interpret the quote) through his human mother, Amanda Grayson.
- And Miles O'Brien claims descent from the legendary Irish king Brian Boru. This is at least justified, as Boru is traditionally believed to have founded the O'Brien clan.
- On The West Wing, Pres. Josiah Bartlett is supposed to be descended from the delegate to the Constitutional Convention of the same name.
- In an episode of Lizzie McGuire, Matt pretends for a school report that their family in descended from, among others, Elvis Presley and Davy Crockett. Leads to An Aesop about lying.
- Rose, on The Golden Girls, believed for years that Bob Hope was her biological father.
- Played twice in Bones; Agent Seely Booth is distantly related to John Wilkes Booth, and isn't too proud about it, while Angela Montenegro's father is Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. Her full name is Angela Pearly Gates Montenegro, "Pearly Gates" being what Gibbons named his guitar.
- Booth's ancestry is brought up in the episode where they were trying to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald really did act alone. Booth, being an Army Ranger sniper, manages to perfectly copy Oswald's shots with a replica of the assassin's rifle.
- While Angela's father is played by the real Billy Gibbons and is known to be a famous Texas rocker, his name has never been mentioned so it's never been established on the show that Gibbons is playing "Billy Gibbons" and not "a fictional famous guitarist from Texas who resembles Billy Gibbons."
- Every member of the teams of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and Ninja Sentai Kakuranger (bar sixth rangers) have a famous ancestor - more specifically, they were the original group.
- On CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Doc Robbins' wife looked into his family tree in 'Genetic Disorder' and there's a snippet at the end where he finds he's distantly related to Buffalo Bill Cody.
- On 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan learns he is a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. It triggers some Character Development, as he tries to make a serious film re-interpreting his life on a shoestring budget.
- In Head of the Class, Darlene discovers that is descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings.
- Downton Abbey has "Great aunt" Roberta Crawley, who loaded the guns at Lucknow during the Sepoy Mutiny.
- Bottom: When someone asks Eddie Hitler jokingly whether he's related to Adolf Eddie enthusiastically answers: "Yeah!"
- Classic radio-serial(and later comic book, movie and TV) hero The Green Hornet (real name Britt Reid) was the grand-nephew of John Reid, better known as The Lone Ranger. The origins of the Reid family fortune could be traced back to the Lone Ranger's original silver mine.
- The Legend of the Five Rings game relies heavily on this. Each character can roll on heritage tables at character creation, which essentially gives the PC randomly selected bonuses or penalties based on who his ancestors were. Some of the magic calls upon ancestors, including one high-level spell that summons an ancestor to scold your enemies into submission. Finally, one of the Disadvantages is "Haunted", which means that one of the PC's ancestors dislikes him and occasionally shows up in ghostly form to heckle him during the roleplaying session.
- Fred Bonaparte, direct descendant of Napoleon in Psychonauts, is a notable inversion as he has all the direct opposite qualities of his ancestor i.e. tall, uncompetitive and strategically ineffectual. He has the same hat though.
- Susano of Ōkami is a highly ineffectual and ineffective wandering swordsman whose claim to fame is being a descendant of Nagi, the legendary warrior who defeated and sealed away Orochi 100 years ago. We eventually learn Nagi was actually as much of a wuss as Susano is, but, like Susano, got really lucky and had lots of help from Amaterasu.
- This actually turns out to be a major plot point in the first part of the game: Susano, being absolutely sick of everybody constantly reminding him of his ancestry, decides to pull out the sword imprisoning Orochi in order to prove the legend of Nagi wasn't true.
- Remilia Scarlet of the Touhou series claims to be a descendant of Vlad Ţepeş. She's lying.
- Sanae Kotiya is a descendant of the original Goddess of Moriya Shrine, Suwako.
- Tales of the Abyss: Tear (and hence Van, too) are descendants of Yulia Yue who originally read the Score, which is why they know Yulia's Hymns and can sing and understand them.
- In Fallout 2 the PC is The Chosen One, just because he/she is the grandchild of the original vault dweller, the hero of the first game.
- The sole claim to fame of the protagonist of the original Dragon Quest is that he's the descendant of the legendary hero Loto/Roto/Erdrick. The protagonists of the sequel are royalty- because they are the descendants of the descendant of aforementioned legendary hero. In the third game, you play as said legendary hero, whose claim to fame in his home-world was being the son of another legendary hero.
- In the Neo Geo game Ninja Commando, Ryu Eagle claims to be Fuuma Kotaro the 32nd.
- In Homestuck, all of the trolls have these. There's Marquise Spinneret Mindfang, Orphaner Dualscar, the Grand Highblood, Neophyte Redglare, The Sufferer, Expatriate Darkleer, The Summoner, Her Imperious Condescension, The Ψiioniic, The Disciple, The Dolorosa and The Handmaid. These ancestors go to Vriska, Eridan, Gamzee, Terezi, Karkat, Equius, Tavros, Feferi, Sollux, Nepeta, Kanaya and Aradia respectively.
- This is actually a subversion though. The Act 5 trolls are actually the direct parents of their "Ancestors," who were sent back into their distant past to become figures of legend, with the exception of The Handmaid, whose meteor landed in the future.
- Although the above is not quite true, due to the fact that both ancestors and present trolls were created at the same time through ectobiology. Admittedly it was Karkat doing the ectobiology, but still...
- Subverted in "Ayla and the Late Trevor James Goodkind", the intro novel for Phase in the Whateley Universe. Trevor, a scion of one of the richest, most powerful families on the planet, scoffs at the filthy rich Walcutts:
Trevor: Oh sure, the Walcutts have made similar claims, but in my opinion they're a bunch of poseurs. "We're descended from one of the signers of the Constitution!" Oh, big deal, I mean, who isn't?
