Not many of us can boast about our DNA, in historical terms. But the big changemakers had kids and grandkids, and some of them are sparking the old nature vs. nurture debate again. Why? Well, some descendants of famous figures have grown up to carry on a major legacy, in ways that are truly mind-boggling. Some claim that greatness comes from your genes, and these people are proving that it might actually be true. Check them out, and judge for yourself!
The 18th Great-Grandson of Christopher Columbus Is a Spanish Navy Admiral
Christopher Columbus is a big deal in maritime circles: He sailed the ocean blue and discovered the Americas! But was that big trip the end of the Columbus family expeditions? Nay, it was just the beginning. The explorer’s 17th-generation great-grandson Cristobal Colon de Carvajala took on the task of sailing for the Spanish as a vice admiral in the navy. He was killed in 1986 during service, but that still wasn’t the end of the family biz.
Christopher’s 18th great-grandson carried the torch for the clan, next. The vice admiral’s son Cristobal Colon also became a vice-admiral, and he zoomed around on a rebuilt Santa Maria. That’s one of the original ships from the history books! In conclusion: Saltwater is in their blood.
The Granddaughter Of Benito Mussolini Is An Italian Senator Right Now
It was in vogue, for a time. Magazines all over the world, even in America, exclaimed that fascism was the trendy new ideology for the future. In the 1930’s, the fascist leader in Italy was a man named Benito Mussolini. He wanted big business to team up with government to serve the greater good. In the end, he aligned with Hitler during WWII. Would that legacy be too much for granddaughter Alessandra Mussolini to run for office?
Surprisingly, no! This bella donna jumped in with an infamous name to serve in both the Italian Senate and European Parliament. According to this MP: “The thing that I hate the most is when people have prejudice, when they see me as the granddaughter of Benito Mussolini and not as Alessandra. That, really, I don’t like. I didn’t know my grandfather. I am me.”
Marie Curie’s Granddaughter Is A Professor of Nuclear Physics
Marie Curie was a Polish woman who moved to France and made a really big discovery. As a physicist and chemist, she was fascinated by the unseen around us, and her research led to the discovery of two brand new elements: Polonium and radium. She won Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics, the only person to get the honor in two different sciences. She even invented the term radioactivity! Overall, Marie has inspired women and girls around the world to pursue science education. That is especially true in her own family. Ever heard of Hélène Langevin-Joliot?
Marie’s grandchild has really made a name for herself carrying on the family tradition. Hélène is a professor of nuclear physics at the University of Paris at the Institute of Nuclear Physics. She is also a director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research. Was physics just her destiny?
Charlie Chaplin’s Granddaughter Is an Actress You Might Know
Silver-screen legend Charlie Chaplin dominated the silent film era in old Hollywood. We may have forgotten about it now, with all the surround sound. We’re spoiled! But what talent it must have taken to entertain viewers with no voice at all. Charlie just used his funny face in dozens of movies. That hat, that mustache. Those slapstick antics! The actor once explained: “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”
For Game of Thrones fans, it might be interesting to know that Talisa Maegyr, played by Oona Chaplin, is connected to Old Charlie. How? Well, the real-life actress is his granddaughter. Oona never met him, but she is proud of the artistic connection. She says it freaks her out sometimes, though!
Charles Darwin’s Descendant Is a PhD Plant Gene Researcher
Charles Darwin took his voyage out to the Galápagos Islands and studied a lot of birds, tortoises, and plants. After looking around and giving it some thought, he came up with a pattern he called evolution. Science still loves his idea today! Some might wonder how his own gene pool stacks up in light of his theory. For that, we need to take a look at Sarah Catherine Vogel, his modern descendent. What’s she up to, these days?
Sarah visited the Galapagos Islands in the 90’s on a vacation with her family. Soon after, she signed up to study botany in college and ended up with a PhD. Her thesis was called “The systematics and genetics of tomatoes on the Galápagos Islands.” Looks like the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, this time!
Pablo Picasso’s Granddaughter Turned Out to Be an Art Historian
Pablo Picasso is one of the few names in the art world that is a household name. Even regular joes know this Spanish artist, and that’s rare! According to Pablo: “When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” Clearly, he thought greatness was inside him all along.
Granddaughter Diana Picasso has followed in his footsteps, it seems. She got a master’s degree in art history and NOW works as an art historian. Sometimes, she put exhibitions together of grandad’s work and catalogs his sculptures. Interesante!
