Celebritrees: Gere up Your Research

By Rhonda McClure Premium

An Officer and a Gentleman actor (not to mention two-time People magazine Sexiest Man Alive) Richard Gere has portrayed personas as diverse as a Civil War vet returning home in 1993’s Sommersby and a … well, you know, in the 1980 hit American Gigolo. But — as I’ve learned with a little help from a friend — Gere’s ancestry connects him to some interesting real-life characters, as well.

Sometimes, despite my best efforts, I can’t find the genealogical information I’m seeking (I bet you can relate). That’s when I turn to colleagues who specialize in the regions where I’m searching. When it comes to New England connections, I often find esteemed genealogist and author Gary Boyd Roberts willing to lend a helping hand and share his research.

Such was the case with the ancestry of Richard Gere, born in Philadelphia Aug. 31, 1949, to a family with strong New England ties. In fact, Gere’s 11th-great-grandfather is William Brewster, a leader of the Pilgrims who settled Plymouth, Mass. Through his Brewster connection, Gere finds himself a 10th cousin twice removed to crooner Bing Crosby. More renowned relatives include poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who’s a seventh cousin five times removed, and US Supreme Court justice David Hackett Souter, a 12th cousin.

When you’re at a loss, reach out to fellow family historians through mailing lists, such as those at RootsWeb <>, and by communing in person at genealogical society gatherings. Other researchers’ knowledge may be the key to uncovering officers, gentlemen and other interesting characters — maybe even the occasional, er, playboy — in your past.

From the December 2004 issue of Family Tree Magazine.