- Lenneth Archimedes from Fate Nuovo Guerra combines this with Beethoven Was an Alien Spy. As her last name implies, she is descended from Archimedes, who turns out to have been a magus, and was able to pass his magical research to a son (who continued the bloodline) before the Romans caught and killed him. Given how magi from the Nasu Verse operate, direct descent is the norm, and so her claims are more valid than most.
- Classically Subverted by Jaune of RWBY. His great-great-grandfather is implied to have been a great war-hero in-universe, but Jaune possesses none of his ancestor's strength, skill, instinct or charisma. Jaune's struggle to become more competent and live up to his ancestor's reputation are the crux of his Character Development. However, while he isn't that great a physical fighter, he demonstrates later on that he has the makings of a very promising tactician and leader.
- Staci from Total Drama: Revenge of the Island brags about her ancestors' feats. They're Blatant Lies.
- Played for laughs in Family Guy, where Peter claims to be descended from Adolf Hitler's brother, Peter Hitler. (Although given that it's Peter, the legitimacy of this claim is questionable)
- In a later episode, Stewie finds out that's he's the descendant of Leonardo da Vinci.
Brian: Wait, that means you're Italian.
Stewie: Of corse! My love for Spaghetti-Os and smoaking on the toilet! It all fits!
- The Venture Bros.:
- Rusty Venture (father of the titular brothers Hank and Dean) comes from a long line of super scientists. It's subverted as he's not a very good scientist and is constantly shown to be living in the shadow of his much more famous father. Later episodes show him grooming his son Dean (Hank not so much) to be a super scientist as well.
- Phantom Limb is the grandson of Fantômas.
- There is a scientist fellow who claims that 0.5% of the world's males have a genetic lineage traceable to Genghis Khan, or his close male relatives.
- Timur/Tamerlane claimed descent from Genghis Khan, but this was probably false. However, he did marry a Genghid princess, so his descendants—the most famous of whom being the Mughals of India—were descended from Genghis.
- Several US presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and both Roosevelts, plus other famous Americans such as Robert E. Lee and Humphrey Bogart, claimed descent from European royalty. George W. Bush is known to be a descendant of Edward I, who ruled England from 1272 to 1307.
- The Bible claims Jesus Christ is a descendant of King David as this was one of the requirements to be the Jewish Messiah, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
- Given that The Bible also tells us that David's son Solomon had over 700 wives and 300 concubines, it's quite safe to say that David has a lot of descendants. Jesus's mother Mary was one of them is very plausible. In fact, by the time Jesus was born, it's likely that most Jews were descended from King David. In fact Jesus is given two completely different lines of descent from David in different books, which could be read as Mary and Joseph's different bloodlines or as different parts of the same family tree. (One other interpretation is that one of these genealogies actually traces the succession rather than strict generational descent, thus establishing Jesus as both a descendant of King David and the rightful heir to the kingship of Israel.)
- Ancestry in general was a big deal to the Jews in the Bible, given that each of the 12 tribes was named for the son of Jacob/Israel who was the patriarch of the tribe. On top of that, members of the tribe of Levi were destined to work in the temple, and only the descendents of Aaron could be priests.
- Fun fact: the word "Semite" means one who is descended from Shem, who was one of the three sons of Noah. He was an ancestor of Abraham, and thus of all Abraham's descendents (Jews and Arabs both).
- Tom Hanks is a relative of Abe Lincoln by way of Abe's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Referenced in Toy Story 2 when the first thing Jessie the cowgirl says upon meeting the Hanks-voiced Woody is "Sweet Mother of Abraham Lincoln!"
- And John Scalzi is distantly related to John Wilkes Booth. He's joked about getting a twitchy feeling around five-dollar bills.
- The Queen of England and the rest of the current British royal family is probably descended from the Prophet Mohammed (via Arab kings of Spain).
- Also, in 2011, Prince Charles publicly claimed that heredity proves that he is a descendant of Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian tyrant who was the inspiration for Dracula. The claim accompanied his announcement of a pledge to help conserve the forested areas of Transylvania.
- Julius Caesar claimed descent from the Greek mythological hero Aeneas. Or more accurately, Roman poet Vergil claimed Caesar was descended from Aeneas. Aeneas is also the son of Venus.
- Alexander the Great claimed descent from Hercules. This was the traditional claim of the Argead dynasty of Macedon, but he also claimed descent via his mother from Achilles. If Badass is hereditary, his claims weren't far-fetched. Since Hercules' father was Zeus and Achilles' mother was a minor goddess, this means Alexander also claimed to descend from the gods of Olympus.
- Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis, is a descendant of Nasser al-Din Shah, Shah of Person from 1848 to 1896. She herself puts it down, noting that kings of that time period had hundreds of wives and thousands of children, so there were plenty of others with similar claims.
- Barack Obama is said to be a descendant of Jefferson Davis.
- Christopher Lee is a direct descendant of Charlemagne, and has the documentation to prove it. This inspired him to record the symphonic metal concept album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross.
- Lee has a further connection to notable medieval ancestry: his mother's family (through whom he claims descent from Charlemagne) were loyal servants of Frederick Barbarossa, and given the title of count for their trouble. Descendants of Barbarossa almost certainly married into the Carandini comital line.
- It was common during the Middle Ages for English kings to claim to be descended from King Arthur. Henry VII, who besides being King of England was also Welsh (and therefore had a particularly strong reason for emphasising Arthur, whom the Welsh considered one of their own and was thus especially popular in Wales) hired Welsh genealogists to "prove" that he was a lineal descendant of the legendary king, and named his eldest son Arthur to shore up the connection. (Poor Prince Arthur died young, leaving his position as first in line and his bride to a rather more famous Tudor.)