River Phoenix

Phoenix in 1989, photo by Alan Light

Birth Name: River Jude Bottom

Date of Birth: August 23, 1970

Place of Birth: Madras, Oregon, U.S.

Date of Death: October 31, 1993

Place of Death: West Hollywood, California, U.S.

*father – English, with some Scottish, Scots-Irish/Northern Irish, German, Irish, Welsh, and French Huguenot
*mother – Ashkenazi Jewish

River Phoenix was an American actor, singer, musician, songwriter, and activist. He starred in the films Explorers, Stand by Me, The Mosquito Coast, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, Little Nikita, Running on Empty, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, I Love You to Death, Dogfight, My Own Private Idaho, Sneakers, The Thing Called Love, Silent Tongue, and Dark Blood, as well as in music videos and television roles. He was the brother of actors Rain Phoenix, Joaquín Phoenix, Liberty Phoenix, and Summer Phoenix.

River was born in Madras, Oregon, the son of John Phoenix (born Johnny Lee Bottom), from California, and Arlyn Phoenix (born Arlyn Dunetz), a social activist, from New York. His father is of English, along with Scottish, Scots-Irish/Northern Irish, German, Irish, Welsh, and French Huguenot, ancestry. River’s mother is Jewish; half of her family are Russian Jews and the other half are Hungarian Jews.

River was named after the river of life from Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. In the early 1970s, his parents joined the religious group Children of God, and lived with the group in Caracas, Venezuela, Mexico, and Puerto Rico; they left the Children of God by the late 1970s, settling back with River’s maternal grandparents in Florida, before moving to Los Angeles, California.

River’s patrilineal line can be traced to John Bottom, who was born, c. 1598, in Archers Hoop, Malmsbury, England, and to his wife Elizabeth.

River’s paternal grandfather was Ehlia/Robert Merrill Bottom (the son of William Dell Bottom and Cordelia Pearl Matherly). Robert was born in Kentucky, as were all of his grandparents. William was the son of Fidellar/Phidellar Sharp “Dee” Bottom and Rachel Ann Bolling/Bowling. Cordelia was the daughter of David Houston Matherly and Sarah Frances “Sally” Purdom.

River’s paternal grandmother was Beulah Ernestine Ingram (the daughter of Robert Lee Ingram and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Leidy/Lydie). Beulah was born in Missouri. Robert was the son of Robert T. Ingram and Ellen L. Curry. Mary Elizabeth was the daughter of William John Leidy and Sarah Clarissa Dyer.

River’s maternal grandfather was Meyer Dunetz (the son of Samuel/Sam Dunetz and Libbe/Libby “Sallie” Grodenzik). Meyer was born in New York. Samuel and Libbe were Russian Jewish immigrants. Samuel was the son of Moses/Moshe Idel Dunetz and Shifra. Libbe was the daughter of Simon Gordon and Menucha.

River’s maternal grandmother was Margaret “Margie” Lefkowitz (the daughter of Ignatz/Jenat Lefkowitz and Marija/Mary Beck). Margaret was born in New York, the daughter of Hungarian Jewish immigrants. Ignatz was born in Imre, Zemplén, Hungary (now Malčice, Slovakia), the son of Herman Lefkowitz and Rose Greenwald. Mary was the daughter of Ignatz Beck and Maly/Amalia/Mali Frankel.

Sources: Genealogies of River Phoenix – http://www.geni.com

River’s uncle (father’s brother) on the 1940 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

River’s paternal grandmother, Beulah Ernestine Ingram, on the 1930 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

River’s great-uncle (maternal grandfather’s brother) on the 1940 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

River’s maternal grandfather, Meyer Dunetz, on the 1920 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org

River’s maternal grandmother, Margaret “Margie” Lefkowitz, on the 1920 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org


Curious about ethnicity

22 Responses

  1. Pegzi says:

    He was so handsome

  2. LolaLolita says:

    He looks exactly like this guy I see every morning at the train station.
    I am from Italy (yes, in Italy there are blond people, too).

  3. cwm85 says:

    The drugs. Talented actor but those drugs are no good.

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