NBC Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive show news, updates, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
NBC Insider Extended Family

Jon Cryer Is Related to Incredibly Interesting People — Learn More About His Ancestors

Jon Cryer's ancestor, James Adams, arrived in colonial America under some dire circumstances. 

By Jill Sederstrom

Jon Cryer may have some deep television comedy roots, but his ancestral roots would best be described as drama.

How to Watch

Watch Extended Family Tuesdays at 8:30/7:30c on NBC and next day on Peacock.

The star of NBC’s new comedy Extended Family uncovered the true story behind his ancestor’s dramatic voyage to America in 2018 as part of the genealogy documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?

Cryer learned that his nine-times great-grandfather James Adams was a Scot who fought for the country’s independence in 1650, only to get captured and sold into indentured servitude in colonial America, TV Insider reported at the time.

“This is a Braveheart scenario!” Cryer exclaimed, referencing the popular 1995 historical drama that followed Scottish warrior William Wallace and his countrymen in their quest for freedom.

Who is Jon Cryer related to?

Many people wonder if Cryer is related to actors like Matthew Broderick (another '80s icon he bears a slight resemblance to) or Suzanne Cryer (a celeb with the same last name), but he is not related to them. He is, however, related to James Adams, a Scotsman with an interesting story.

Cryer sat down with early American historian Sharon Salinger in the episode to find out more about his relative James Adams' astonishing journey. 

Salinger explained that local and state archives have records that indicate Adams had been one of 35 Scottish citizens who fought in the 1650 Battle of Dunbar, which was part of the English civil wars, and were captured during the battle.

RELATED: Everything to Know About Abigail Spencer's Real-Life Family Ahead of the Extended Family Premiere

“So they were Scottish rebels?” Cryer asked during a clip from the show. 

“Right,” Salinger explained. “It’s basically the Scottish attempt to be independent from England.” 

Jon Cryer smiles on the red carpet for the premiere of Big Time Adolescence

The 35 prisoners of war — who were estimated to be between 17 and 22 years of age — were then sold to an iron works company, shipped to America, and forced to work as indentured servants. 

“That must’ve been just terrifying to get onto a boat,” Cryer said of the shocking story. “Knowing that he didn’t have any choice in the matter is kind of a mind blower. I have to figure it was pretty scary for him. What a crazy circumstance to have all that ahead of you.”

While Salinger explained that Adams and his fellow indentured servants had “absolutely no civil rights whatsoever,” they did fare better than those forced into slavery.

“They key difference to this and slavery, of course, is that you serve for a term that’s specified in a contract after which you are free, but you are the property of your master, in this case the ironworks, for that period of time,” she said.

Records show Adams was sent to Massachusetts where he was forced to work for Saugus Iron Works against his will for years, according to Ancestry.com.

Although Salinger said it’s unknown exactly how long Adams was forced into servitude, the contracts typically were anywhere from five to seven years. 

“This is amazing,” Cryer remarked.

It looks like things eventually turned around for Adams, who went on to own property, which he later  handed down to his son James Adams Jr, according to the genealogy website. 

Who are Jon Cryer’s parents? 

In much more recent family history, Jon Cryer’s parents also made their own mark in America before their son rose to fame. 

Gretchen and David Cryer were both successful actors in their own right and inspired their son’s foray into show business. 

"When you're a little kid and you're backstage seeing all these crazy, magical people floating in and out of your life, it can't help but cast a spell on you," Jon told CBS Sunday Morning in 2015. "I wanted to be a part of that."

David Wagner’s acting credits include Escape From Alcatraz and American Gigolo, as well as appearances on popular television series including Wonder Woman, Days of Our Lives, Dallas and As the World Turns, according to IMDB. His last on-screen appearance was on a 1991 episode of Law & Order, where he played a judge. 

Trey and Jim on Extended Family Episode 102

David’s also an accomplished theater actor, having performed in Broadway hits like Phantom of the Opera and Evita, according to Broadway World

Gretchen Cryer — who appeared in the episode of Who Do you Think You Are? alongside her son — appeared in the 1987 film Hiding Out, according to IMDB

According to her profile on Maestra Music, Gretchen, who is also an accomplished playwright, is best known for writing and starring in the musical I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On The Road.

Jon joined the family business himself in 1983 after landing a role on Broadway’s Torch Song Trilogy. He famously went on to play cult favorite Phillip “Duckie” Dale in the 1988 John Hughes’ classic Pretty in Pink and took on the role of Alan Harper for a 12-year stint on Two and a Half Men. 

Jon will play a divorced dad struggling to coparent with his ex on NBC’s new comedy, Extended Family

The series airs on Tuesdays at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.