John Williams

Williams in 2016, photo by kathclick/

Birth Name: John Towner Williams

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

Date of Birth: February 8, 1932

*father – Irish
*mother – Irish, English, one quarter French-Canadian, Welsh

John Williams is an American composer, conductor, pianist, and trombonist. He is known for his iconic scores for films such as Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Home Alone, and Schindler’s List, as well as many others. He has won five Academy Awards for his music.

John is the son of Esther (Towner) and Johnny Williams (born John Francis Nagle), who was a jazz drummer and percussionist. His father took on the surname of his own stepfather Henry D. Williams; Henry was prominent in politics in Bangor, Maine, and was chairman of the police examining board. John’s father played with the Raymond Scott Quintet. His paternal grandparents ran a department store in Bangor.

John is married to photographer Samantha Winslow. He was previously married to actress and singer Barbara Ruick, until her death. With Barbara, he has three children, including singer, songwriter, and film score composer Joseph Williams, who is the lead singer of rock band Toto.

John’s paternal grandfather was named Thomas Michael Nagle (the son of Richard Nagle and Hanora/Honora). Thomas was born in Bath, Maine, to Irish parents.

John’s paternal grandmother was Katharine/Katherine Carolina “Katie” Duffy (the daughter of Frank Duffy and Margaret Mullen). Katharine was born in Bath, Maine. Her parents were born in Maine, both of them to Irish parents.

John’s maternal grandfather was David John/Joseph Towner (the son of David Towner and Emillie Robitaille/Robitalle). John’s great-grandfather David was the son of David Crosby Towner and Philema Stevens. He had Colonial American roots. Emillie was of French-Canadian ancestry. She was born in L’Ancienne-Lorette, Lower Canada/Québec, the daughter of Louis Robitaille and Julie Malvine Côté.

John’s maternal grandmother was Ada Bridget Hennessy/Hennesey/Hennessey (the daughter of John Hennesey and Margaret Fardy). Ada was born on Cardigan, Prince Edward Island. John was the son of John Hennessey and Ann Sigsworth. Margaret was the daughter of Peter Fardy, who was Irish, and of Essee/Esther Moore.

Sources: Genealogy of John Williams (focusing on his mother’s side) –

Birth record of John’s father –

John’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Michael Nagle, on the 1880 U.S. Census –

Obituary of John’s paternal step-grandfather, Henry D. Williams –

John’s paternal grandmother, Katharine/Katherine Carolina “Katie” Duffy, on the 1880 U.S. Census –

John’s mother on the 1910 U.S. Census –
John’s mother on the 1920 U.S. Census –

3 Responses

  1. tomoyo says:

    Johnny Williams was actually born John Francis Nagle, and took “Williams” from his stepfather, Henry Williams.

    So John Williams’ paternal grandparents are:
    – Thomas Michael Nagle (son of Richard Nagle and Honora Nagle, who were both born in Ireland)
    – Katherine Carolina Duffy (daughter of Frank Duffy and Margaret Mullen, who were born in Maine, all 4 grandparents were from Ireland)

  2. andrew says:

    Williams is typically Welsh surname even though common anywhere.

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