VisitScotland highlights celebrities with Scottish roots

by Holyrood PR

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Edinburgh PR agency digs out the genealogy surprises of famous people with proud Scottish heritage

VisitScotland has released their list of the world’s most famous “wannabe Scots” – each of whom can lay claim to having Caledonian heritage.

The list was drawn up to highlight the growing popularity of Scottish geneology and its role in the Homecoming Scotland 2009 tourism drive.



Barack Obama 

public relations agency Holyrood PR in Edinburgh, ScotlandAmerican President Barack Obama is reported to be of Scottish ancestry and has received invitations from First Minister Alex Salmond and Scottish Minister Jim Murphy to return home to celebrate Homecoming 2009.

Barack Obama made history when he was voted in as the first black president of the United States of America in November 2008. Democrat Obama will take over from Republican George W Bush later this month (Jan 20 2009).

A maternal ancestor of Obama’s, Edward FitzRandolph, is said to have emigrated to America in the 17th century. He is also said to be descended from William the Lion, who ruled Scotland between 1165 and 1214.


 Donald Trump

Donald TrumpThe world’s most famous businessman Donald Trump’s mother Mary Anne MacLeod hails from Stornoway. She was born in 1912 to fisherman and crofter William and his wife Catherine.

The man behind the hit show ‘The Apprentice’ is proud of his Scottish heritage. His Scottish ties inspired him to look at the country for a multi-million pound golf resort.

The billionaire tycoon was recently given permission, after controversy through the planning stages, to build Trump International Golf Links on the Menie Estate, Balmedie, Aberdeenshire. It is said the 1400-acre site will feature two championship-calibre golf course, a five-star hotel, as well as hundreds of homes.


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Reese Witherspoon

Reese WitherspoonHollywood starlet Reese Witherspoon’s family descend from East Lothian.

Born Laura-Jean Reese Witherspoon, the Legally Blonde actress has become one of the world’s best-paid and highly-coveted movie stars in recent years.

Reese is a descendant of Scottish-born John Witherspoon, a signatory on the United States Declaration of Independence. John was born in Gifford, Yester, East Lothian in 1723 and emigrated to the United States in 1768. He was the only clergyman and college principal to sign the declaration.

The megastar featured in a Scottish Executive backed internet magazine in 2006 to boost Scotland’s popularity.


Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer AnistonFriends beauty Jennifer Aniston’s mother Nancy Dow is of Scottish descent.

Jennifer became famous in the early 1990s as Rachel Green in the hit sitcom. She has since starred in romantic comedies such as The Break-Up, Along Came Polly and Marley and Me.

Nancy, an actress herself, was born in New York City to an Italian mother and Scottish father Gordon McLean Dow.

Jennifer and her mother became estranged for nearly a decade after Nancy talked about her famous daughter on a TV show and later wrote a book about their relationship. In 2005, after Jennifer’s divorce from Brad Pitt the pair reconciled.


Elvis Presley

Elvis PresleyThe King of Rock and Roll famously only ever once touched Scottish land in a flight transfer at Prestwick Airport in 1960 as he flew from the United States to Germany to take part in military service.

But the most famous musician of all-time is perhaps less well-known for his Scottish roots. A historian found that his family tree leads back to the Aberdeenshire village of Lonmay, near Fraserburgh.

Andrew Presley, whose parents married in Lonmay in 1713 according to records, emigrated to the United States of America in 1745 with roots linking him to Elvis’ parents, who married in 1933 and later gave birth to the world’s most famous musician.


Johnny Cash

Johnny CashLegendary country and western singer and song-writer Johnny Cash’s family descended from Scotland.

The Cash clan arrived in the New World from Scotland during the 17th century, after mariner William Cash sailed the Atlantic and settled in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1612. But the singer’s Scottish roots go back further and can be traced to Ada of Warenne, the sister of Malcolm IV.

Church records show that Malcolm IV’s niece was a Cash, whose husband, the Earl of Fife, was awarded a large estate by the king who ruled Scotland between 1153 and 1165.

Johnny Cash once said Scotland was his ‘ancestral home’ on TV.


 Jay Leno

Jay LenoAcclaimed American talk-show host Jay Leno’s mother is of Scottish descent. He was born in 1950 and named James Douglas Muir Leno.

