07/31/2009 AT 9:45 AM ET
You think Emma Watson won the coveted role of Harry Potter’s pal Hermione Granger just because of her talent and beauty?
Actually, it turns out magic was always in her blood – the British actress can trace her roots back to a real-life woman accused of witchcraft in the 16th century.
According to genealogist Anastasia Tyler of Ancestry.com, the 19-year-old actress is a distant relative of Joan Playle of Essex County, England, who was convicted of witchcraft in 1592 and excommunicated from the Church of England.
So that’s why the public finds Watson so enchanting
“It’s not every day we’re able to trace the branches of a family tree back to 16th-century witch trials,” Tyler says. “Combine that with a celebrity connection to Emma Watson and the fact that she plays a witch in Harry Potter: You couldn’t script it any better.”
Most of Watson’s cast mates don’t have as storied a lineage – Daniel Radcliffe is descended from bakers, grocers and plumbers, and Rupert Grint includes a gunsmith among his forebears. Helena Bonham Carter, who plays villainous Bellatrix Lestrange, however, is of noble birth, and her great-grandfather, Herbert Henry Asquith, Earl of Oxford and Asquith, served as prime minister of the U.K. from 1908 to 1916.
– Michael Y. Park