Am I related to a famous person?

A while back, a family member asked me to research whether or not her family was related to a famous actor, Chris Noth. Chris Noth is best known for his roles on Law & Order, and Sex in the City.

There were some intriguing clues: Chris Noth was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and Becky’s grandfather (Alfred Noth) was a first generation Wisconsin native from the Sheboygan area – his father Ferdinand emigrated from Germany as a child.

What made this a relatively easy assignment is that Chris Noth’s mother, Jeanne Parr, was a well known CBS news correspondent for many years, so his youth and origins were pretty well documented, including her marriage to Chris’s father Charles Noth. Sadly, Charles died at the young age of 44, when his son was just 12 years old.

  In reading some biographies on Chris and his mother, I found my first red flag: because of Jeanne’s career as a journalist, the family travelled a LOT during Chris’s youth. He grew up in places like England, Yugoslavia and Spain. This suggests that possibly they did not have strong familial ties to Wisconsin, but rather that it was her career that brought her to the state.

  At left: the cover of Life magazine from 1948 shows Jeanne with her son (Chris’s brother) Charles Noth Jr. The article is titled “The Good Life in Madison Wisconsin”.

After spending some time finding Becky’s relatives on various censuses to solidify birthdates and places, I turned to finding more info on Charles Noth. I wanted to know if I could find a common link somewhere beyond his son’s Wisconsin birth. Using his dates of birth and death (1922-1966), I found his gravesite listed at Arlington National Cemetery. I also found him on the Connecticut death record, stating that he and his wife Jean were residing in Stamford, but his place of death was New York. This again, doesn’t offer many clues. These records seem to point more at his chosen career path (and his wife’s) than any familial ties. But I did find one thing to lead me forward: his social security death index record states that his SSN was issued in Illinois.

This little clue gets the ball rolling: I found a birth record for Charles Noth in Cook County, Illinois. His father is George Noth, who unfortunately also died young – just two weeks before his son’s second birthday. I find that George was born in Iowa, the son of German immigrants.

The final conclusion: no, I didn’t find anything to relate Chris Noth with Becky’s ancestors. The Noths of Sheboygan seem to have followed a very traditional path in coming to America, settling in one farming community and raising multiple generations to follow in their footsteps. The Noths of Iowa and Illinois are not engaged in farming, but instead seem to be in the brewing industry.

However, this doesn’t rule out a common ancestor somewhere back in Germany. Most records show that the Sheboygan Noths came from the Saxony/Saxe Weimar province around 1854. The Iowa Noths came from Germany around 1856, with no specific location noted. Someone with a better grasp of the German language and better access to German genealogy records would need to pursue this further. All we have established is that Chris Noth’s great-grandfather Henry and Becky’s great-grandfather Ferdinand came to America around the same time, but settled in different locations, and were employed in different trades.

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