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Decoding history: Ancestry of Benedict Cumberbatch revealed

18 February 2015

New research reveals that actor Benedict Cumberbatch is related to revolutionary codebreaker Alan Turing, whom he portrays in the newly released biographical thriller, The Imitation Game.

Researchers from Ancestry were able to crack Cumberbatch’s ancestral cipher and identify that both men share a common ancestor in John Beaufort, the Earl of Somerset, making them 17x cousins on Cumberbatch’s paternal side.

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Turing played a crucial role in World War II, when he devised a number of revolutionary techniques for breaking German codes and was credited by then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill as “making the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war.”

Turing was not the only Cumberbatch relative who helped Britain win the war; his third cousin twice removed has been identified as WWII soldier Noel Carlisle Rees. Military records reveal that Rees was stationed in Greece with British Military Intelligence and was responsible for smuggling thousands of Allied soldiers out of the country during the conflict.

Along with these war heroes, the records also revealed some rather unusual occupations in the Cumberbatch family tree. These include links to John Paul Ferguson, Benedict’s paternal 2nd great-grandfather, who was a tea planter in India, as well as a connection to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, identified as his sixth cousin.

A kingly ancestor

Cumberbatch’s relatives haven’t always come out on the winning side, however. He recently finished filming his role as Richard III on The Hollow Crown. Around the same time, Professor Kevin Schurer of the University of Leicester announced that Cumberbatch and Richard are third cousins 16 times removed. While Cumberbatch has acknowledged the honor it is to be related to Turing, he joked with another reporter that his distant connection to Richard was ‘close enough for me’.

What’s next? Learning that Benedict Cumberbatch is the great-great-grandson of Sherlock Holmes? OK, Holmes is a fictional character, but at this rate, someone’s bound to find a way.

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