River Phoenix

by ethnic on July 18, 2010

photo by Alan Light

Birth Name: River Jude Bottom

Date of Birth: August 23, 1970

Place of Birth: Madras, Oregon, U.S.

Date of Death: October 31, 1993

Place of Death: West Hollywood, California, United States

*English, along with German, distant French Huguenot (father)
*Ashkenazi Jewish (mother)

River Phoenix was an American actor, musician, and activist. He is known for his roles in the films Stand by Me, Running on Empty, and My Own Private Idaho. He was the brother of actors Rain Phoenix, Joaquín Phoenix, Liberty Phoenix, and Summer Phoenix.

River was the son of Arlyn Phoenix (born Arlyn Dunetz), a social activist, and John Phoenix (born Johnny Lee Bottom). River’s mother is Jewish; half of her family are Russian Jews and the other half are Hungarian Jews. River’s father is of mostly English descent, along with at least 1/128th German, from his ancestor, Johan Jacob Peter Kimberlin, and French Huguenot roots from another, distant, ancestor, Francis Posey, from Cambray, France. At one point, River’s parents joined the religious group Children of God, which they later left.

River’s paternal grandfather was Robert Merrill Bottom (the son of William Dell Bottom and Cordelia Pearl Matherly). Robert was born in Kentucky, as were all of his grandparents. William was the son of Fidellar/Phidellar Sharp Bottom and Rachel Ann Bolling/Bowling. Cordelia was the daughter of David Houston Matherly and Sarah Frances Purdom.

River’s paternal grandmother was Beulah Ernestine Ingram (the daughter of Robert Lee Ingram and Mary Elizabeth Leach/Leidy). Beulah was born in Missouri, and Beulah’s grandparents were born in Tennessee (two), Illinois, and Iowa. Mary Elizabeth was the daughter of William John Leidy and Sarah Clarissa Dyer.

River’s maternal grandfather was Meyer Dunetz (the son of Samuel/Sam Dunetz and Libbe “Sallie” Grodenzik). Meyer was born in New York. Samuel and Libbe were Russian Jewish immigrants. Samuel was the son of Moses/Moshe Idel Dunetz and Shifra. Libbe was the daughter of Simon Gordon and Menucha.

River’s maternal grandmother was Margaret “Margie” Lefkowitz (the daughter of Ignatz Lefkowitz and Mary Beck). Margaret was born in New York, the daughter of Hungarian Jewish immigrants. Ignatz was born in Imre, Zemplén, Hungary (now Malčice, Slovakia), the son of Herman Lefkowitz and Rose Greenwald. Mary was the daughter of Ignatz Beck and Maly Frankel.

Sources: Genealogies of River Phoenix – http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com

River’s uncle (father’s brother), Phillip Bottom, on the 1940 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

Genealogy of River’s paternal grandfather, Robert Merrill Bottom – http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com

River’s paternal grandmother, Beulah Ernestine Ingram, on the 1930 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

River’s great-uncle (maternal grandfather’s brother), Bernard Dunetz, on the 1940 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

River’s maternal grandfather, Meyer Dunetz, on the 1920 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org

River’s maternal grandmother, Margaret “Margie” Lefkowitz, on the 1920 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Pegzi May 14, 2017 at 12:31 am

He was so handsome

LolaLolita January 22, 2016 at 1:32 pm

He looks exactly like this guy I see every morning at the train station.
I am from Italy (yes, in Italy there are blond people, too).

cwm85 August 12, 2015 at 6:56 pm

The drugs. Talented actor but those drugs are no good.

Fatmonkey November 16, 2014 at 4:04 pm

One of his ancestor was named Dred Bolling, an he was a native of Albermarle, Virginia. Knowing that Bollings from Virginia are (at least mostly) descended from Pocahontas, could it be that River is one of her descendants as well? Sadly, I failed to find any further information related to Dred’s ancestry (the longest I reached were his parents, also from Virginia, William Bolling and Mary White), so can’t confirm my beliefs for now.

cdonorab August 11, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Correction. I’ve been able to take it further and get back to his descent of Pocahontas.

