Won’t you be my relative?
Through research conducted by Ancestry, a genealogy service that charts users’ lineage via its database of more than 20 billion public records, Tom Hanks was shocked to learn that he is, in fact, sixth cousins with the late Fred Rogers.
Access Hollywood surprised Hanks, 63, with the results at a New York City screening of the star’s upcoming film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a drama in which Hanks steps into Rogers’ iconic sweater to embody the gentle children’s TV host.
“No, impossible … you’re pulling our leg,” the actor’s wife, Rita Wilson, said upon hearing the news, scanning a family tree diagram.
“Listen,” said Hanks, harping on the significance of the revelation, “it all just comes together, you see.”
The records illustrated a link between the two figures between a shared five-times great-grandfather, a German immigrant named Johannes Mefford, who was born in 1732. More digging into their backgrounds showed that Hanks and Rogers also descended from two brothers who fought for American independence in the Revolutionary War.
“For more than 30 years, Ancestry has helped millions of people discover the story of what led to them, including the remarkable connection between Fred Rogers and Tom Hanks,” Jennifer Utley, director of research at Ancestry, said in a statement. “It’s no surprise they are related as the similarities between the two are uncanny.”
Joanne Rogers, Mister Rogers’ widow, also reveled at the random familial link between her husband and the Oscar winner who brings him to life on the big screen. In a behind-the-scenes look at the movie, Joanne — who called Hanks “adorable” in character — said that Fred was a “huge fan” of the actor before his death in 2003.
“That is just wonderful,” the 91-year-old told Access. “Now, that is amazing and Fred would have loved it. He loved family tree stuff.”
Though he wasn’t aware of the aptitude his bloodline provided in capturing the persona of Fred Rogers, Hanks found the instantly recognizable costumes worn by the beloved figure to be instrumental in stepping into his shoes.
“Well, there was an [external] version of it, in which you put on that sweater and those shoes and it’s kind of like Batman putting on his cape and cowl,” he told Access. “You are definitely no longer yourself; you are this very identified, very almost commoditized human being that was Mister Rogers.”
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is in theaters Nov. 22.