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Kimberly Powell

Interesting Ancestors of Emily & Zooey Deschanel

By November 1, 2011

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One of my favorite "fun" television shows premieres for the season on FOX this week -- "Bones" starring Emily Deschanel as Dr. Temperance Brennan and David Boreanaz as FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth, based on the Kathy Reich's novels that I also enjoy. I love Emily Deschanel's acting, and I can't resist digging into French ancestry when presented with the opportunity, so here goes...

The Deschanel surname, as it sounds, is French. Emily and Zooey's grandfather, Paul Jules Deschanel, was born in Oullins, Rhône, France on 5 November 1906 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1930. Paul's parents, Joseph Marcelin Eugène Deschanel and Marie Josephine Favre, married in Vienne, Isère, Rhône-Alpes, France on 20 April 1901. They both remained in France, although Marie did make several trips to the U.S. to visit her children. The two died in Lyon in 1947 and 1950, respectively. From there the Deschanel line stretches back through several generations of weavers from Planzolles, a tiny commune in the department of Ardèche, France.

Jean Joseph Augustin Deschanel - birth 1844, Planzolles, Ardeche, France
Planzolles, Ardèche, France, naissance, Jean Joseph Augustin Deschanel, 26 Mai 1844;
Les Archives départementales de l'Ardèche - Consultation en ligne.

Additional French surnames in the Deschanel family include Amyot, Borde, Duval, Sautel, Boissin and Delenne, and the records of many of Emily Deschanel's French ancestors can be viewed online.

Emily's paternal grandmother, Anna Ward Orr, descends from a family of Quakers from Lancaster and Chester counties in Pennsylvania. Several, including her great-grandparents Adrian Van Bracklin Orr and Beulah (Lamb) Orr, and great-great-grandparents Joseph M. Orr and Martha E. (Pownall) Orr, are buried in the Sadsbury Meeting Cemetery. Beulah Lamb, also from a  Quaker family, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina to Caleb W. Lamb and Anna Matilda Ward. Both the Lamb and Ward families were in Perquimans County for generations.

Ohio roots run deep on the maternal side of Emily Deschanel's family tree. The Weir immigrant ancestor, William Weir, emigrated from Lifford, Donegal, Ireland to America in 1819 aboard the Conestoga, and eventually settled in Brown, Carroll, Ohio.

William Weir of Lifford, Ireland on Conestoga from Londonderry to Philadelphia 1 Apr 1819

Emily Deschanel descends from William's youngest son, Addison Mohallan Weir, through his second wife, Elizabeth Gurney. Interestingly, this takes us back to France, as Elizabeth's father, George William Guerney was born in France -- Belfort (possibly Belfort or another commune in the department of Territoire-de-Belfort) according to the death certificate of his eldest daughter, Jenny (Guerney) Knepper, which also stated that her mother, Anna Hanney, was born in Bern, Switzerland.

Another Ohio ancestor of Emily Deschanel is Henry Anson Lamar, a steamer pilot on the Great Lakes. Henry's wife, Nancy Vrooman, was born in Schoharie, New York, a descendant of  Hendrick Vrooman who emigrated from the Netherlands with two brothers to settle in New Netherland (New York) during the 17th century. He sadly was one of 60 people killed at the Schenectady Massacre of 1690.

Six generations back in the family tree of Emily and Zooey Deschanel is an interesting New York farmer named Caleb Manchester, descendant of an early Rhode Island family. He and his wife, Lydia Chichester, settled on a farm near Scipioville, Cayuga, New York where they lived for 48 years and raised 4 sons and 7 daughters, only two of whom survived them. Newspaper accounts tell the story of Caleb's sudden death on 5 October 1868 at his home in Scipioville.

Death of Caleb Manchester

"Central New York News," The (Syracuse) Journal, 9 October 1868, page 2, col. 1;
New York State Historical Newspapers - Old Fulton NY Post Cards

Biographies of Emily Deschanel also often mention her Irish ancestry, which she does have  -- her maternal great-great grandmother, Mary B. Sullivan, was born in Painesville, Lake County, Ohio to Irish immigrants John Sullivan and Honora Burke.

November 1, 2011 at 9:42 pm
(1) Phyllis says:

I,too, am an ardent fan of Emily Deschanel ( I love “Bones” and Emily has my granddaughter’s crooked smile,like the Mona Lisa).This article was very interesting to me. Thanks.

November 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm
(2) Mary Ellen says:

Emily is one of my favorite actresses. I love the show and try never to miss an episode. Really interesting to know her ancestry. Thanks for sharing.

January 7, 2012 at 2:27 pm
(3) Pablo says:

Looking for Emily Deschanel find that some say Paul Deschanel (11 French President) is the great-grandparent.
Jean Deschanel (Senator) would be the grandfather of Emily.
It may be because in Wikipedia is a picture of Paul and is similar to the actress Deschanel Emiily face.

