What do the late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley and sometimes-bad-boy actor Johnny Depp have in common?
They are distant cousins: 10th cousins five times removed, to be exact. Their common ancestor is Sir Thomas Knyvett, born in 1485, a close associate of England’s volatile King Henry VIII.
Knyvett often joined in the jousts and pageants of the king’s glittering court — traits that his flamboyant 14th great-grandson Depp may have inherited. Knyvett also was a courageous knight and administrator — attributes later shared by his dutiful ninth great-grandson Hinckley.
RelativeFinder.org, a website developed by Brigham Young University, allows world leaders, religious authorities, famous artists, actors and even ordinary people (re: you) to discover if and how they are related to many celebrities and global figures of the past and present — or to masquerade as a deceased person to discover that individual’s famous relatives.
The only thing needed is a free account with the LDS Church’s official family history website, familysearch.org. The same login and password work on both websites, and use the same genealogical data to uncover relationships within seconds.
The Salt Lake Tribune used RelativeFinder to discover that former presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the past half-century have many interesting distant cousins, from traitors to heroes, presidents, kings, authors, scientists and entertainers.
They include Elvis Presley, William Shakespeare, John Lennon, Abraham Lincoln, Benedict Arnold, Mickey Mantle, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers — and even Barack Obama.
Following is a look at some of those relationships:
Gordon B. Hinckley
Among other things, Hinckley, church president from 1995 to 2008, was an author. His books included The New York Times best-seller “Standing for Something.” Perhaps not surprisingly, he is related to many famous writers.
At the top of that list is none other than William Shakespeare, Hinckley’s first cousin 10 times removed. Their common ancestor is Richard Shakespeare, William’s grandfather and Hinckley’s 10th great-grandfather.
Hinckley also is related to Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens, ninth cousin one time removed), Ernest Hemingway (seventh cousin one time removed), John Steinbeck (eighth cousin one time removed) Stephen Crane (seventh cousin one time removed) and Sinclair Lewis (eighth cousin one time removed).
All those novelists were journalists at some point in their careers. Hinckley also studied to become a journalist — but instead accepted a job offer from the church after returning from a Mormon mission as a young man.
Some other famous-author cousins of Hinckley include: poet Walt Whitman (fifth cousin three times removed), Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs (seventh cousin one time removed), “Wizard of Oz” creator L. Frank Baum (eighth cousin one time removed), poet Emily Dickinson (seventh cousin one time removed) and “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee (ninth cousin six times removed).
Howard W. Hunter
This church president from 1994 to 1995, Hunter led a dance band as a young man. He left that profession, saying it was not conducive to rearing a family. But many of his distant cousins became world famous musicians.
That includes Elvis Presley, his 11th cousin two times removed
Beatles star John Lennon is his 14th cousin. Other distant-cousin rock stars include Janis Joplin (11th cousin two times removed), Buddy Holly (12th cousin two times removed), Jimi Hendrix (12th cousin two times removed) and Roy Orbison (14th cousin one time removed).
Hunter’s distant cousins not only are a little bit rock ’n’ roll, but also a little bit country. Johnny Cash is his 13th cousin two times removed and Merle Haggard is his 11th cousin two times removed.
Jazz artists among his cousins include Dave Brubeck (13th cousin two times removed) and Tommy Dorsey (13th cousin two time removed). Classical composers include Samuel Barber (14th cousin) and Charles Ives (10th cousin three times removed).
Ezra Taft Benson
Not only was he LDS Church president from 1985 to 1994, but Benson also was secretary of agriculture for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Benson has many distant cousins who also were politicians, kings and queens.
That includes 33 U.S. presidents. Ironically, Eisenhower is not one of that big group.
His distant-cousin presidents include William Howard Taft (through the Taft side of Benson’s family, fifth cousin one time removed), Abraham Lincoln (sixth cousin two times removed), George Washington (sixth cousin six times removed), Thomas Jefferson (sixth cousin five times removed) and — no kidding — Barack Obama (12th cousin four times removed).
