Ancestry of Bette Davis, actress


This page should be cited as:
    "Ancestry of Bette Davis, actress", by Will Johnson, at
    Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

See also: Bette Davis Movies on YouTube

Thanks to several contributors at gen-medieval-l who have submit additions and corrections to this research.

Bette Davis telling off Leslie Howard
in 1934's "Of Human Bondage"

1 Bette Davis

Bette Davis was born Ruth Elizabeth Davis on 5 Apr 1908 in Lowell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, the eldest of two children born to lawyer Harlow Morrell Davis and his wife Ruth Augusta "Ruthie" Favor, who had married the year before, both aged 22.  Bette however states that her parents had known each other since they were each seven years old.

The family then moved to Winchester, Mass. where their second daughter Barbara (familiarly called "Bobbie") was born 25 Oct 1909. Harlow and Ruth divorced in 1915 or 1916 "when Betty was seven".  In 1910 the family is enumerated at Somerville in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.  In 1920 Harlow is living in Boston. In 1921 Ruth and her daughters moved into New York City.  At age 16, Bette enrolled at Cushing Academy in Asburnham, MA.  "After graduating, she enrolled at the John Murray Anderson dramatic school in New York City where she later won a scholarship." (Source).

After appearing in Broadway plays, Bette moved to Hollywood in 1930.  Bette was married four times, firstly to Harmon O "Ham" Nelson in 1932, both aged 24, later divorced.  Secondly in Dec 1940 to innkeeper Arthur Farnsworth who died Aug 1943.  Thirdly in 1945 to William Grant Sherry (b. 1914), by whom she had her only biological child Barbara D "B D" Sherry born 1947 in Santa Ana, California.  Barbara would later write a biography of her mother and the revelations contained in it, caused Bette to disown Barbara leaving her nothing in her will.  Bette married lastly, as his second wife to actor Gary Franklin Merrill (1915-90), in 1950.  They adopted two children: Margot, who later had to be confined in a care facility; and Michael both of whom have the surname Merrill.  The bulk of Bette's estate went to this adopted son, Michael Merrill, when Bette died 6 Oct 1989 of breast cancer while at Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

Bette is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California.  You can watch her in action at Bette Davis Movies on YouTube

Through her shared descent from Samuel Whiting (1597-1679) and Elizabeth St John (1605-77), Bette Davis is a cousin of Senator John Kerry, and also a cousin of US President Calvin Coolidge.  Through her shared descent from John St John and his wife Sibyl verch Morgan, Bette Davis is a cousin of Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, of actor Cary Elwes and of Diana, Princess of Wales.  Through her shared descent from Edward Bulkeley and Olive Irby, she is a cousin of George W Bush.

Sources for 1

2 Harlow Morrell Davis
Harlow Morrell Davis was born 9 March 1885 in Augusta, Kennebec Cunty, Maine, the son of Edward E Davis (b. 1854) and his wife Eliza J Morrell (1856-1906).  In 1900 the family is enumerated at Augusta, Kennebec County, Maine.  He attended Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine.  In 1907, Harlow married Ruth Augusta Favor and they had two children: Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis the actress born 1908 and Barbara "Bobbie" Davis born 1909.  Bette Davis, perhaps being dramatic states that her parents had known each other since they were seven years old.  I don't yet see how.  He was living in Augusta, Maine, while she was living in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Interestingly however, both of their fathers are said to have been born in New Hampton, New Hampshire !

In 1910 they are enumerated living at Somerville, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.  Harlow and Ruth divorced in 1915 or 1916.  Harlow is enumerated in 1920 living in Boston and in 1930 living at Belmont, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.  Harlow Davis died in 1938 (Source).

Sources for 2
  • "The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis: A Personal Biography, Charlotte Chandler, copyright 2007. ISBN 0743262085 page 27 (Buy it in softcover or Kindle)
  • 1900 Census, Augusta, Kennebec County, Maine
  • 1910 Census, Somerville, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
  • 1920 Census, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 1930 Census, Belmont, Middlesex County, Massachusetts

3 Ruth Augusta Favor
Ruth Augusta "Ruthie" Favor was born 16 Sep 1885 in Lowell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Aaron Favor and his wife Harriet Eugenia Thompson.  Ruth was "aged 22" when she married in 1907 to Harlow Morrell Davis.  They had two children: Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis the actress born 1908 and Barbara "Bobbie" Davis born 1909.   In 1910 they are enumerated living at Somerville, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.  Bette Davis, perhaps being dramatic states that her parents had known each other since they were seven years old.  I don't yet see how.  He was living in Augusta, Maine, while she was living in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Interestingly however, both of their fathers are said to have been born in New Hampton, New Hampshire !