Dred Bolling
William Bolling
Benjamin Bolling
John kennon Billing
John Bolling
Jane Rolfe

follers August 12, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Have these lineages been verified? You really should cite your sources when stating these.

The first Phoenix genealogy above lists his ancestors as a “Dred Bowling”, born c. 1825.

cdonorab August 13, 2015 at 6:05 am

William Bolling to Pocahontas lineage has been varified, but I’ll try to find something concrete to varify that William was the father of Dred. I’ve found many trees on ancestry and rootsweb that indicate that he is, but will double check.

Fatmonkey August 13, 2015 at 10:10 am

Bollings of Virginia are practically certainly Pocahontas’ descendants. The possibility that they aren’t could be no higher than 5% or so… Just as e.g. Jordans of Virginia or nearby states can be said to descend from Thomas Jordan and Margaret Brashear, or Fargos of Connecticut or nearby states from the Huguenot colonist Jacent Fargeau… There are certain patterns in genealogy which are common and relatively easy to deduce, if one has read enough respective family history, of course.

cdonorab August 13, 2015 at 1:31 pm

I found an article written by the great nephew of Dred named Jason Walker Bolling that details their ancestry and includes the fact that the authors 3rd great uncle was Thomas Jefferson which substatitiates the fact that they are related to Pocahontas since its been established that Thomas Jefferson sister married a descendant of Pocahontas.

follers August 15, 2015 at 2:17 am

What is the article that establishes Dred’s parentage?

cdonorab August 15, 2015 at 6:29 am

The website I found that talks about his parentage is http://www.combs-families.org/combs/marriages/htm.dd#jwb

follers August 17, 2015 at 12:56 pm

The link doesn’t work?

cdonorab August 17, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Sorry about the article. Here’s another one that says basically the same thing the other article says.


Hopefully that one will work.

Fatmonkey August 17, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Lol, follers, just confirm it, and end the 10 month-old tussle.

cdonorab August 17, 2015 at 1:58 pm

I tried the link already and it didn’t work when I clicked it, but the articles tell about the family and there were many more like it that I saw just by googling Dred Bolling and Jason Walker Bolling. I’m not sure I’d be able to get a link to work since I’m not on an actual computer.

follers November 16, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Ethnic, I don’t know if there is any kind of picture, please?

ethnic November 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Atleast on Bigstock and Prphotos, there isnt. Is there is a creative commons licensed pic out there, that could be used.

follers November 16, 2013 at 9:16 pm
Fatmonkey July 16, 2013 at 6:07 am

I just found out today: River and Cindy Crawford share a same German ancestor, Johann Jacob Peter Kimberlin (on River’s paternal and Cindy’s maternal side).

Fatmonkey July 1, 2013 at 5:33 am

River was part French on his father’s side. If you check the very end of his father’s genealogy (worldconnect – the first of the two parts), you’ll see an ancestor named Francis Posey. He was a Huguenot who came to U.S. from Cambray, France. His wife was Elizabeth Humphrey. Here’s one of the links warrantying Posey’s French ethnicity, as well as the fact it’s the same Francis Posey found on River’s family tree (the husband of Elizabeth Humphrey):


follers July 1, 2013 at 7:06 am

I submitted a c orrection.

As long as we are agreed that the Phoenixes’ dad is not Spanish and Irish, which some web bios used to say.

Dee February 27, 2011 at 2:56 pm

His father wasn’t part Spanish (nor Irish, Ithink).

His father was the son of Robert Merrill Bottom and Beulah Ernestine Ingram. Bottom’s ancestry is traced below (he is mostly English and a little German), and Beulah Ernestine Ingram was the daughter of Robert Lee Ingram and Georgia May Leach or Lydie.

River’s mother was the daughter of Jewish parents from Hungary and Russia.



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