Richard Burton

Burton c. 1960, by Friedman-Abeles, New York-photographer

Birth Name: Richard Walter Jenkins

Date of Birth: 10 November, 1925

Place of Birth: Neath, Glamorganshire, Wales

Date of Death: 5 August, 1984

Place of Death: Céligny, Geneva, Switzerland

Ethnicity: Welsh

Richard Burton was a Welsh actor. His films include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Look Back in Anger, The Longest Day, Cleopatra, Equus, and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, among many others. He was the son of Edith Maude (Thomas) and Richard Walter Jenkins.

Richard was married to Welsh actress and theatre director Sybil Christopher, with whom he had two children, including actress Kate Burton. He was also married to British and American actress Elizabeth Taylor, and adopted two of her children. The couple was married and divorced twice.

Richard had evidently stated that he had a recent ancestor who was a Jewish immigrant to Wales. This does not appear to be accurate.

Richard is said to have been a second cousin, once removed, of American writer and director Patty Jenkins.

Richard’s paternal grandfather was Thomas Jenkins (the son of Miles Jenkins and Mary Arthur). Thomas was born in Glamorgan, Michaelston, Glamorganshire. Miles was the son of Miles Jenkins and Alice David. Mary was the daughter of John Arthur and Anne Llewelyn.

Richard’s paternal grandmother was Margaret Walters (the daughter of Richard Walters and Jane Harries). Margaret was born in Margam, Glamorganshire.

Richard’s maternal grandfather was Henry Thomas (the son of John Thomas and Hannah Charles). Henry was born in Swansea, Glamorganshire. John was likely the son of Jacob or Thomas Thomas and Mary Jones. Hannah was the daughter of David Charles and Mary Rees or Rhoderick.

Richard’s maternal grandmother was Jane Morgan (the daughter of Rees Morgan and Hannah Davies). Jane was born in Margam, Glamorganshire. Rees was the son of John Morgan and Margaret William.

Sources: Genealogy of Richard Burton (focusing on his father’s side) –

Richard’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Jenkins, on the 1851 England and Wales Census –


Curious about ethnicity

3 Responses

  1. passingtime85 says:


    Richard Burton had stated several times that his great-grandfather was Jewish.

    “My great-grandfather,” Burton told a reporter, “was a Polish Jew named Jan Ysar, and that was the family name until they changed it to Jenkins. [Burton’s real name was Richard Walter Jenkins.] It’s true. I’m one-eighth Jewish. Elizabeth hasn’t a drop of Jewish blood. I’ve told her so. It makes her furious.” Earlier, during the making of The Night of the Iguana, in a thatched roof bar in Puerto Vallarta, a drunken Burton had announced, “I was born a Jew. I am perhaps the very oldest of the really ancient Jews.”

    • follers says:

      I’ve seen that before. I could find no evidence of it being true.

      Richard’s great-grandfather Miles Jenkins was born c. 1814 in Glamorgan, to Miles Jenkins and Alice David. That Miles’ parents were Miles Jenkins and Margaret Harris. No evidence of Polish Jews or names changes anywhere.

      It appears to be some kind of story he concocted in the 1960s, during his marriage to Taylor. Maybe he believed it himself. But it doesn’t look like it was true.

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