Joanna Kerns

2004 ABC All-Stars Summer Party

Kerns in 2004, photo by

Birth Name: Joanne Crussie DeVarona

Place of Birth: San Francisco, California, United States

Date of Birth: February 12, 1953

*paternal grandfather – Cuban [Spanish, Basque, more distant Portuguese and Indigenous]
*other ancestry – German, English, Welsh, Irish

Joanna Kerns is an American actress and director. She is known for her role on the sitcom Growing Pains.

Joanna is the daughter of Martha Louise and David Cruz Thomas de Varona. Her sister is competition swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Donna de Varona.

Joanna is often described as having Mexican (from her father) and Irish (from her mother) ancestry. This is not accurate. Joanna’s father is of half Cuban descent, including Spanish, Basque, Portuguese, and Indigenous Cuban roots; his mother likely had Welsh ancestry, due to her maiden name, Thomas, usually being Welsh. Joanna’s mother was of mostly German descent, with some Irish ancestry as well.

Joanna’s paternal grandfather was Joseph de la Cruz de Varona Betancourt (the son of Ignacio María María de Varona Agüero, Conde de Jaruco and María Luisa Betancourt Cisneros). Joseph was born in New York, to Cuban parents. Ignacio was born in Santa Maria de Puerto Príncipe, the son of Ignacio María Varona de la Torre and Angela Mariana Mariana Agüero y Varona. Joanna’s great-grandmother Maria was the daughter of Gaspar Alonso Betancourt y Cisneros and Maŕıa Monserrate Canalejo e Hidalgo-Gato.

Joanna’s paternal grandmother was named Elizabeth Thomas. Elizabeth was born in Pennsylvania, to Pennsylvania-born parents.

Joanna’s maternal grandfather was Salem Kappler Smith (the son of Heinrich/Henry D. Schmidt/Smith and Caroline Kappler). Salem was born in Pennsylvania. Heinrich was born in Pennsylvania, to a German father, John Adam Smith, and an American mother, Caroline Dietz, of German descent. Caroline was born in Pennsylvania, to German parents, Michael Kappler and Caroline Ackerman.

Joanna’s maternal grandmother was Lenora Kame Helwig (the daughter of Rhinehold Fisher Helwig and Ella Fisher Campbell). Lenora was born in Pennsylvania. Rhinehold was born in Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania, to German parents, John Helwig. Ella was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and had German and Irish ancestry, the daughter of Daniel Campbell and Louisa M. Boyd.

Sources: Genealogy of Joanna Kerns (focusing on her father’s side) –

Genealogy of Joanna’s father (focusing on his father’s side) –

Joanna’s father on the 1920 U.S. Census –

Obituaries of Joanna’s mother –

Genealogies of Joanna’s maternal grandparents, Salem Kappler Smith and Lenora Kame (Helwig) Smith –

Joanna’s maternal grandfather, Salem Kappler Smith, on the 1910 U.S. Census –

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.