Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Philadelphia People
New topic 2017-02-06 20:33:59 description

The Heirs of William Penn

William Penn

Freedom of religion includes the right to join some other religion than the one your father founded; William Penn's descendants had every right to become members of the Anglican church. It may even have been a wise move for them, in view of their need to maintain good relations with the British Monarch. But religious conversion cost the Penn family the automatic political allegiance of the Quakers dominating their colony. Not much has come down to us showing the Pennsylvania Quakers bitterly resenting their desertion, but it would be remarkable if at least some ardent Quakers did not feel that way. It certainly confuses history students, when they read that the Quakers of Pennsylvania were often rebellious about the rule of the Penn family.


Such resentments probably accelerated but do not completely explain the growing restlessness between the tenants and the landlords. The terms of the Charter gave the Penns ownership of the land from the Delaware River to five degrees west of the river -- providing they could maintain order there. King Charles was happy to be freed of the expense of policing this wilderness, and to be paid for it, to be freed of obligation to Admiral Penn who greatly assisted his return to the throne, and to have a place to be rid of a large number of English dissenters. The Penns were, in effect, vassal kings of a subkingdom larger than England itself. However, they behaved in what would now be considered an entirely businesslike arrangement. They bought their land, fair and square, purchased it a second or even third time from the local Indians, and refused to permit settlement until the Indians were satisfied. They skillfully negotiated border disputes with their neighbors without resorting to armed force, while employing great skill in the English Court on behalf of the settlers on their land. They provided benign oversight of the influx of huge numbers of settlers from various regions and nations, wisely and shrewdly managing a host of petty problems with the demonstration that peace led to prosperity, and that reasonableness could cope with ignorance and violence. When revolution changed the government and all the rules, they coped with the difficulties as well as anyone in history had done, and better than most. In retrospect, most of the violent criticism they engendered at the time, seems pretty unfair.

John Penn

They wanted to sell off their land as fast as they could at a fair price. They did not seek power, and in fact surrendered the right to govern the colony to the purchasers of the first five million acres, in return for being allowed to become private citizens selling off the remaining twenty-five million. Ultimately in 1789, they were forced to accept the sacrifice price of fifteen cents an acre. Aside from a few serious mistakes at the Council of Albany by a rather young John Penn, they treated the settlers honorably and did not deserve the treatment or the epithets they received in return. The main accusation made against them was that they were only interested in selling their land. Their main defense was they were only interested in selling their land.

As time has passed, their reputation has repaired itself, and they bask in the universal gratitude which is directed to their grandfather and father, William Penn. Statues and nameplates abound. Nobody who attacked them at the time appears to have been really serious about it, except one. Except for Benjamin Franklin, who turned from being their close friend to being their bitter enemy. Franklin tried to destroy the Penns, traveled to England to do it, and after twenty years seemed just as bitter as ever. Something really bad happened between them in 1754, and neither the Penns nor Franklin has been open about what it was.