Starlet Anne Gwynne Had a Famous Hollywood Hunk of a Grandson
Glamorous gals with gams. They don’t make ’em like they used to, do they? The gorgeous Anne Gwynne was a striking strawberry blonde beauty in the old days. She came to Hollywood to become a star, and did achieve some fame as a cover girl and a WWII wall pin-up. But somewhere along the way, she got typecasted as a screaming girl in horror films. We kind of like that, though!
As it turns out, Anne’s good looks got passed to grandson Chris Pine. Yes, that Chris Pine! Born right in Los Angeles, he was near the action from the beginning. Maybe there was something in his blood that pushed him to superstardom. We don’t know!
Booker T. Washington’s Great-Great Granddaughter Is Also an Educator
Booker T. Washington remains one of the biggest names in American black history. The man was an educator and adviser to several U.S. presidents, and he founded the Tuskegee Institute to help his community learn trades. Booker thought education would be the best route for advancement in those days. His idea: If you can make yourself highly technically skilled, you will be indispensable. People will beg for you to be around!
Today, one of Booker’s a great-great-granddaughters is a teacher, too. Amanda Washington pursued a Master’s degree at Columbia University Teachers College in Education Policy and did Teach for America in Philadelphia and DC.
Original Pro Wrestler Peter Maiva Spawned a WWE Wrestler Grandson
Back in the day, professional wrestling lacked the theatrics we know now. There was no funny business with character stories, and it was much more about the moves. Born in Samoa where this sport was always big, Peter Maiva was one of the first real pros in the biz. He moved to New Zealand and then America where he won titles and a place in the record books. Afterward, he enjoyed life as a family man.
Would you believe that his grandson turned out to be Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock? The WWE star isn’t even the only pro-wrestler in this family tree. His dad, and Peter’s son, also got fame in wrestling. That’s three in a row, folks. This one has to be genetics!
Sigmund Freud’s Great-Grandson Is a Leading Authority on Decision-Making
Without a doubt, Sigmund Freud is the father of psychoanalysis. But as a great-great grandfather, he might be even prouder. Did you know that great-grandson George Loewenstein is a current Carnegie Mellon University professor? According to George: “I helped to found the field of behavioral economics, the field of neuroeconomics, and was one of the early proponents of a new approach to public policy called, variously, ‘asymmetric’ or ‘libertarian’ paternalism.”
But that’s not all. George says: “I have published over 200 journal articles in journals in economics, psychology, law, medicine and other fields, numerous book chapters, have written or edited 6 books on topics ranging from intertemporal choice to behavioral economics and emotions, and have served on the editorial boards of numerous journals in different fields.”
Elvis Presley’s Granddaughter Is a Working Actress
Elvis Presley made his mark in music, without a doubt. But he also starred in a number of hit films in his day, and people loved him as an actor in Jailhouse Rock and Wild in the Country. The king isn’t around anymore, but he does have surviving ancestors. Did you know that actress Riley Keough is Elvis’s granddaughter? Without even relying on the family name, it seems she’s made it in tinsel town!
Some may have seen her in Mad Max: Fury Road or American Honey. She also plays the lead role on the TV series The Girlfriend Experience. Although we don’t yet know if she has musical talent, she certainly has her grandad’s theatrical gift!
Spanish Actor Rafael Bardem Had an Oscar-Winning Grandson
Rafael Bardem was born in Spain way back in 1889. He was a top actor in 1950’s Spanish cinema in pictures like La Pícara Molinera and Diego Corrientes. But that was a long time ago. Stars have come and gone. New names have stolen the limelight, like Javier Bardem. That name sound suspiciously similar, you say. Any relation? Yes, indeed: The younger Bardem is the grandson in the family, and he has made quite a name for himself over in America.
Not only is he married to movie starlett Penélope Cruz, but he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as psychopathic assassin Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. Not bad, Bardems!
Abolitionist Frederick Douglass Had an Activist Great-Great-Great Grandson
Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery and became a major abolitionist, writer, and orator. His name still stands out in the history books today as a changemaker among many. As it turns out, he has many decedents, and one of them is also an activist. Kenneth B. Morris is his great-great-great-grandson and the co-founder and president of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. It’s an Atlanta-based nonprofit that tries to bring attention to modern-day slavery in the world. Yes, it’s still going on!