The comedian’s mother Catherine Muir was a filmmaker was born and spent the early years of her life in Greenock before emigrating to the United States at the age of 11. She married Jay’s Italian father Angelo Leno and the pair brought up Jay in Massachusetts.

Jay Leno has hosted The Tonight Show for over 20 years. It was recently announced he will host his last show in May but is in talks to remain with the network NBC.


EminemOne of the world’s most infamous rappers can trace both sides of his family back to Scotland. Eminem’s – real name Marshall Mathers III – Scottish roots were revealed in 2003.

The hip hop star first hit the big time in 1999 with the Slim Shady LP and vowed to retire in 2005 after four solo albums, although he has recently made a comeback.

A Highland film company traced his family tree for a documentary Eminem’s Celtic Connections. On his father’s side researchers found a Peter Mathers who married a Scottish woman and an Edinburgh woman named Ailsa McAllister, born in 1847, on his mother’s side of the family.

The surname Mathers is also linked with the Scottish Barclay clan.


 John Wayne

John WayneThe film star John Wayne hailed from Scottish roots – with both his mother and father being descendants of Scotland.

Born Marion Robert Morrison in 1907 to Clyde Leonard Morrison and Mary Alberta Brown, John Wayne became the ultimate American icon starring in over 200 movies and is widely regarded as the most famed cowboy of all time.

He died in 1979 after winning Academy and Golden Globe awards for epitomising rugged masculinity and becoming an enduring American icon. A 2007 Harris Poll placed Wayne third among America’s favorite film stars, the only deceased star on the list and the only to appear every year.


 Gwen Stefani

Gwen StefaniSinger and fashion designer Gwen Stefani has more in common with rocker husband Gavin Rossdale than first meets the eye – the pair can both trace their roots to Scotland.

Gwen’s mother, Patti Flynn, is of Scottish and Irish descent. She was born in California and her father Dennis is Italian. Londoner Gavin is said to be half-Scottish and half-Russian.

Gwen Stefani was part of 90s chart-topping band No Doubt and has went on to have a successful singing solo career, as well as being responsible for designing the L.A.M.B. clothing line and products. She has two sons.





Eric McCormack

Eric McCormackWill and Grace star Eric McCormack is of Scottish ancestry.

In 2006, the hugely popular TV star launched a search to trace his Scottish roots, wearing a kilt to the Edinburgh Television Festival. The 45-year-old believes his family initially came from Ireland but headed to Scotland around the time of the potato famine and that the McCormack family was part of the bigger Buchanan clan.

Eric played gay lawyer Will in the hit show which followed the lives of him and his best friend, interior designer Grace. He has also appeared in movies and on the stage, as well as recording music and owning a production company.

Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer SutherlandHollywood hellraiser Kiefer Sutherland was born in London and raised in Canada by parents of Scottish descent.

Kiefer, who is best known for playing Jack Bauer in the hit series 24 and has appeared in over 70 films, has visited his homeland several times and has been spotted partying in some of Edinburgh’s hottest nightspots.

He has Scottish ancestry from both parents, Golden Globe award-winning actor Donald Sutherland, who recently featured in hit US show Dirty Sexy Money, and actress Shirley Douglas. He is the grandson of Canadian politician Tommy Douglas. The family’s Scottish roots are said to trace back to Shetland.

Neve Campbell

Neve CampbellNeve Campbell is a well-known TV and film actress, having leading roles in films such as Scream and The Craft and starring in hit 90s sitcom Party of Five.

Neve’s father, drama teacher Gerry Campbell, emigrated to Canada aged 11 with his parents from the East End of Glasgow.

She performed in a Scottish dance troupe as a child and attended Burns Suppers.

Neve has claimed to have seen the ghost of her dead grandmother and attributes her belief in the supernatural to her Scottish heritage; she also credits her pragmatic approach to work and life to her family’s roots.

Mike Myers

Mike MyersComedy actor Mike Myers has used his Scottish roots to help create some of his most famous characters.

Cartoon ogre Shrek was originally intended to have Mike’s natural Candian accent but the movie star decided to switch as he believed Scottish people had a great attribute of being able to switch very easily between love and anger – like the character. He also played a Scot baddie in Austin Powers and a Scottish father in So I Married an Axe Murderer.

Mike’s parents emigrated to Canada from Liverpool and he claims to be of English, Scottish and Irish ancestry.


