Indigenous Cuban

Joanna Kerns

by madman on February 14, 2016

2004 ABC All-Stars Summer Party

Birth Name: Joanna Crussie DeVarona

Place of Birth: San Francisco, California, United States

Date of Birth: February 12, 1953

Ethnicity: Cuban (Spanish, Basque, more distant Portuguese and Indigenous) (paternal grandfather), German, English, Welsh, Irish

Joanna Kerns is an American actress and director. She is known for her role in the sitcom Growing Pains. Joanna is the daughter of Martha Louise (Smith) 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 a Welsh name. His mother may have had other ancestry as well. Joanna’s mother was of mostly German descent, with some Irish ancestry as well.

Joanna’s paternal grandparents were Joseph de la Cruz de Varona Betancourt (the son of Ignacio María de Varona y Agüero and María Luisa Betancourt Cisneros) and Elizabeth Thomas. Ignacio and María were born in Cuba. Elizabeth was born in Pennsylvania, to Pennsylvania-born parents.

Joanna’s maternal grandparents were Salem Kappler Smith (the son of Heinrich/Henry D. Schmidt/Smith and Caroline Kappler) and Lenora Kame Helwig (the daughter of Rhinehold Fisher Helwig and Ella Fisher Campbell). 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. Rhinehold was born in Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania, to German parents. Ella was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and had German and Irish ancestry.

Sources: Birth certificate of Joanna Kerns –

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

Genealogy of Joanna’s father, David Cruz Thomas de Varona –

Joanna’s father, David Cruz Thomas de Varona, on the 1920 U.S. Census –

Genealogy of Joanna’s paternal grandfather, Jose de la Cruz Varona –

Obituaries of Joanna’s mother, Martha Louise (Smith) de Varona –

Genealogies of Joanna’s maternal grandfather, Salem Kappler Smith –

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

Genealogies of Joanna’s maternal grandmother, Lenora Kame Helwig –

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Carly Simon

by ethnic on July 27, 2012

LOS ANGELES - OCT 30:  Carly Simon at the Oceana's Partners Awar

Birth Name: Carly Elisabeth Simon

Place of Birth: New York City, New York, U.S.

Date of Birth: June 25, 1945

*50% Ashkenazi Jewish
*25% German
*25% Cuban [African, Spanish, likely small amount of Indigenous]

Carly Simon is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and author.

Carly is the daughter of Andrea Louise Heinemann Simon, a community leader, and Richard L. Simon (Richard Leo Simon), a book publisher, who co-founded Simon & Schuster. Carly has two children with her former husband, singer, songwriter, and guitarist James Taylor.

Her father was Jewish, of German Jewish descent. Her maternal grandfather was of German ancestry.

Throughout much of her life, Carly was unsure of her maternal grandmother, “Chibie”‘s, background, believing her to have been from Spain, and of Spanish and Moorish descent. Research performed by the show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2017) indicated that Carly’s maternal grandmother’s family was actually from Cuba, and was of part Afro-Cuban descent.

A DNA test whose results were displayed on Finding Your Roots stated that Carly’s genetic ancestry includes:

*10% Africa[n]
*2% Native America[n]

Thus, Carly’s maternal grandmother was likely of around 40% African ancestry.

Carly’s paternal grandfather was Leo Leopold Simon (the son of Leopold B. Simon and Sophie Friedenburg/Fiendenburg). Carly’s grandfather Leo was born in Connecticut, to Jewish parents from Saxony, Germany.

Carly’s paternal grandmother was Anna Meier/Mayer (the daughter of Wilhelm/William Meier/Mayer and Rosine/Rosina Mendel). Anna was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, to a German Jewish family.

Carly’s maternal grandfather was Frederick Adolph “Fred” Heinemann (the son of Adolph Heinemann/Heineman and Mary Amelia Haas). Frederick was born in Pennsylvania. Adolph was Prussian, the son of August Heinemann/Heineman, who was born in Brunswick, and of Dora K. Mary Amelia was born in Pennsylvania, of German descent.

Carly’s maternal grandmother was Ofilia/Ofelia “Elma/Alma Marie”/Maria “Chibie” Oliete/Ollright. Ofilia was most likely born in Cuba. On her marriage record, she is listed as the daughter of Jose/Joseph Agustin Oliete/Ollright and Maria/Marie Patrociana de Jesús Baez. However, DNA and other research performed by Finding Your Roots indicates that Ofilia’s biological mother may have been Lauriana Oliete, who was Maria/Marie Patrociana’s daughter. Thus, Maria/Marie Patrociana may have been Carly’s great-great-grandmother rather than great-grandmother. Whether Jose Oliete was Carly’s great-great-grandfather was not addressed.

In her autobiography, Boys in the Trees: A Memoir (2015), Carly wrote:

It was Chibie, above all, who fascinated me. Who was Chibie? Where had she come from?… One story went that she was the illegitimate daughter of King Alphonso XIII of Spain and a Moorish slave he had gotten pregnant… I was able to confirm that until her mid-teens, Chibie lived in England, and that when she left the convent [where she spent time], she could read in eight languages. She was brainy, brilliant, and an utter original. She had dark olive skin and spent the rest of her life bleaching it in order to “pass” in a Caucasian world.

Sources: Genealogy of Carly Simon –

Genealogies and obituaries of Carly’s parents –

Genealogy of Carly’s father –

Marriage record of Carly’s paternal grandparents, Leo Leopold Simon and Anna Meier/Mayer –

Genealogy of Carly Simon (focusing on her mother’s side) –

Carly’s mother on the 1910 U.S. Census –

Marriage record of Carly’s maternal grandparents, Frederick Adolph “Fred” Heinemann and Ofilia/Ofelia “Elma/Alma Marie”/Maria “Chibie” Oliete/Ollright –

Carly’s maternal grandfather, Frederick Adolph “Fred” Heinemann, on the 1880 U.S. Census –

Carly’s maternal great-grandparents, Adolph Heinemann/Heineman and Mary Amelia Haas, on the 1870 U.S. Census –

Carly’s maternal great-great-grandparents, August Heinemann/Heineman and Dora K., on the 1870 U.S. Census –

photo by kathclick/