After reading a magazine article on human trafficking, Ken found his path: “The life I had been living all of those years ended abruptly, and, like Frederick Douglass, I too became an abolitionist. Call it fate or fortune, destiny or DNA, I had been chosen by this path.”
Albert Einstein’s Great-Grandson Is An Anesthesiologist
Albert Einstein is synonymous with genius, and for good reason. The man invented E = mc2 and the theory of relativity, which led to the creation of nuclear weapons. What a legacy! It’s hard to live in the shadow of such a scientific legend, but it seems one of his descendants has forged his own path. Thomas Martin Einstein, MD is Al’s grandson and an anesthesiologist today. Based in California, he has been putting people under since 1986.
After graduating from UCSC and medical school at UCLA, Tom specialized in emergency medicine and anesthesiology. Patients of all ages trust Albert Einstein’s relative to keep them comfy during surgery. Wouldn’t you?
General George Custer’s Great-Grand-Nephew Was a Decorated Army Officer
General George Custer was a legendary officer and commander in the Civil War and the battles with Indians afterward. He once said: “I would be willing, yes glad, to see a battle every day during my life.” Some may have heard of The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also called Custer’s Last Stand. During the Sioux Wars, the tribe killed the general and every single one of his men. Yikes!
His end was dramatic, but was it really the end of military glory for the Custer clan? As it turns out, no! Meet George Armstrong Custer III, his great-grand-nephew. The modern Custer served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In the process, he earned eight air medals, the Flying Cross, and the Silver Star.
John Lennon’s Son Is Also a Musician and Songwriter
Sean Lennon is the son of singer John Lennon and artist Yoko Ono. Sean is also a creative guy, it seems: His CV currently includes composer, singer, actor, and scriptwriter. The elder Lennon never got the chance to try all these mediums, sadly. The world still remembers the day when he was killed on the street in NYC in an untimely way. Some might wonder: Does Sean think he will ever reach the success of The Beatles?
He’s pretty realistic, actually. According to Sean: “I’m not trying to overcome my father or fill his shoes or reach any kind of level that he did. We’re talking about a Mozart of rock music.”
President William Howard Taft’s Great-grandson Is In US Politics
He was large and in charge. He had a custom bathtub made for the White House. President William Howard Taft seems to be remembered for being the chubbiest president we’ve ever had at 330 pounds. But maybe he should be remembered as the head of a political dynasty. Has anyone noticed how many of his decedents have made it into U.S. politics? Great-grandson William Howard Taft IV was the United States Permanent Representative to NATO and a White House advisor.
Dad William Howard Taft III was the United States Ambassador to Ireland, before him. So far, that’s three generations. Grandfather, son, grandson. It looks like there is a trend here. The Taft DNA is patriotic!
Muhammad Ali’s Daughter Is One of the Greatest Women’s Boxers of All Time
Muhammad Ali was widely considered to be the best boxer in his day and remains a legend. The athlete once explained: “I’m the greatest thing that ever lived! I’m the king of the world! I’m a bad man. I’m the prettiest thing that ever lived.” He seemed to have a high opinion of himself, but it was merited. The question is, did he pass on his greatness to the next generation?
It seems so when we take a look at daughter Laila Ali. She is retired now, but she is recognized as one of the best lady boxers of all time. Laila’s professional record is 24-0!
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Grandson Is an Established Architect
Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most famous names in architecture, and his buildings are still admired all around the world. Over his 70 year career, he designed over 1,000 structures. His approach was human harmony with the environment, which he called organic architecture. Frank actually was recognized as “the greatest American architect of all time” by the American Institute of Architects. It’s a status that is hard to live up to, but he does have one descendent in the same field.
Eric Lloyd Wright is the grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright. He started his own firm and continued the work of Organic Architecture in the modern era. Most of his portfolio is in the United States but has worked on projects all over the world. Even in Japan!
Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s Son Is Now Also Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau is one of the most recognizable faces in modern politics. Maybe that’s because the ladies think he is so good-looking. They may be distracted from his backstory, though. Did you know that he is not the first Trudeau to lead Canada? Dad was Prime Minister, too! Pierre Trudeau was the 15th prime minister of Canada. Justin is number 23. The question is, do we have a case of nepotism or genetic superpowers here?
When Justin ran for the office, he tried to make a different case altogether. He explained: “My father’s values and vision of this country obviously form everything I have as values and ideals. But this is not the ghost of my father running for the leadership of the Liberal party. This is me.”