Joni Mitchell

Joni MitchellJoni Mitchell is one of Canada’s most celebrated singers, songwriters and painters with a career spanning five decades.

Joni was born Roberta Joan Anderson to a Norwegian father Bill Anderson and Myrtle McKee, who is of Scottish and Irish heritage.  Her mother was a teacher and her father was an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Her work is highly respected both by critics and fellow musicians. Rolling Stone magazine called her “one of the greatest songwriters ever”. She is most famous for her 1970s hit Big Yellow Taxi and was featured on the soundtrack of the 2003 hit film Love Actually.




Heath Ledger

Heath LedgerLate Australian movie star Heath Ledger was half Scottish on his mother Sally’s side and his father Kim has Irish ancestry.

His mother is said to descend from the Clan Campbell.

The movie star died in New York in 2008 from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. He portrayed The Joker in his final film Batman: The Dark Knight in a role that has seen him receive several posthumous awards. He is also famed for his roles as a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, a bad boy in 10 Things I Hate About You and a valiant knight in A Knight’s Tale.

Dame Nellie Melba

Dame Nellie MelbaDame Nellie Melba was a legendary opera soprano who died in 1931. Her father was a Scottish building contractor.

She was one of the country’s most famous sopranos and the first Australian to gain international recognition. Today she appears on the Australian $100 bill.

She was originally named Helen Porter Mitchell. Her father David emigrated to Australia in 1852. The stonemason was responsible for some of Melbourne’s most famed buildings including a church and a college.

Nellie established herself as the prima donna at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. She married and had one son.

Kimberley Davies

Kimberley DaviesAustralian soap star Kimberley is most famous for her role as Annalise on hit show Neighbours.

The actress is of Scottish descent. Kimberley was born in Victoria in 1973.

The 35-year-old appeared on UK reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here in 2005 and appears in the Daz washing powder soap adverts. She has also starred in hit US sitcom Ally McBeal and soap Pacific Palisades.

She is married to Jason Harvey and has two children. The family moved to Los Angeles for nine years but has now returned to Australia.

Eddie McGuire

Eddie McGuireEddie McGuire is a well-known Australian television presenter and businessman known for his long association with Australian Rules Football.

Eddie is the son of a Glaswegian coal miner and an Irish farm girl who emigrated to Melbourne in 1958.

He has hosted the Australian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, the AFL Footy Show, Nine Network game show 1 vs 100 and he is the president of the Collingwood Football Club.

His television high point has been said to be hosting the 2003 Logie Awards, an Australia TV annual awards show and he went on to host the ceremony in 2004 and 2005.

Rose Byrne

Rose ByrneRose Byrne is an Australian Golden Globe-nominated actress. Rose was born in 1979 and is of Irish and Scottish descent.

She has starred in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and has been the face of Max Factor make-up. The 29-year-old was named in the Most Beautiful People list in 2007 in Who Magazine.

Early in her career she appeared on popular Australian soaps Heartbreak High and Echo Point.

The 29-year-old was born in Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Her parents are Jane, a primary school administrator, and Robin Byrne, a semi-retired statistician and market researcher



New Zealanders:

Russell Crowe

Russell CroweOscar-winning actor Russell Crowe is best known off screen for his hell-raising behaviour.

The actor is of Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Norwegian and Maori ancestry.

He was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1964 and moved to Australia with his family at an early age. His parents were on-set caterers and his grandfather a cinematographer.

Russell Crowe has appeared in several box office smashes including Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind. Russell is a co-owner of National Rugby League team South Sydney Rabbitohs. He is married to Australian singer and actress Danielle Spencer and the couple has two sons Charlie and Tennyson.

Lucie Silvas

Lucie SilvasPop sensation Lucie Silvas was born in London in 1977 but moved to Auckland, New Zealand aged two and moved back to England aged 13.

Lucie’s mother Isabella is Scottish and is an opera singer.

She landed a record deal in 2000 and later became a songwriter for the likes of Gareth Gates and Liberty X. Lucie has released two solo albums – What You’re Made Of and The Same Side. She has also sang with Ronan Keating in a show to celebrate the works of Elton John.

The family moved to New Zealand after her father found a dream home for sale near a golf course.

Frankie Stevens

Frankie StevensFrankie Stevens, born Francis Donald McKechnie Stevenson, is a New Zealand entertainer currently best known as a judge on all three seasons of New Zealand Idol.

