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, musician, and activist. Among his work were the films Explorers, Stand by Me, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, Running on Empty, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Dogfight, and My Own Private Idaho. He was the brother of actors Rain Phoenix, Joaquín Phoenix, Liberty Phoenix, and Summer Phoenix.

River was the son of John Phoenix (born Johnny Lee Bottom), from California, and Arlyn Phoenix (born Arlyn Dunetz), a social activist, from New York. River’s 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.

He was raised in Florida and California. At one point, River’s parents joined the religious group Children of God, which they later left.

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://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com

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

Genealogy of River’s paternal grandfather, Robert Merrill Bottom – http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com

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

River’s great-uncle (maternal grandfather’s brother), Bernard Dunetz, 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. Fatmonkey says:

    One of his ancestor was named Dred Bolling, an he was a native of Albermarle, Virginia. Knowing that Bollings from Virginia are (at least mostly) descended from Pocahontas, could it be that River is one of her descendants as well? Sadly, I failed to find any further information related to Dred’s ancestry (the longest I reached were his parents, also from Virginia, William Bolling and Mary White), so can’t confirm my beliefs for now.

    • cdonorab says:

      Correction. I’ve been able to take it further and get back to his descent of Pocahontas.

      Dred Bolling
      William Bolling
      Benjamin Bolling
      John kennon Billing
      John Bolling
      Jane Rolfe

      • follers says:

        Have these lineages been verified? You really should cite your sources when stating these.

        The first Phoenix genealogy above lists his ancestors as a “Dred Bowling”, born c. 1825.

        • cdonorab says:

          William Bolling to Pocahontas lineage has been varified, but I’ll try to find something concrete to varify that William was the father of Dred. I’ve found many trees on ancestry and rootsweb that indicate that he is, but will double check.

          • Fatmonkey says:

            Bollings of Virginia are practically certainly Pocahontas’ descendants. The possibility that they aren’t could be no higher than 5% or so… Just as e.g. Jordans of Virginia or nearby states can be said to descend from Thomas Jordan and Margaret Brashear, or Fargos of Connecticut or nearby states from the Huguenot colonist Jacent Fargeau… There are certain patterns in genealogy which are common and relatively easy to deduce, if one has read enough respective family history, of course.

          • cdonorab says:

            I found an article written by the great nephew of Dred named Jason Walker Bolling that details their ancestry and includes the fact that the authors 3rd great uncle was Thomas Jefferson which substatitiates the fact that they are related to Pocahontas since its been established that Thomas Jefferson sister married a descendant of Pocahontas.

          • follers says:

            What is the article that establishes Dred’s parentage?

        • cdonorab says:

          The website I found that talks about his parentage is http://www.combs-families.org/combs/marriages/htm.dd#jwb

  2. follers says:

    Ethnic, I don’t know if there is any kind of picture, please?

  3. Fatmonkey says:

    I just found out today: River and Cindy Crawford share a same German ancestor, Johann Jacob Peter Kimberlin (on River’s paternal and Cindy’s maternal side).

  4. Fatmonkey says:

    River was part French on his father’s side. If you check the very end of his father’s genealogy (worldconnect – the first of the two parts), you’ll see an ancestor named Francis Posey. He was a Huguenot who came to U.S. from Cambray, France. His wife was Elizabeth Humphrey. Here’s one of the links warrantying Posey’s French ethnicity, as well as the fact it’s the same Francis Posey found on River’s family tree (the husband of Elizabeth Humphrey):


    • follers says:

      I submitted a c orrection.

      As long as we are agreed that the Phoenixes’ dad is not Spanish and Irish, which some web bios used to say.

  5. Dee says:

    His father wasn’t part Spanish (nor Irish, Ithink).

    His father was the son of Robert Merrill Bottom and Beulah Ernestine Ingram. Bottom’s ancestry is traced below (he is mostly English and a little German), and Beulah Ernestine Ingram was the daughter of Robert Lee Ingram and Georgia May Leach or Lydie.

    River’s mother was the daughter of Jewish parents from Hungary and Russia.



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