Master Surname Index



Ken Burns

Ancestry of
Ken Burns

Documentary Filmmaker


Who is Ken Burns?

Ken Burns is an American director and producer of documentary films. His films have won numerous awards including two Emmys for his films Baseball (1994) and The National Parks: America's Best Idea (2009). His films have also been nominated for two Academy Awards.

Family Facts

The paternal grandfather of Ken Burns is Dr. Robert Kyle Burns. Dr. Burns was an American biologist who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1955. He did research at the University of Rochester and the Carnegie Institution of Washington. He also held an honorary professorship of zoology at Johns Hopkins University. But what he is truly remembered for is that he successfully turned male alligators into female alligators in 1937.

Famous Kin

Presidential and Royal

It seems only fitting that Ken Burns should have both presidential and royal connections. Not only is he connected to the current royal family with kinship to Prince William through his mother Princess Diana, but he can also call two of the wives of King Henry VIII as cousins.

The Roosevelts

Considering his recent documentary The Roosevelts: An Intimate Portrait (2014), it would have been interesting to have found a blood connection of the Roosevelts to Ken Burns. But not having found that, I did find the next best thing, a connection by marriage. William de Peyster, a 6th great-granduncle of Ken Burns is claimed to have married Margareta Roosevelt, a grand-daughter of Nicholas Roosevelt. Nicholas is an ancestor of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

One thing Ken Burns does share with the Roosevelts is Dutch ancestors in colonial New York. The connection to the Roosevelts may still be there just waiting to be found.

Brickwall

There is a claim on Wikipedia that Ken Burns is a descendant of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns. One of Robert's most famous works is “Auld Lang Syne”. I have been able to research Ken Burns's male line ancestry up to Abraham and Margaret Burns, Ken Burns's 2nd great-grandparents. Abraham Burns was born in Virginia about 1833 and is a Civil War veteran. However I have not yet determined who Abraham's parents are and therefore have not been able to confirm his descendancy from Robert Burns the poet.


Some of the most recently added connections of famous kin for Ken Burns

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Ethan Peck

TV and Movie Actor

10th cousin 2 times removed
via Gov. Thomas Mayhew

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George Howard Earle

30th Governor of Pennsylvania

8th cousin 2 times removed
via Peter Folger

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George Howard Earle

30th Governor of Pennsylvania

9th cousin 1 time removed
via Gov. Thomas Mayhew

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William Rush Merriam

11th Governor of Minnesota

11th cousin 2 times removed
via Henry Sherman

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Charles Edward Merrill

Co-Founder of Merrill Lynch & Company

11th cousin 2 times removed
via Henry Sherman

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James Merrill

Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet

12th cousin 1 time removed
via Henry Sherman

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Margot Kidder

TV and Movie Actress

18th cousin 1 time removed
via Sir Reynold Grey

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Elizabeth Banks

TV and Movie Actress

13th cousin 2 times removed
via Henry Sherman

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General Joseph Wheeler

Confederate Army - U.S. Civil War

9th cousin 4 times removed
via Henry Sherman

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General William Hull

American Revolution, War of 1812

7th cousin 6 times removed
via Henry Sherman

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Kristen Wiig

TV and Movie Actress

10th cousin
via Peter Folger

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Kristen Wiig

TV and Movie Actress

10th cousin 1 time removed
via Philip Sherman

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Kristen Wiig

TV and Movie Actress

9th cousin
via Thomas Fish

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Billie Eilish

Singer and Songwriter

13th cousin 1 time removed
via Henry Sherman

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Billie Eilish

Singer and Songwriter

18th cousin 1 time removed
via Sir Reynold Grey

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John Torrey

Co-founder, NY Academy of Science

13th cousin 5 times removed
via Sir Reynold Grey

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Frederick Law Olmsted

Landscape Architect

9th cousin 4 times removed
via Henry Sherman

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Judith Hoag

TV and Movie Actress

13th cousin 1 time removed
via Henry Sherman

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Lee de Forest

Pioneer of Radio and Talking Pictures

9th cousin 1 time removed
via Thomas Tupper

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Abigail (Powers) Fillmore

First Lady of President Millard Fillmore

4th cousin 6 times removed
via John Tisdale

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Hamilton Fish

26th U.S. Secretary of State

7th cousin 5 times removed
via John Fish

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Endicott Peabody

62nd Governor of Massachusetts

20th cousin 1 time removed
via Sir William de Boteler

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Endicott Peabody

62nd Governor of Massachusetts

7th cousin 2 times removed
via Thomas Dewey Jr.

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Fergie

Singer, Songwriter and Actress

13th cousin
via Henry Sherman

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Gretchen Mol

TV and Movie Actress

19th cousin 2 times removed
via Sir Reynold de Grey

View entire list of famous kin for Ken Burns

Please note: The ancestor reports on this website have been compiled from thousands of different sources, many over 100 years old. These sources are attached to each ancestor so that you can personally judge their reliability. As with any good genealogical research, if you discover a link to your own family tree, consider it a starting point for further research. It is always preferable to locate primary records where possible. FamousKin.com cannot and does not guarantee the accuracy and reliability of these sources.


Ken Burns photo by dbking (CC BY 2.0)