Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire books the show is based on are rich in detail and history. Every noble house’s lineage is laid out, often going back decades if not centuries. And when you take a closer look into those genealogies, you can often uncover a number of secrets. Incest and bastard children abound, as do tales of lords raising sires that aren’t truly theirs. Now, in a somewhat poetic example of life imitating art, it turns out author George R.R. Martin’s family tree isn’t as straightforward as he once thought, either.
Martin is just the latest celebrity to be featured on the PBS show Finding Your Roots. The Jewish Telegraphy Agency reports that during the series’ season premiere, the fantasy author learns he’s nearly a quarter Jewish. That was a surprise to George, who believed his ancestry was Irish-Italian.
But here’s where things get Game of Thrones level of interesting: It turns out Martin isn’t Italian at all. While looking into the results that Martin was 22.4 percent Ashkenazi Jew (the “equivalent of having one Jewish grandparent,” according to JTA), researchers did testing on another descendant of his paternal grandfather Louis, the family’s Italian connection. The results should have seen a 6 percent match between the descendant and Martin. Instead, there was none at all.
It turns out Louis wasn’t actually George R.R. Martin’s grandfather, and his grandmother Grace had sired his father with an unknown Jewish man. Louis would later leave and start another family, although Grace’s Catholic upbringing kept the two from formally divorcing.
The results carry a bit of an amusing parallel with the hereditary dramas Martin writes about in the Game of Thrones books. In fact, as Inquisitr reports, a major plot development set to blow things up in Season 8 of the show involves the true parentage of key character Jon Snow. Known to the world as the bastard son of Ned Stark, Snow is in fact the child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, potentially making him the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
Emilia Clarke plays Daenerys Targaryen, who up until that revelation had the best claim to the kingdom.
“Were she to find out about his title, it would cut deep,” Clarke said in a recent interview.
It doesn’t help that Daenerys is the younger sister of Rhaegar Targaryen, technically making her Jon Snow’s aunt.
Fortunately for George R.R. Martin, his own brush with genealogical truth isn’t nearly as complex, although it certainly gave him a surprise to learn his roots were Jewish and not Italian. His episode of Finding Your Roots is set to air January 8 on PBS.