There are still descendants of William Penn. I am 10th generation. My great aunt traced our family tree to William and beyond, however she has since passed. There is a lot of rich history there.
Posted by: Angela Penn    |   Oct 11, 2017 8:00 PM
my great grandfather was a rear admiral in the navy and we are thought to be decendents of William penn
Posted by: david watson taylor 4th   |   Jan 7, 2017 11:51 PM
I have a great great grandmother named Mary Penn. She married a Payton. I have always been told that she is related to William Penn. I have not been able to trace the relationship between the two. Any help would be appreciated.
Posted by: Chuck Moore   |   Sep 23, 2015 8:10 PM
can anybody help me on connecting James Penn, of Cumberland County/Burlington County, Nj to William Penn, the Founder? If I can connect these 2, I am, along with many others, that are on the list of being descendants to the founder of Pennsylvania
Posted by: Paul Green   |   Dec 18, 2014 12:57 AM
greetings. has anyone done any research....however rudimentary...on the penn families of the british virgin islands? the quaker influence in centuries past locally have not been inconsiderable with a wealth of quaker sites ...most documented....throughout these islands. grateful for any links or connections that may assist me in my search. thanks.
Posted by: david   |   Nov 22, 2014 11:10 PM
Only discovered this recently by a family historian on my grandmothers-fathers side, who was also searching for family history on my grandmothers-mothers side also. the line on our tree goes like this: (starting with my great-grandmother) Weeast>Weeast(father)>Johnson(mother)>McNinney(mother)>ANN PENN(MOTHER) >STACY PENN(FATHER)>JAMES PENN(FATHER)>JAMES PENN, SR.(FATHER)>WILLIAM JAMES PENN(FATHER)>WILLIAM PENN "Jr"(FATHER; wife - McPherson)> WILLIAM PENN, FOUNDER(FATHER; wife - Guliema Maria Springett) I sure hope this is accurate. it'll go along with my long list of why I am so connected to the "City Of Brotherly Love"
Posted by: Paul Ford Green   |   Jun 20, 2014 2:29 AM
Hi I've now got a fair bit of family history noted down and would like to trace from Jabez Penn (mentioned by dmc) back to Willam Penn. If anyone has traced back from Jabez please contact me by email on if you would like to share details. I have details from Jabez Penn forward in Australia to share in return.
Posted by: Sally Edwards   |   Jun 19, 2014 5:35 AM
Hi I've now got a fair bit of family history notied down and would like to trace from Jabez Penn (mentioned by dmc) back to Willam Penn. If anyone has traced back from Jabez please contact me by email on if you would like to share details. I have details from Jabez Penn forward in Australia to share in return.
Posted by: Sally Edwards   |   Jun 19, 2014 5:34 AM
Have traced back to Thomas Penn of Elizabethtown, NJ, b 1755, d 1811, wife Elizabeth. Seek verified information who parents were back to William Penn.
Posted by: KAREN   |   Feb 25, 2014 10:38 PM
my moms family is also related to william penn he is my mothers 7th great grand father and john penn is my mothers 8th great greand uncle
Posted by: toodles   |   Aug 29, 2013 12:26 PM
my moms family is also related to william penn he is my mothers 7th great grand father and john penn is my mothers 8th great greand uncle
Posted by: toodles   |   Aug 29, 2013 12:05 PM
There were some in England, one of whom moved to Australia in the 1800s and there are now quite a few of us here. I'm said to be one. My mother's cousin has William Penn's key to the City of London, so whilst I've yet to trace the family tree, I'm fairly sure it's so.
Posted by: Sally   |   Aug 11, 2013 12:06 PM
Just found out looking and researching our Family tree, my brother Brian worked very hard ..WE are related via the Crispin Family to the Penn Family..!!!.....We have all the details and need to all get together in PA......A huge honor awaits a huge celebration
Posted by: David Abut (Burdsall)   |   Jun 24, 2013 6:31 AM
is anyone aware of a William Penn granddaughter or great granddaughter who married a Tory who fled to nova scotia in 1783?
Posted by: bernard   |   Jun 6, 2013 9:47 PM
Interesting coincidence? My family from England bought 1000 acres of land in Chester county Pennsylvania from William Penn in 1681. and the weird thing is that another article states that Ann Malin born 1832 England Ann was the third child in a Quaker family with nine children, the great-granddaughter of William Penn. were these family's closely related? Ann Malin Born: 1832 England Age: 24 Hunt Wagon Company Ann was the third child in a Quaker family with nine children, the great-granddaughter of William Penn
Posted by: robert malin   |   May 8, 2013 1:18 PM
My grandfather William F Banks (died 1962). His mother was Barbara Allen Penn, born 1872. She was the daughter of Theodore David Penn & Pauline Dorcus Emiline Huffstutler. Theodore David, born 1840, was the son of William Penn & Mary Ann Copeland. Not sure we are descendents, we thought so. I can't find anything to connect them
Posted by: dmc   |   Jan 22, 2013 6:38 PM
My wife Sue is a descendant of William Penn. Her mother Mae Penn was daughter to William Gladstone Penn son of Jabez Penn who migrated to Australia late 1800s. We are trying to trace the family history back to England....any clues? Anyone done any Penn family history down this Australian line??? Love to hear from you if you have.
Posted by: Ian McConchie   |   Dec 25, 2012 4:45 PM
I checked and rechecked my relationship to William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. He is my 1st cousin, 10X removed. William Penn's Grandfather. Gilis Penn is my 10X Great Grandfather.
Posted by: Richard   |   Sep 23, 2012 2:34 PM
William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, is my first cousin 10X removed.
Posted by: NANCY   |   May 21, 2012 6:19 PM
I am a descendent
Posted by: cjp   |   May 16, 2012 9:44 PM
My Uncle Reginald Waldrop, gave my father a tape of our family history, which was handled by a professional Genealogist,to my surprise he was able to trace his roots to William Penn.
Posted by: William c mason   |   Apr 24, 2012 3:22 AM
I am his great-great(as so on) niece, from my grand mothers side.

