Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando by Carl Van Vechten, 1948, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collections, photo credit: pingnews

Birth Name: Marlon Brando, Jr.

Date of Birth: April 3, 1924

Place of Birth: Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.

Date of Death: July 1, 2004

Place of Death: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Ethnicity: English, Irish, German, Dutch, French Huguenot, Welsh, Scottish

Marlon Brando was an American actor, film director, and activist. He twice won the Academy Award for Best Actor, for On the Waterfront (1954) and The Godfather (1972). He also starred in A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wild One, Last Tango in Paris, Apocalypse Now, and The Freshman.

Marlon was the son of Dorothy Julia (Pennebaker), who had also acted, and Marlon Brando, a pesticide manufacturer. His sister, Jocelyn Brando, was also an actress. He had at least sixteen children, including actor Miko Brando, actress Rebecca Brando, and model Cheyenne Brando. Among his grandchildren is model Tuki Brando.

Marlon’s ancestry included English, as well as Irish, German, Dutch, French Huguenot, Welsh, and Scottish.

His patrilineal line traces to Johann Wilhelm Brandau, who was born, c. 1670, in Palatinate, Germany. The surname was changed to Brandow, and later to Brando. Marlon’s paternal great-great-grandfather, Apollos/Paulus/Paul Brandow/Brando, was of at least half German ancestry. Marlon mentioned the origin of his surname in his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me.

Despite being well known for his role in the film, The Godfather, about Italian-American mobsters, Marlon was not of Italian ancestry.

Marlon’s paternal grandfather was Eugene Everett Brando (the son of James H. Brando and Nancy Hannah Joslin/Jocelyn). Eugene was born in Rome, Oneida, New York. James was the son of Apollos/Paulus/Paul Brandow/Brando and Catherine Van Orden/VanOrden. Nancy was the daughter of James Jocelyn and Charity Denslow.

Marlon’s paternal grandmother was Maria B. Holloway (the daughter of Robert Holloway and Catherine/Katherine E. Thompson). Marie was born in Monmouth, Warren, Illinois. Robert was the son of George Holloway and Mary Polly McClanahan. Catherine was the daughter of James Thompson and Elizabeth Ewing.

Marlon’s maternal grandfather was William Johnson Pennebaker (the son of William Pennebaker and Sarah Elizabeth Salmon). Marlon’s grandfather William was born in Versailles, Morgan, Missouri. Marlon’s great-grandfather William was possibly the son of Samuel Pennebaker and Sarah Finley. Marlon’s great-grandmother Sarah was the daughter of Ezekiel James Salmon and Narcissa Ragsdale Merritt.

Marlon’s maternal grandmother was Bessie Grace Gahan (the daughter of Myles Joseph Gahan and Julia A./E. Watts). Bessie was born in Hall County, Nebraska. Myles was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of Edward Gahan and Grace Mauley. Julia was born in Ohio, the daughter of English parents, Thomas Watts and Mary Locke.

Sources: Songs My Mother Taught Me, by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey, 1994 (autobiography)

Genealogies of Marlon Brando –

Remarriage record of Marlon’s paternal grandmother, Maria B. Holloway, to William A. Gleason –


Curious about ethnicity

46 Responses

  1. drzaius21 says:

    I’m quite surprised that he is of mainly English descent and that the next biggest portion was Irish.

  2. DannyDannyCoolDannyDannyCool911 says:

    Some of the older comments are so moronic and ignorant. there’s no one Italian look as Italians can be very tanned and dark and very pale and blond. especially in the north, which is more Germanic than the south. Brando is not the Italian ‘stereotype’ but he could easily pass as a light Italian.

    • andrew says:

      North Italy is not Germanic. Stop with this nonsense. Learn History.

      • Oaken05 says:

        I don’t know why you are annoyed by this. Call it Gallic or Celtic or German or whatever, there is a general DNA cline in Italy from north to south. Northern Italians have affinity to their neighbors just like most other populations to their neighbors. That Alps were nowhere near the barrier some of you think they were.

        • andrew says:

          Well I am kinda surprised by such statement from an intelligent user as you.

          Perhaps because Europe looks like a small place from a New World perspective, in fact I’ve already heard such debunking of Celtic and Germanic identities, when they are actually different things. The Celts lived pretty much everywhere in Central and Western Europe in antiquity, while Germanic people were located in modern North Germany and Scandinavia. Roman writers made a clear distinction between Celts (Gauls) and Germans.

          There is no real German legacy in N.Italy besides the autonomous Province of Bolzano (South Tyrol), where German is the first language, and the rare Cimbrian remnants in Veneto
          Even though Milan region in named after the Lombards, they also settled in S.Italy for many centuries before being conquered by the Normans.

          • Oaken05 says:

            There have been extensive genetic study of the region; this is not an opinion of mine. Northern Italians are more mixed with its neighbors, which literally makes sense since it’s a peninsula. There is a north-to-south genetic cline.

  3. Jacklyn 224 says:

    Brand o was ugly and no he does not look like a —– but like a dark German.

  4. andrew says:

    His sister, Jocelyn Brando, was also an actress. Also can you note that his direct patrilineal ancestor was from Palatinate, Germany.

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