Roald Dahl’s Granddaughter Is Also a Published Children’s Author
Roald Dahl is the magical man responsible for stories like Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And who can forget The BFG? According to Roald: “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” We all have a favorite from this author, whether we saw the movie or read the book version. It has come to our attention that the Dahl family has one more author: Sophie Dahl. What is she up to, at the moment?
Roald’s granddaughter was first a teen fashion model and an actress. But just like her famous relative, she truly loved fiction. Sophie wrote a kids’ book in 2003 called The Man With The Dancing Eyes, and it became a UK bestseller. Now, she’s trying out novels!
Frank Sinatra’s Daughter Became a Hit Pop Singer
Frank Sinatra was known for his blue eyes and smooth tunes, as well as his killer moves. He was an incredible performer, back in the day. Frankly, Frank has a lot of fans nowadays. But it’s time to take a look at his kids to see if talent was a one-hit-wonder. Daughter Nancy Sinatra seems to prove that there is something musical going on in this family. Remember the song “Bang Bang” in Kill Bill? Yes, that was Nancy.
One of her songs was the theme song of a Bond movie, a timeless honor for the best female voices of each generation. And who can forget “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”? That was Nancy, too!
The Great-Great-Great-Grandson of Charles Dickens Acted in TV Versions of His Books
Harry Lloyd is a familiar face for many who watched HBO’s Game of Thrones. As Viserys Targaryen, he was cruel. But he’s also played charming characters, like Steerforth in a BBC version of David Copperfield. That famous novel was originally written by Charles Dickens. He also played Herbert Pocket in a TV version of Great Expectations, another Dickens classic. And as it turns out, he’s the great-great-great-grandson of the author!
Outside of TV, Harry has narrated audiobooks. It seems that the elder and younger generations of this family have a keen interest in the literary arts. A marvelous gene, if it exists!
Marco Polo’s Only Living Descendant Is an International Businessman With Ties to China
Marco Polo was an Italian explorer and businessman who traveled all the way to China in the 1200’s. He helpfully wrote a book called The Travels of Marco Polo, which introduced the region to Europeans. Admittedly, this was all a long time ago. But researchers have tracked down his only remaining relative: Siro Polo Padolecchia. In an incredible twist of history, he travels between Monaco and China to do modern business.
Siro founded the Euro-China International Business Advisory Council. He explains: “If the 20th century was dominated by the concept of the American Dream, in the 21st century the concept of the Chinese Dream prevails, particularly in terms of opportunities and the positive image of New China.”
Thomas Edison’s Son Was Also an Inventor With Over 80 Patents
One of the most famous inventors ever is Thomas Edison, who brought us the phonograph, the lightbulb, and the motion picture camera. He created the first industrial research lab, along the way. At his death, he left behind a $12 million estate. Back then, that was enough to put him on the old-timey Forbes List! But was Thomas the genius just a fluke in the family? Looking at the success of his son, we say no.
Theodore Miller Edison earned a physics degree and went on to grad school. Soon after, he started at his father’s company. But he didn’t waste time in the family biz. He earned over 80 patents in his own career, which is remarkable!
A Niece of Martin Luther King Jr. Is a Well-Known Evangelist and Activist
Martin Luther King Jr. is basically a saint of the American civil rights era. He took some pretty controversial positions back in his day, when they weren’t popular, and paid the price with his life. MLK once said: ”The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Is his niece Alveda Celeste King doing that, right now?
Founder of Alveda King Ministries, she was also a state representative in the Georgia House of Representatives for a while. Today she is currently an activist and frequently makes appearances on cable news. Church and protest are still central in the King family, as Alveda continues the fight.
President George Bush Happens to Have a President Son
George H. W. Bush, was the 41st president of the United States, right after Ronald Reagan. He had previously been the VP and the head of the CIA, and that resume would be impressive for just one man. But just a decade later, his own son ran for president. You may be more familiar with the more recent Bush, George W. Bush. Is there something special about Bushes, or what?
According to the younger George: “I had watched Dad climb into the biggest arena and succeed. I wanted to find out if I had what it took to join him.” Turns out yes: Dubya was the 43rd president from 2001 to 2009.