He’s also related to 28 signers of the Declaration of Independence. For example, John Hancock is his 13th cousin two times removed.
Kings and queens among his distant cousins include “Bloody Mary,” queen of England (first cousin 12 times removed), England’s Queen Mary I (second cousin 13 times removed) and France’s King Charles V (first cousin 13 times removed).
Alas, he is related to America’s most infamous traitor: Benedict Arnold (ninth cousin four times removed). But he’s also related to one of its most famous heroes: Alamo defender (and Tennessee Congressman) Davy Crockett (sixth cousin five times removed).
Spencer W. Kimball
Mormonism’s Yoda-like leader from 1973 to 1985, Kimball was an innovator, expanding the church’s priesthood to blacks and pushing forward with catchphrases like “lengthen your stride” and “do it.” He has distant cousins who also were trailblazers.
The inventors of the powered flight — Wilbur and Orville Wright — are his seventh cousins.
Inventor of the electric lightbulb and moving pictures, Thomas Edison, is his 10th cousin.
Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, is his fifth cousin two times removed.
Inventor of the television, Philo T. Farnsworth, is his ninth cousin one time removed.
Samuel F.B. Morse — who refined the telegraph and developed Morse code — is his fifth cousin two times removed.
One of the nation’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin — discoverer or electricity, inventor of bifocals and the Franklin stove — was his 11th cousin three times removed.
Harold B. Lee
Lee, who led the LDS Church from 1972 to 1973, is remembered for further developing the faith’s welfare system. Some of his distant cousins also are known for trying to help people.
Catherine Coffin, a Quaker who helped thousands of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, is his fifth cousin five times removed.
Samuel Mudd treated John Wilkes Booth while he fled after assassinating Lincoln, and delayed reporting it to authorities. He was imprisoned for it, and years of trying to clear his name officially have failed. He is Lee’s 11th cousin two times removed.
Florence Nightingale, a founder of modern nursing who tended to soldiers in the Crimean War, is his 12th cousin three times removed.
Joseph Fielding Smith
LDS Church president from 1970 to 1972, Smith is known for his close relationships to other Mormon prophets. His father, Joseph F. Smith, was the church’s sixth president. He is the grand-nephew of church founder Joseph Smith. George Albert Smith, the faith’s eighth president, was his eighth cousin.
Smith also has distant cousins who were key non-Mormon religious leaders, too. That includes four people declared saints by the Roman Catholic Church.
Katharine Drexel, a U.S. saint who used her large inheritance to serve American Indians and African-Americans, is his ninth cousin once removed.
Mary Helen MacKillop, an Australian nun now known as St. Mary of the Cross MacKillop, is his 13th cousin.
Antonio de Sant’Anna Galvao, declared a saint 10 years ago, was a Brazilian friar known for his healing powers. He is Smith’s 11th cousin four times removed.
Also, Pope Benedict XIII (pope from 1724-1730) is Smith’s 11th cousin four times removed.
Lyman Hall, an ordained Congregationalist minister who signed the Declaration of Independence as a representative of Georgia, is Smith’s sixth cousin five times removed.
David O. McKay
As a young man — long before he served as LDS Church president from 1951 to 1970 — McKay was the right guard on the University of Utah’s first-ever football team. His distant cousins include plenty of famous athletes.
Some were pro football players. Pat Summerall played with the Detroit Lions and New York Giants, but is best known as a Hall of Fame broadcaster. He is McKay’s 11th cousin three times removed.
Former Utah State University star Merlin Olsen, Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams (and another famous broadcaster and actor), is his 13th cousin two times removed.
McKay also is related to some famous college football coaches. Woody Hayes, the iconic former coach of Ohio State University, is McKay’s 12th cousin three times removed. Legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards is McKay’s 11th cousin three times removed.
McKay is also related to several Hall of Fame baseball players.
Mickey Mantle is his 13th cousin two times removed; Ted Williams is his 14th cousin one time removed; Rogers Hornsby is his 11th cousin two times removed; and Ty Cobb is his 11th cousin three times removed.