Famous Adoptees: A Famous Guide

Did you know these celebrities and famous historical figures were adopted?

Jenny Jerkins June 25, 2015

Did you know that Aristotle was adopted? What about Nelson Mandela or Steve McQueen? How many famous adoptees do you know? While famous adoptees are somewhat common, many don’t hear about them from the news. Famous adoptees often advocate adoption in private or public. Famous adoptees stand as examples for the adoption community. You might be surprised about which of your favorite stars are famous adoptees. Any guesses on which of your favorite actors or authors are also famous adoptees?

Are you considering growing your family through domestic infant adoption? For a free and confidential consultation with an adoption professional, click here.

Aristotle
1. Aristotle

Proxenus raised Aristotle after his parents died when he was a young boy. He studied at Plato’s academy for the first 20 years of his life before creating his own academy.

Image: Katsiuba Volha / Shutterstock.com

50 Cent
2. 50 Cent

50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) lost his father at a very early age. His mother gave birth to him at the age of fifteen, but was murdered in 1988 when he was just twelve. Curtis Jackson lived with his grandparents after his dear mother passed away, and they became his legal guardians.

Image: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

Charlie Chaplin
3. Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin lived a harsh life growing up in and out of orphanages. His parents split when he was only two years old. Afterwards, his mother fell into huge debt, later being hospitalized for mental illness. While his mother spent time in the halfway house, his father was rarely seen. Charlie learned to protect himself on the streets.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Run DMC
4. Run DMC

DMC began his autobiography at 35. In order to finish, he sought out his birth mother. That’s when he learned he was adopted. He filmed his search for his birth parents and added it to a documentary that aired on VH1.

Image: Charles Edwards / Shutterstock.com

Edgar Allen Poe
5. Edgar Allen Poe

Poe’s father abandoned him as a child. A year after his father got out of dodge, his dear old mommy kicked the bucket. A family in Richmond, Virginia, took Poe into their home without legally adopting the child.

Image: Shutterstock

Eric Clapton
6. Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton’s father entered war before Eric’s birth, never to return home again . Eric’s grandmother and her second husband helped raise him. He grew up believing his older sister was his mom.

Image: JStone / Shutterstock.com

Faith Hill
7. Faith Hill

Faith Hill, from Jackson, Mississippi, was adopted as an infant. She grew up in a devout Christian home alongside two brothers who were biological children of her parents.

Image: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

J.R.R. Tolkien
9. J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africa. Just a few short years later, his mother, and younger brother moved to England with the intention that their father would join them when possible. However, his father died less than a year later, before he could rejoin the family. Lightning struck the Tolkiens when their mother died shortly after. The brothers then went to live with an aunt for the rest of their childhoods.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Jack Nicholson
10. Jack Nicholson

The famous actor Jack Nicholson’s was born out of wedlock to a young woman. His father abandoned both of them. His grandparents raised him. Jack grew up believing his sister was his mom. At 37 he discovered the truth when a Time Magazine reporter uncovered the real story.

Image: 360b / Shutterstock.com

John Lennon
11. John Lennon

At age four, John Lennon’s parents split up. His father attempted to keep the family together but failed. John stayed with his mother, but after remarriage she chose not to raise John anymore. He was sent to live with an aunt and uncle who were childless.

Image: Roy Kerwood

Marilyn Monroe
12. Marilyn Monroe

Born Norma Jean Baker to an unmarried woman, Monroe lived in a foster home for the first seven years of her life. Her mother’s illness kept Marilyn from living with her, and even though they kept in touch, Monroe didn’t recognize her mother until later in life.

She moved in with her mother until she took a turn for the worse. Marilyn was then adopted by her mother’s best friend. But even in spite of this she was in and out of foster homes and orphanages until she married at a young age of 16 to get out of the system.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Michael Bay
13. Michael Bay

Bay was adopted as a small baby and grew up in Los Angeles. His birth father is rumored to be the director John Frankenheimer, but there has never been any proof of this even though he did have a relationship with Bay’s birth mother.

Image: Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

Nelson Mandela
14. Nelson Mandela

Mandela was grew up in South Africa. His father died when he was only nine. Afterwards, he lived with a local tribe and saw his mother occasionally.

Image: Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

Nicole Richie
15. Nicole Richie

Nicole Richie’s biological father played with Lionel Richie. She lived with her biological parents until she was three--the time they began to have financial difficulties. Nicole then moved in with Lionel Richie and Brenda Harvey, who raised her and formally adopted her when she was nine years old.

Image: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

Bill Clinton
16. Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton's father was killed in a car accident shortly before he was born. His mother remarried in 1950, and Clinton was adopted by his step-father.

Image: Anthony Correia / Shutterstock.com

Sacagawea
17. Sacagawea

When Sacagawea was about twelve, members of the Hidasta tribe kidnapped her. About a year later she is believed to have been purchased to become a wife.

Image: American Spirit / Shutterstock.com

Sarah McLachlan
18. Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan, a native canadian, was adopted by an American couple residing in Canada. She discovered her birth mother at age nine after a mutual friend noticed the resemblance between between her and her birth mother.

Image: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

Steve Jobs
19. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was adopted by a Californian couple as a baby. They promised his biological mother that her son would attend college, just like she wanted him to.

Image: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

Steve McQueen
20. Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen's father abandoned his family when he was less than a year old. His mother then gave him into the care of an uncle where he lived until he was 12. He returned to live with his mother where he began to get into trouble with the law. Eventually his mother sent him to a center for troubled boys. He stayed there for a few months before returning to his mother again but the reunion was unsuccessful.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Tim McGraw
21. Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw grew up the only child of a waitress. When his mother became pregnant, Tim’s parents sent his mom to the bayou (Louisiana) in order to stay with family and have the child.

For the majority of his childhood, Tim trusted that his stepfather, Horace Smith, was his biological father. Tim found his real birth certificate at the tender age of 11. After his detection, his mother told him the truth--Tim’s father was all-star pitcher Tug Mcgraw. Tug rejected Tim as his son until McGraw reached the age of 18. After Tug accepted the truth, Tim and Tug remained good friends until 2004, when Tug passed peacefully away.

Image: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

Willie Nelson
22. Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas to Myrle Marie and Ira Doyle Nelson. His parents moved in 1929 to look for work. Nelson's grandfather, William, worked as a blacksmith, while his father worked as a mechanic. His mother left soon after he was born, and his father remarried and also moved away, leaving Willie and his sister Bobbie to be raised by their grandparents.

Be sure to check out our adoption forums to learn more about famous adoptees.

Image: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

author image

Jenny Jerkins

Jenny Jerkins is a Staff Storyteller for Adoption.com and resides in Augusta, GA. She is a wife and former engineer-turned-stay-at-home mom of an energetic, smart, and hilarious little boy. Grateful for infertility, she became a mom through adoption, which has opened her heart in ways she never knew were possible and also brought them the blessing of open adoption. She is an active member of several adoption communities and loves uniting and educating others. You can read all about her adoption story over at Our Not So Engineered Life where she has her own blog about infertility, adoption, motherhood, and life.


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