Joanna Kerns

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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