Having the Last Name Penn Unlikely to Mean Relation to Pennsylvania’s Founding Father

Ken Knickerbocker
By
Despite many people around the world having the last name of 'Penn,' none are related to Pennsylvania’s founding father William as he has no direct descendants. (Image via National Park Service)

Despite many people having the last name Penn, none are related to Pennsylvania’s founding father William Penn, writes Mark Dent for Billy Penn.

Stories of Penn’s descendants have been passed down for generations, but unfortunately, none of them are true.

Unlike the other founding fathers that have prominent direct descendants, William Penn did not have enough healthy sons to extend the line.


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“The descendant line,” said Todd Galle, curator at Pennsbury Manor, “it’s really just not there.”

Galle added that people convinced they are related to Penn are usually mistaken about who they are descended from. Penn’s father was Admiral Sir William Penn and his cousin was also William Penn. In fact, there was a point in the late seventeenth century when at least five William Penns were alive and well in England.

Penn himself had 14 children from two marriages. The children from his second marriage grew up in Pennsylvania, but only a few survived to become adults and the male line was gone by the 1860s.

“You may be related in a 15th-cousin-three-times-removed situation,” said Galle, “but as far as inheriting Pennsylvania, you’re not.”

Read more about Penn’s lineage at Billy Penn by clicking here.

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