Michael Douglas

Kirk Douglas ethnicity

Douglas in 2011, photo by kathclick/Bigstock.com

Birth Name: Michael Kirk Douglas

Place of Birth: New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.

Date of Birth: September 25, 1944

*father – Ashkenazi Jewish
*mother – Bermudian [English, Dutch, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Belgian, French]

Michael Douglas is an American actor and producer. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Wall Street (1987). His roles also include the films The China Syndrome, Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, Fatal Attraction, The War of the Roses, Basic Instinct, Falling Down, Disclosure, The American President, The Game (1997), Wonder Boys, Traffic, It Runs in the Family, Solitary Man, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Ant-Man, as well as other MCU properties; the series The Streets of San Francisco and The Kominsky Method, and the made-for-tv movie Behind the Candelabra. He has been a humanitarian and political activist, including as a U.N. Messenger of Peace, a board member of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and an honorary board member of Ploughshares Fund, an anti-war grant-making foundation.

Michael is the son of actors Kirk Douglas (born Isadore Danielovitch/Danilovich) and Diana Dill (Diana Love Dill). He is the brother of film producer Joel Douglas, and a half-brother of television and film producer Peter Douglas and actor and stand-up comedian Eric Douglas. He is married to Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. He has a son, actor Cameron Douglas, with his former wife Diandra Luker; and two children with Catherine.

Michael’s father was Jewish, the son of emigrants from Mogilev, Belarus. Michael’s mother, who was born in Devonshire, Bermuda, had English, Dutch, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Belgian, and French ancestry. Michael has British citizenship with Bermudian Status because of his mother’s birth in Bermuda. He is a maternal cousin of the Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, the Bishop of the established Anglican Church of Bermuda; heiress and entrepreneur Mary Lea Johnson Richards, and artist John Seward Johnson II. His uncle was politician Sir Nicholas Bayard Dill.

In 2015, Michael stated that he identifies as Jewish by religion, and described himself as a Reform Jew. Michael’s son with Catherine, Dylan, had a Bar Mitzvah ceremony, having decided to do so of his own choice.

Michael’s paternal grandfather was named Harry Demsky (born Girsh/Herschel Danilovich/Danielovitch, the son of Isor/Iser Danilovich/Danilovitch and Brayna-Chana). Herschel was born in Chavusy/Chausy, Mogilev, eastern Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire, and was involved in street-level criminal enterprises with his siblings. Isor was the son of Girsh-Itsko Danilovich. Brayna-Chana was the daughter of Sholom-Itsko.

Michael’s paternal grandmother was named Bryna “Bertha” Sanglel/Singlair. Bryna was a born in Belarus.

Michael’s maternal grandfather was Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Melville Dill (the son of Thomas Newbold Dill and Mary Lea Smith). Michael’s grandfather Thomas was born on Devonshire, Bermuda, and was Attorney General of Bermuda, a Member of the Parliament of Bermuda (MCP), and a commanding officer of the Bermuda Militia Artillery. Michael’s great-grandfather Thomas was born in Devonshire, the son of Thomas Melville Dill and Harriet Valk Smith. He was a merchant, an MCP for Devonshire Parish, a Member of the Legislative Council and an Assistant Justice, and Mayor of the City of Hamilton. Michael’s great-great-grandfather Thomas Melville Dill was a sea captain, who, in March 1858, took the Bermudian-built barque Sir George F. Seymour from Bermuda to Ireland in thirteen days. Michael’s great-grandmother Mary was born on Saint Michael, Barbados, the daughter of Samuel Benjamin Smith and Susan Augusta Smith.

Michael’s maternal grandmother was Ruth Rapalje Neilson (the daughter of Nicholas Bayard Neilson and Sarah Gifford Chapman). Ruth was born in New Jersey, to a family that had lived in the United States for many generations. Michael’s great-great-great-great-grandfather John Neilson was a Patriot in the American Revolutionary War, who commanded the New Jersey militia in northern New Jersey during the revolution. He also served in the New Jersey legislature, and was one of the earliest trustees of Rutgers University. Michael’s great-grandfather Nicholas was the son of Theodore Grant Neilson and Catherine Bayard/D. Rutgers/Rugers. Michael’s great-grandmother Sarah was the daughter of James/Joseph Marsh Chapman and Louisa Stockton Johnson.

Michael’s matrilineal line can be traced to Patience Gifford, who was born, c. 1787.

A DNA test whose results were displayed on the show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2024) stated that Michael’s genetic ancestry is:

*38.8% British & Irish
*37.1% Ashkenazi Jewish
*10.3% Eastern European
*6.5% French & German
*4.8% Broadly Northwest European
*2.1% Sardinian
*0.4% Broadly European

Genetically, he was found to have a common ancestor with actress Scarlett Johansson, through shared Ashkenazi ancestry.

Sources: Genealogies of Michael Douglas – http://www.conovergenealogy.com

Genealogies of Michael’s parents – https://www.findagrave.com

Michael’s father on the 1930 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

Michael’s maternal grandmother, Ruth Rapalje Neilson, on the 1900 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

Marriage record of Michael’s maternal great-grandparents, Nicholas Bayard Neilson and Sarah Gifford Chapman – https://familysearch.org

Douglas in 2011, photo by s_bukley / Shutterstock.com


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