But, my side of the family was removed because of a marriage arrangement quite a few years ago,.. I think possibly 70+ years ago.
Posted by: Laycee   |   Mar 26, 2012 5:33 PM
I am a descendant of William Penn also, through my Crispin Quaker line, they were from Burlington County NJ and then down to Salem County NJ. This is a huge genealogy.
Posted by: Wayne McAllister   |   Mar 3, 2012 9:29 PM
Amazing! I am also related to William Penn. I'm not sure how but I know it's my on my paternal grandmother's side. I must be related to some of you then as well!
Posted by: Alyssa   |   Feb 19, 2012 5:47 PM
I am sorry. My name is Lola Joiner. If I didn't say my name to my family that would be sooo rude. Sowwy!!! :-D
Posted by: Lola Joiner   |   Jan 14, 2012 3:01 PM
I am soooo happy! I am related to William Penn! Hello family! Love ya and wish I could see ya!
Posted by: Will not tell   |   Jan 14, 2012 2:51 PM
my name is greg penn and im his great great great great great grandson
Posted by: greg penn   |   Dec 20, 2011 9:19 AM
im will penn.
Posted by: [none]   |   Dec 20, 2011 9:17 AM
Well hello distant cousins. I too am a decent. While tracing my own family tree I found Sara Penn my gr gr gr gr grandmother who after further research I discovered was the gr gr gr gr grand daughter give or take one or two greats. Its kind of cool to see that he thought differently about things also. Cause I do too.
Posted by: Michelle   |   Dec 7, 2011 11:44 PM
I am a direct decendant of William Penn. My grandpa traced my lines all the way back to his Great Grandfather and him!!!
Posted by: Anna Z   |   Nov 11, 2011 2:58 PM
It sounds like there's a ton of people related to William Penn! I am one of those also. My aunt has traced my family back to him and took a trip up to Mass. to see all of the family history. How many people could possibly be related to William Penn?!
Posted by: Fran123   |   Jun 1, 2011 7:26 PM
Is John Penn his bro?
Posted by: jeff   |   Dec 16, 2010 6:22 PM
I am the decendant of Isabella Penn. She was a cousin to William and Benjamin Penn. Also Kitty Harrigan and Benjamin Penn are my ancestors. They rasied their children together on the Tortola BVI. He was the Great Commonoes of the BVI's and brother to William Penn.
Posted by: Clarita Wheatley   |   Oct 28, 2010 2:15 PM
Hi, I have a bronze or copper token or coin. Stamped on one side is Pennsylvania. On other side is coat of arms. Justice Mercy. William Penn. Proprietor Govenour
Thank you.
Posted by: Pam Lecaire   |   Sep 2, 2010 8:26 PM
i have a william penn coin its 1632.arrival of william penn in america 1932. coin and i want to now the history of this coin and the value can somebody help me???.thank you...
Posted by: andy   |   Sep 1, 2010 7:12 PM
The underlying problem for tracing Penn ancestry is this: he had thirteen children.
Posted by: George Fisher   |   Aug 12, 2010 6:37 PM
I have been told that I am the 8th generation from William Penn. How we are related is a little unclear to me but my aunt has traced the family tree. I have heard my great aunts Stella & Della Boone had family that married a Penn, hence we are related to both Daniel Boone & William. My grandfather was Claude Penn. That's all I know.
Posted by: Tonya Penn Maldonado   |   Aug 11, 2010 2:01 PM
I have a coin that simply says Pennsylvania on one side,and William Penn proprietor andgovernor with coiat of arms /justice/mercy on other side bronze/copper.I would like to identify it. I can e-mail a picture
Posted by: Ron   |   Aug 5, 2010 8:04 PM
I'm a descendant of Mayne of Ireland and related to the Dawson family,one of whom Philadelphia married.Though I live in Australia my love of family history finds this connection interesting.
Posted by: Sally   |   Jul 27, 2010 6:50 AM
I am (yet another) direct descendant of William Penn.. nice to meet you all! Have a lovely day and let me know if you have any interesting fam history.. everyone always asks if my family is related to Sean Penn.. don't think so..? (I know there's no resemblance ;^)
Posted by: Heather   |   Jun 16, 2010 12:16 AM
I am looking for a descendant of Wm Penn with a certificate of authenticity to participate in a event taking place in Lancaster PA involving a peace making effort between Christians and Native Americans. You can reach me at
Posted by: Donna Brown   |   Apr 8, 2010 7:54 PM
Hello, I am a relative of William Penn. I am from Boston MA. my Grandmother Babara Cotter moved here from England in the 1940's. She is now 83. I was always heard about William Penn growing up, I really didn't pay much attention to it because I didn't realize what a great man he was. I am older now, and I am going to do research into his life and our family history.
Posted by: Crystal Suggs   |   Mar 15, 2010 12:51 PM
Those trying to connect ancestry to William Penn should remember he had thirteen children (with two wives), and most of them disowned his religious beliefs, so there was discord. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is the best place to begin such a search. Thirteenth and Locust Streets, Philadelphia, not open Mondays.
Posted by: Dr. Fisher   |   Mar 2, 2010 1:44 PM
It's so hard to find any info on william's family it's like it went m.i.a please help me find out more about my great great great great great great great great grandfather.
Posted by: dakotah mikulski   |   Feb 22, 2010 9:37 PM
My mom says that my grandma's side of the family is related to william penn. If you know anything that will help my search for my family tree please write it on this page and i'll try to help you too.
Posted by: dakotah mikulski   |   Feb 22, 2010 9:31 PM
his great granddaughter built my house. we own penns woods
Posted by: katyn thomas   |   Dec 25, 2009 6:17 PM
william penn is my great great great.... something grandfather so i'm related to him
Posted by: anna zulkoski   |   Dec 11, 2009 11:06 AM
my father father and everyone in my family says that i am a descendant of william penn
Posted by: Mikayla Penn   |   Oct 25, 2009 6:07 PM
my great aunt armina birda johnson (penn) has told me. my entire life that we are descendants of william penn. but i can't follow for enough backwards to find the connection. she also told me that my 13th cousin is princess di (penn rising marriage) if anybody could help me i would be very thankful.
Posted by: christopher penn   |   Oct 16, 2009 11:44 PM
William Penn is my Great Great... Grandfather so i'm related to him too.
Posted by: Jacob   |   Oct 4, 2009 10:34 AM
William Pen is my great great great great great great great grandfather
Posted by: Anna zulkoski   |   Sep 9, 2009 11:17 AM
my mothers father was named william penn I have always been told that we are descendants of william
I have some death records of the penn family that date back to 1806 from the maryland area
Posted by: Angus Macgregor   |   Aug 30, 2009 9:14 AM
Hi, I am a decendant of Thomas Penn (william's) son from his first marriage.
Posted by: Steve Smith   |   Aug 17, 2009 10:55 AM
My grandmother was also a Penn. I am just starting out, but I can not wait to see where and when my family tree started.
Posted by: Teresa   |   Aug 14, 2009 2:48 PM
My great uncle Victor Dentz was married [common law?] to a Jessica Penn, a descedant of William Penn. They resided in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. How do i find out more about Jessica Penn and exactly where she fits into the Penn family tree?
Posted by: janna   |   May 27, 2009 7:27 AM
On my maternal grandfather's side of the family, There is a surname, "Haskin." They are suppose to be the direct descendants of William Penn. I am currently trying to research this but I am new at it and am not having much luck yet.
Posted by: Lisa Lawson   |   May 12, 2009 3:31 PM
My family name is Hicks and Francis Hicks(my great great grandmother) married Sir William Penn the Quaker family are from England.

