Vanessa L. Williams

Williams in 2011, kathclick/

Birth Name: Vanessa Lynn Williams

Place of Birth: Tarrytown, New York, U.S.

Date of Birth: March 18, 1963

Ethnicity: African-American, along with some English and Welsh, possibly Native American

Vanessa L. Williams is an American actress, singer, songwriter, producer, model, and television personality. She became famous by being the first African-American to win the Miss America Pageant, in 1983.

Vanessa is the daughter of Helen L. (Tinch) and Milton Augustine Williams, Jr. Her parents were both black. Her brother is actor and comedian Chris Williams. Vanessa grew up in a the mainly white middle-class suburb of Millwood, New York. Vanessa is married to businessperson Jim Skrip. She has three children, including dancer and singer Jillian Hervey, with her former husband, public relations specialist Ramon Hervey II; and a daughter with her former husband, Canadian basketball player and actor Rick Fox.

In an interview, a journalist stated that Vanessa’s mixed heritage includes African American, Welsh, and Native American. It is not clear if this Native American ancestry has been verified/documented. Vanessa appeared on the program Who Do You Think You Are? (2011), where she discovered that her great-great-grandfather, David Carll, was a “mulatto” (mixed race) man who avoided slavery and married a white woman (her great-great-grandmother).

Vanessa’s ancestry is at least 1/32nd English. One of her maternal great-great-great-grandfathers, George Appleford, was born in Surrey, England, in 1802.

Vanessa’s paternal grandfather was Milton Augustine/Abner Williams (the son of John Hill Williams and Mary L. Fields). Milton was born in Tennessee. John was the son of George Williams and Mollie/Molly Turner. Mary L. was the daughter of William A. Fields and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fields.

Vanessa’s paternal grandmother was Iris Agnes Carl/Carll (the daughter of Frank S. Carl/Carll and Imogene Jackson). Iris was born in New York. Frank was the son of David Carll and Mary Louisa Appleford, who was white, and whose own father was English. Imogene was the daughter of Henry Titus Jackson and Emiline/Emmaline G. Russell.

Vanessa’s maternal grandfather was Edward James Tinch (the son of John Wilbur Tinch and Helen Elizabeth Fitzgerald). Edward was born in New Jersey. John was the son of John Tinch. Helen was the daughter of William Fitzgerald and Margaret.

Vanessa’s maternal grandmother was Doris Catherine Griffen/Griffin (the daughter of Moses George Wilson and Elvira Viola Johnson). Doris was born in New York. Moses George was the son of George Wilson and Frances Duson. Elvira was the daughter of Waldo/Walter Johnson and Fannie/Fanny Cavel/Calvin.

An AncestryDNA test taken by Vanessa stated that her genetic ancestry is:

*56% African
——–*23% Ghana
——–*15% Cameroon/Congo
——–*7% Togo
——–*6% Benin
——–*5% Senegal
*44% European
——–*17% British Isles
——–*12% Finnish/Ural/Volga
——–*11% Southern European
——–*4% Spain/Portugal

Vanessa has said:

Now, I can’t wait to go to Ghana and Cameroon and Togo and Senegal — it’s a great opportunity to see why the customs resonate with you. I love to travel and I love to explore, and I have to admit that I was always jealous of people who knew their cultural background. Both my family and myself came out with light eyes, so obviously there is a recessive gene here. Not knowing what that was just made me very curious.

Sources: Genealogies of Vanessa L. Williams –

Genealogy of Vanessa’s father (focusing on his mother’s side) –

Vanessa’s paternal grandmother, Iris Agnes Carl/Carll, on the 1930 U.S. Census –


Curious about ethnicity

319 Responses

  1. Mixed Kidd says:

    Shouldn’t her South European and Spanish/Portuguese ancestry and other African ancestry be added as well? You added her English and Welsh so why not include her other ancestries in the mix?

    • Oaken05 says:

      Because DNA tests get wildly unpredictative right below the continental level. I’ve done three different ones, myself, and while they generally all agree on the amount of European and African ancestry, they are all over the place when you get down to the regional level. My European background is very heavily English, but MyGHeritage, for instance, shows 0% English.

      It’s simply not all that reliable unless they show you leaning very heavily to one or two regions. In here case, it seems like they can genealogically trace her British ancestry and it’s corroborated in the DNA test so it gets added. Until they can do the same with the Southern European, I don’t see why it should be added.

      • Mixed Kidd says:

        The British and the South European ancestry are almost close in percentages (according to her DNA test results posted). That’s why I asked why isn’t her South European ancestry isn’t posted? Other celebs have theirs as well as even regions on this site and she’s 23% Ghananian (which could be added as well). but then again DNA tests aren’t always 100% accurate.

  2. Multiethnicchick says:

    She’s mixed raced, as is obvious, but she could pull an Ava DuverNay and deny her white ancestry

  3. andrew says:

    She’s a Finnish-American:

    Also her DNA Test is consistent with family oral stories about an Italian ancestor.

    • follers says:

      What oral history?

      • andrew says:

        I remember my mother told me that when my brother was a baby, they identified some blood issue with him, and they asked her if she had any relatives from Italy because this particular blood characteristic was consistent with someone from Italy. My mother said, “No, no, nothing like that.” Well, now come to find out 45 years later and obviously we have the same genetic makeup that Southern European is 11% of our makeup.

  4. midori29 says:

    Many pictures of pure 100% black Africans with blue, green and grey eyes are on the internet ,

    Links :

    • fuzzybear44 says:

      Well it was confirmed in 2017 that Africans have their own versions of the light eye genes. Also apparently one of the gene responsible for light skin actually developed in Africa go by the study . Which make sense, seeing how Asians have their own version of pale skin

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