Cindy Crawford’s Daughter Is Currently a Top Model
Cindy Crawford was one of the original supermodels in the early 1990’s. These days, we’ve traded in the concept for Instagram girls. But Cindy knew she wasn’t going to be on top forever. According to her: “The face you have at age 25 is the face God gave you, but the face you have after 50 is the face you earned.” Maybe so. But what about the face you gave birth to?
Daughter Kaia Gerber is already a model who has walked at Fashion Week for some of the biggest brands on earth. Many say that she looks just like mom! In this case, we are quite sure that it’s the genes.
Jimmy Carter’s Grandson Is a Young Politician in Georgia
He is one of the few one-termers, but maybe he is getting his revenge now. President Jimmy Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan during a time of incredible economic pain. As an ex-prez, went on to promote social projects around the world. But now, a relative is rising in Georgia politics, where he governed before the presidency. Meet Jason Carter, the former rep for the 2nd district in the Georgia State Senate and the 2014 Dem nominee for the governor’s race.
Jason didn’t win in his race against Republican Nathan Deal. But if he’s like most politicians, he isn’t done yet. Now in his mid-40’s, he’s a spring chicken compared to the elder statesmen of the party!
The Great-Niece of Jane Austen Acted in a TV Miniseries of Her Book
Jane Austen is surely one of the most celebrated British authors. Her masterpieces have been made into movies left and right, like Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Many versions of her stories were made into films and TV movies, and the remakes are probably going to continue. They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But that rule just doesn’t apply to Jane Austen books, because we just love to see them in new ways for no good reason.
Anna Chancellor is the sixth-great-niece of the author and works as an actress. She played Caroline Bingley in a 90’s miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. The Austen romance lives on, through Anna. We’re not complaining!
President John F. Kennedy’s Daughter Became a U.S. Diplomat
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and never got to live out his full term. We don’t know what he would have done if he had more time to lead. But there are some inspiring quotes that people cherish to this day. JFK once said: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” For daughter Caroline Kennedy, the answer would also be public service.
President Obama appointed Caroline to a big post in 2013: United States ambassador to Japan. While it doesn’t look like she has current presidential ambition, she name has been floated for ambassador to Australia in the Biden administration. Only time will tell, though!
A 77th-Generation Descendant Of Confucius Produced A Philosophical Drama
The philosopher Confucius died in 479 BC, and he has a long line of descendants. It’s hard to keep track of them all, really. But one notable member from this 2,500-year-old bloodline is choreographer and director Kong Dexin. Officially, she is a 77th-generation relative. But she still feels pretty close to Confucius, in a way. Kong created a dance drama based on his teachings and it was performed in both China and Washington DC.
Confucius once said: “To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.” Might be interesting to see that in a play!
Gerald Ford’s Daughter Also Spent a Lot of Time on Campaign Trails
Remember Watergate? President Nixon was caught in some lies about a hotel break-in on his opponents and ended up resigning. His VP Gerald Ford took over and issued him a pardon. But he still had some harsh words to say: “The political lesson of Watergate is this: Never again must America allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to by-pass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election.”
Gerald didn’t run again, but it’s safe to say he spent a lot of time on the campaign trail throughout his career. What’s interesting is that his daughter Susan Ford became a photographer for the Associated Press, Newsweek, and more. Even after dad was out of politics, she was around the biz on her own!
President Ronald Reagan’s Son Became a Similar Political Commentator
One of the most famous from President Ronald Reagan is still cited today in his party: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Someone who has said that line over and over is actually son Michael Reagan. As a little boy, he saw his dad inspire voters with such sayings. As an adult, he carried that ideological torch as a radio host and activist.
But this family story has a bit of a twist: Michael is not actually related to the late prez. He was adopted! Ronald’s direct bloodline created Ron Reagan the MSNBC commentator, who opposed every policy his father pushed. Sometimes, life is funny like that!
Osama Bin Laden’s Niece Also Speaks Publicly About American Policy
Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks that America will never forget. Why did he attack? According to Osama, only rule by religious law would fix the Muslim world. He didn’t like the involvement of the West culturally or militarily over there, and he put his money where his mouth was. Born into a rich, secular family, it seems this son really went off the rails straight into terrorism. But what about his relatives?
Niece Noor bin Ladin also became a public figure on these issues, but without the bombs. She found out her uncle was the perp on TV, like everyone else, as she watched from her home in Switzerland. In recent years, she has spoken out about her love of Western culture. She considers the U.S. to be her second home!