He is of mixed Scottish and Maori descent.

At the age of 16 he joined Peter Nelson and the Castaways and went solo in 1969. In 1970 he moved to London and entered Opportunity Knocks six times in a row, sang at the Palladium and the Albert Hall and represented Great Britain in several singing contests.

He went on to tour with the likes of Sammy Davis Jnr and Olivia Newton-John before starring in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Kate Sheppard

Kate SheppardKatherine Wilson Sheppard was the most prominent member of the New Zealand’s women’s suffrage movement and remains the country’s most famous suffragette.

New Zealand was the first country to introduce universal suffrage so Kate’s work had a considerable impact on other movements throughout the world.

She was born in Liverpool in the 1840s to Scottish parents. She was taken to Christchurch in 1869 by her mother and she married a few years later and had a son Douglas. She died in 1934 and today she appears on the country’s $10 bill and there is a memorial exists for her in Christchurch.

Helen Clark

Helen ClarkIt has been claimed that New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark ancestors hailed from Shetland. Helen was the 37th New Zealand Prime Minister and served in three successive terms from 1999 to 2008. She led the Labour Party until it lost the 2008 General Election. She is now the party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman and MP for Mount Albert which she has been since 1981.

Forbes Magazine ranked her as the 20th most powerfulwoman in the world in 2006. She was the second female Prime Minister of New Zealand and the first to have won an office at election.




Sarah Connor

Sarah ConnorGerman singer Sarah Terenzi, known as Sarah Connor, is one of the country’s biggest pop stars.

Her mother Soraya Gray was a model of Scottish and German heritage and her father Michael Lewe was an American advertising manager.

She has released eight albums since 2001 and has had five number one singles. She became the first act to ever have four consecutive chart-topping hits on the German Media Control singles chart.

Sarah was married to American Marc Terenzi of boy band Natural until November 2008 and the couple has two children. The couple had a reality show on German television ‘Sarah and Marc in Love’.

Keira Knightley

Keira KnightlyClassic English rose Keira Knightley is actually of Scottish descent. Her mother, award-winning playwright and former actress Sharman Macdonald is from Glasgow.

Sharman wrote the 2008 hit Edge of Love which starred her daughter and debuted at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Keira found fame in the 2002 British comedy Bend It Like Beckham. Since then she has appeared in hit films including Hollywood blockbuster series Pirates of the Caribbean alongside Orlando Bloom and Jonny Depp, Christmas favourite Love Actually, and several period films including playing Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.

Keira has been hired as the face of many luxury brands including Asprey and Chanel.

Colin Jackson

Colin JacksonWelsh sprinter Colin Jackson is of Jamaican, Native American and Scottish ancestry.

His great-grandfather Duncan Campbell was part of a large Scottish community that settled in Jamaica and he fathered a child with his housemaid Albertina Wallace. At the time it was not unusual for men to have children with their staff and she was given his house to raise the child.

Colin is now a sports commentator after retiring from competing in 2003. He held the men’s 100m hurdles world record from 1993 to 2006 and was voted BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year three times.


Edvard Grieg

Edvard GriegEdvard Grieg was a 19th Century Norwegian composer and pianist who composed during the Romantic period.

He is best known for his Piano Concerto in A Minor, his incidental music for Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt and his collection of piano miniatures Lyric Pieces. Edvard drew his inspiration from Norwegian folk music.

After the Battle of Culloden his great-grandfather travelled extensively and settled in Norway around 1770. The original spelling of the family’s surname was Greig.

An arrangement of part of the Piano Concerto made iconic television comedy in the 1971 Morecambe and Wise Show, conducted by Andre Previn.

Douglas Murray

Douglas MurrayDouglas Murray is a Swedish ice hockey player who currently plays for the San Jose Sharks in America’s National Hockey League.

His paternal ancestors hail from Scotland and his mother gave all her children British names – Charles, Ted and Roseanna.

Douglas recently renewed his contract with the Sharks for four years at an estimated cost of $10 million. The 28-year-old has served as an alternate captain on the team. He has been a pro ice hockey player since 2003.

Douglas is co-founder of and managing partner of Uber Dispensing Company. The company produces the UberTap, a hands-free three-sprout keg tap invented by Murray and several university friends.


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