It's very complicated when researching ancestors, but very interesting. It would be wonderful to find more ancestors who are also connected to William Penn.
Posted by: Kathryn Lasky   |   Feb 12, 2009 5:59 PM
My grandma is 100. Her mother was Minnie Louise Penn, married to Ewald Damm. Minnie was the Daughter of Frances, or possibly James Frances Penn. They lived in the Baltimore area. Does anyone have any info? We were always told we were related to Wm Penn through this line. Minnie had other siblings, Leola, Hessie Penn Horney,James, George, &Ethel
Posted by: Dawn   |   Jan 15, 2009 9:51 PM
As noted above my name is Drew Elgrim. My mother is a Steward, and after reading a bit of the information provided to me by my mothers cousin, Eugene Steward, I undersstand that one of my relatives came over on the same ship as William Penn. and then settled in the now Crosswicks NJ area and was involved with the friends meeting in said town. I noticed a posting by Kenneth Steward. If Kenneth you should read this post, please fee free to contacat me at
Posted by: Drew Elgrim   |   Nov 27, 2008 2:53 PM
I have also heard I am related to William Penn from my Grandfather--but he has not given me any other information about it or anything about my family tree for that matter. My last name is Finch. If anyone knows anything---I would love to know.
Posted by: BK   |   Oct 23, 2008 10:19 PM
My name is Kenneth Steward. I am looking for connectivity to William Steward, Jr., a great-great-grandson of William Penn.
Posted by: [none]   |   Aug 31, 2008 10:33 AM
My grandfather Walter S Rogers said that his ancesters came here with Wm Penn
Posted by: Jo Ann Whitmire   |   May 21, 2008 4:40 PM
I have a family tree picture with my father Andrew Keene Gwynn Hammond Jr. at the bottom and going Christopher -> Harry -> James Henry -> (Elisha -> Ebeneezer -> four others, can't remember off the top of my head) -> William Hammond at the top left. It is fairly complete, I willl share more if I find my way back here again.
Posted by: Keene   |   Apr 21, 2008 3:03 PM
To trace genealogy, try the Historical Society of Pennsylvania at 13th and Locust Streets, or Pennsbury Manor in Bucks County. For old art work, try Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, maybe the Free Library of Philadelphia at 19th and Ben Franklin Parkway, or the Rosenbach Museum.
Posted by: George Fisher   |   Apr 9, 2008 3:07 PM
I have an old tray with a piece of cloth under the glass. There is a piece of paper under the glass that says "Picked, Carded, Spun and Woven by Eleanor Dean Haines - Grand-Daughter of William Penn". Does anyone have any clues?
Posted by: Gloria   |   Apr 7, 2008 7:40 PM
I see at the top of our family tree the names William Hammond and Elizabeth Penn Hammond. Apparently he was already dead when she and her 4 children came over to America in 1634 accompanied by her Pastor. Can anyone tell me anything after that?Mary
Posted by: Mary Hammond Ouellette   |   Nov 21, 2007 4:46 PM
Elizabeth Penn Hammond,married to William Hammond in England,was my first relative to come over to the States in 1634, a widow with 4 children. She was accompanied by her pastor, who then started a church in Mass. which she belonged to. I see another name now after Hammond, who did she marry? Mary B.
Posted by: Mary B. Hammond Ouellette   |   Nov 21, 2007 4:33 PM
Here is the Princeton obituary of my cousin

