Shakespeare fan becomes Shakespeare fam

Elie Salem

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Junior Ella Schneider had been a Shakespeare fanatic since middle school, acting in a range of his most famous plays, from the tragic “Romeo and Juliet” to the whimsical “A Midsummers Night Dream.” For weeks strung together by long rehearsals, she sang, acted, and lived Shakespeare.

Her love of Shakespearean theatre was only rivaled by her maniac obsession with tracing her long ancestral web through the often incomplete annals of complex online websites, from her parents to her grandparents to her great-great-great-grandparents.

And then, Schneider found that there is a nearly 100-percent chance that she has a direct connection to William Shakespeare’s only sister Joan Shakespeare.

While Joan is technically their great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother’s grandmother, and William their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great uncle, the affection and admiration run deep. “I love Shakespeare, I have always admired his work, I love his plays, I’m an actor,” she said. In her middle and high school theatre career, Schneider has taken major and minor roles in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” “Twelfth Night,” “Romeo and Juliet” twice, and “Hamlet.”

The genetic coincidence is all the more surprising considering Schneider always found a personal and spiritual connection with Shakespeare’s plays and is even considering making a career from studying his work. “I’ve been thinking about doing Shakespeare studies in college which would be really cool, I definitely have always admired his work,” Schneider said. I just find it really interesting to interpret it. To look at [Shakespeare’s plays] and say ‘I think I know what this means, I think I know what this means.’”

Schneider and her grandfather started the search after a casual tip from her grandmother. “So about a year ago my grandmother brought up that ‘oh yeah there’s a possibility that we have a relationship to William Shakespeare.’ And I was like, ‘oh that’s so cool, that’s awesome,’” she said. “And so I looked into it and I went to all these ancestry websites and did all this research and all this searching and searches and a whole bunch of stuff… And we found it.”

The Schneiders share the Shakespeare connection with only seven to eleven other small families. All of them were direct descendants of Joan since William Shakespeare’s line ended with his grandchildren.

Schneider traced her line through eleven generations, inadvertently brushing up with other celebrity members of her family. Among Schneider’s direct descendants include John Trumbull, the famous painter of the American Revolution, and Trumbull’s brother, the 20th Governor of Connecticut, who was the only colonial governor to defect to the patriot cause.