Paul Deschanel 11 President of France Born in February 13, 1855 – April 28, Died 1922 President of France from February 18, 1920 to September 21 ,son of Emile Deschanel (19 November 1819 Paris – 26 January 1904 was a French author and politician)
Children of Paul Deschanel

* Renee-Antoinette 1902-1977 Deschanel
* Jean DESCHANEL 1904-1963 ¿Grandpa of Emily and Zoe?
* Paul Deschanel 1909-1939
Caleb was born in 1944 or is the only one who could be the father is Jean Deschanel

Mini Bio Of Jean Deschanel
Jean Deschanel is a French politician born on 1 September 1904 in Paris and died January 24, 1963 in his hometown.

Son of former President Paul Deschanel, he leads a career as a senior official before starting to turn in the policy.

Candidate in the old riding his father in 1932, he was elected to the parliamentary group and is part of the Independents left, center-right group close to the Democratic Alliance. He was reelected in 1936, appearing this time as an independent radical, that is to say, as a centrist. He joined the caucus of the Democratic Left and radical independent.

On July 10, 1940, he voted for the delivery of full powers to Marshal Petain. He did not find any parliamentary mandate after World War II.

Have resided in the U.S. during the decade of 40 and 50?

Looking for Paul Deschanel, caught my attention the similarities to actress emily Deschanel.

Emily Deschanel is an excellent actress!

February 15, 2012 at 10:02 am
(4) Geoff Trowbridge says:

French President Paul Deschanel comes from a long-established Parisan line of Deschanels. This line has no recent connection to the Deschanels of Planzolles. (If any connection exists, it would have been many centuries earlier.)

So the rumor is completely untrue.

February 23, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I am related to Zooie and Emily Deschanel.
My Grandmother Martha Orr Daily is there Grandmother’s sister.
My Aunt Ann who is there Grandmother is still living and just celebrated her 96 birthday. There Grandmother Ann Deschanel lived in Swarthmore, Pa
most of her life.

May 28, 2012 at 3:16 am
(6) Nathan says:

While researching my family tree I came across this article. Oddly enough I am distantly related….

Henry Anson Lamar and Mary B Sullivan are my great-great Grandparents. They had a daughter, Edith, who is my great grandmother.
She married Lawrence Roelle and one of their daughters is Rita (Roelle) Weaver… my grandmother!

August 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm
(7) CHRIS GALLO says:

I really don’t know much about Emily’s Dechanel Grandfather’s History.
I know a lot about her Grandmother’s history. She was born Ann Orr.
Emily’s great grandfather was Adrian Van Brachen Orr and great grandmother Buehla Lamb. Her great grandfather was an ear nose and throat doctor from chester, pa and was a a doctor in WWI. Her great grandmother came from Wilmington North Carolina and was a nurse. They had two children Ann and Martha. Ann married Paul Deschanel and had two children Caleb (Zooey & Emily’s father) and Diane. Martha had one Child Martha Dewey. This family arriginated in Swathmore Pa….Martha Dewey married James Maloney and they had four children, Cynthia, Craig, Christine and Cliff….all still living in delaware county, Nathan I have never heard of you….

September 16, 2012 at 2:08 am
(8) Martha says:

Interesting that Emily named her son, Henry Lamar Hornsby, perhaps name came from her steamboat captain ansestor.

April 30, 2013 at 1:16 am
(9) John says:

Someone told me that their great grandfather was Paul Dechanel 11th President of France. Your article disproves that.but then the sisters never claimed this to be true. Although Emily has some resemblance to Paul Dechanel in his youth , shape of face eyes nose and mouth,; she resembles her mother more who is not a Dechanel. too much disinformation on the internet.

June 7, 2013 at 11:49 pm
(10) Darius says:

Emily Deschanel’s accent always puzzled me – slightly pitchy staccato sound, practically very briefly pausing between words.

July 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm
(11) Lynne Meservey says:

I,too, am related to Emily and Zooey through our Irish relatives. Their great grandmother and my grandfather Leo Kennedy were twins. Their mother and aunt have shared their genealogy research with my mother and aunts (now all deceased). We are all stuck at William Kennedy and cannot trace any further back.

August 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm
(12) Michelle says:

I watched Zoey Deschanel’s episode of Who Do you Think You Are? I realized I have the name Pownall in my family tree. So I did some research and we share the same Great Grandparents 9 generations back. So Zoey & Emily are my cousins too!!

September 4, 2013 at 3:05 am
(13) Bill Allen says:

Zooey is one of my favorite actresses. My favorite movie that she was in is “500 Days of Summer”. It had the best writers and the best cast of any movie released that year. I really enjoyed it. I have the DVD and I watch it often.I also enjoy hearing “She and Him” on CD’s.

October 4, 2013 at 10:20 pm
(14) Andrew Kolstee says:

Hello Christine,

We are related through the Moore family. Adrian VanBrackin Orr’s line goes up to Mordecai Moore, and that line goes up to Andrew Moore of Chester County. I am working on tracing the Moore family. They are in the Moore genealogy by J.A.M. Passmore. I have been gathering descendants in a Facebook group.

My e-mail is andrewkolstee@gmail.com.

Andrew Kolstee

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