C. Penn Wettlaufer '58

Penn died of cancer in Buffalo on Jan. 11, 2000.

Born in Buffalo and descended from William Penn, Penn matriculated to Princeton from St. Mark's. A psychology major, Penn graduated with honors and was elected to the scientific honorary society, Sigma Xi. Following Princeton, Penn went to Tuck Business School for his MBA.

Penn returned to Buffalo and joined his family's company, H. D. Taylor, rising to pres. Following his tenure at H. D. Taylor, Penn consulted for the City of Buffalo until 1978, when he joined the State of New York's Empire State College as a professor of business management.

Penn was active in the community - a trained paramedic who served on the boards of Emergency Medical Services, the US Squash Racquets Assn., Hope, Inc., the Buffalo Zoological Society, Planned Parenthood, and Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service.

Penn's most important priority was his family: wife Maggie, stepmother Emily, daughters Alexandra, Jennifer, Talley, Elizabeth, Virginia, and Rebecca. To each, the class extends its deepest sympathy.

The Class of 1958
Posted by: E. Varick Wettlaufer   |   Oct 5, 2007 10:59 AM
Your best bet is the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr Colleges have very large collections, and scholars in residence.
Posted by: George Fisher   |   Jul 22, 2007 10:34 PM
I have heard from a relative that we are related to William Penn. How do I find out if this is in fact true?
Posted by: Heather   |   Jul 22, 2007 2:21 PM
It would ease the search if you knew what parcel of land was involved, since title insurance companies might help. There just might be a Bean Genological Society somewhere.

Aside from these short-cuts, your best bet is the US Archives, at 9th and Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania at 13th and Locust. Unfortunately, as you must know, there have been a lot of people named Bean. Have you tried Google?
Posted by: George Fisher   |   Jul 6, 2007 2:00 PM
I would like to know if William Penn gave land to my great grand father by the last name of bean in Penns time. urgent request
Posted by: Russell Bean   |   Jul 5, 2007 4:50 PM
I've asked Dr. G. Denman Hammond and his sister Elizabeth Penn Hammond Vieau, who are descendants of Penn, to help answer your question.
Posted by: George Fisher   |   May 14, 2007 6:22 PM
My Grandmother who is age 90 claims we are decendants of William Penn and that side of the family is from North Louisiana
Posted by: Walter Wilson   |   May 8, 2007 4:56 PM
I'm trying to find out if my Grandparents were related to Penn...they always said they were. My maternal grandfathers' mother was a Penn.
Posted by: Miguel Camilo   |   Mar 7, 2007 3:53 PM
I have the feeling there are quite a number of Penn descendants in England but have no details. William Penn's aunt Elizabeth was a Hammond, and an Elizabeth Penn Hammond Vieaux lives in Houston; her brother is a retired doctor in Pasadena.
Posted by: Dr. Fisher replies   |   Feb 21, 2007 3:09 PM
So are there any relatives of William Penn around today????
Posted by: Carol A. Lingo   |   Feb 20, 2007 10:46 PM

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