Harlow and Ruth divorced in 1915 or 1916.  Ruthie and her two daughters moved into New York City in 1921.  Ruthie was yet living in 1930, still in New York City when her mother died.  Ruth married secondly to retired Boston businessman Robert Woodbury Palmer on 24 Nov 1945 in Palm Springs, California.  She married thirdly to Otho W Budd in April 1950, and divorced him Dec 1951.  Ruth might have shaved a year off her age later, as when she died 5 Jul 1961 she was stated to have been born 16 Sep 1886.

Sources for 3
  • 1900 Census, Lowell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
  • 1910 Census, Somerville, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
  • "Bettie Davis", pedigree view, Research of James Bianco, hosted at Rootsweb

4 Edward Elwood Davis
Edward Elwood Davis was born 10 Mar 1854 in New Hampton, Belknap County, New Hampshire, the son of Calvin Harlow Davis and his wife Anne P Matthews.  Site reader Joe Cook informs me on gen-medieval-l, that "Edward Elwood Davis married Eliza Jane Morrell 23 Sep 1882 in Glocester, Providence, Rhode Island. Marriage Record gives parents as Calvin H. Davis and Anne P. Matthews. Brides parents listed: Alex H. Morrell Eliza Leavey [sic];. Bride's birthplace: Phillips, Franklin, Maine. Groom's birthplace: New Hampton, Belknap, New Hampshire (Age 28)."  The marriage place is alternatively given as "Chepachet, Rhode Island". They apparently had only a single surviving child Harlow Morrell Davis born 9 Mar 1885 in Augusta, Kennebec County, Maine.  In 1900 the family is enumerated living in Augusta.  Edward evidently ran a clothing store when he died in 1905 possibly still living in Augusta. Of the people at his funeral two newspaper entries mention a "Mary Seavey of Brookline, Mass" and also his "brother, Rev W M Davis of West Kennebec".

5 Eliza J Morrell
Ancestral File Number 1TN9-49L
Eliza J Morrell was born 23 Nov 1855 in Phillips, Franklin County, Maine, the daughter of Alexander Hatch "A H" Morrell (1818-85) and his wife Eliza "Lizzie" Seavey (1817-1904).

Daily Kennebec Journal, 1 Jun 1906, "Mrs Eliza Morrell Davis"
   "Mrs Eliza Morrell Davis died at her summer residence, Ocean Park, Thursday morning.  Mrs Davis was born in Phillips, Me., Nov. 23, 1855.  She was the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. A. M. Morrell and for several years lived with her father and mother at Harper's Ferry, W. Va., during the stirring times that followed the Civil War.  She was known to Augusta citizens as the wife of the late Edward E. Davis whose death occurred so suddenly a little over a year ago.  She was a woman of sterling character and many lovable qualities.  She had known for some weeks that her disease was such that human skill could offer no remedy and she faced the future with the trust and hope born of an assurance of "things not seen as yet"  One son, Harlowe M. Davis, a student at Bates College and a brother, Prof Frank H Morrell of Irrington, N.J. survive.
   "The funeral services will be held at Ocean Park Saturday forenoon, A W Anthony, D D, of Lewiston having charge.  The body will be brought to Augusta for interment in the family lot at Mt Pleasant cemetery.  Services will be held at the grave Saturday afternoon at 3 o'clock when prayers will be said by her paster the Rev C G Mosher of the State street Free Baptist church."

6 William Aaron Favor
Lowell Sun, 2 Dec 1911
   "Favor -- William A Favor, for 35 years an employee at the office of the city engineer and for the past few years assistant city engineer, died last night at his home 22 Chester street, aged 56 years and 11 months.
   "Mr Favor had been in poor health for the past year, but kept at his work with considerable constancy and was at the office as late as last Wednesday.  Yesterday morning, while at breakfast, he was suddenly taken seriously ill and fell from his chair.  All that medical aid could accomplish was done for him but the end came early last evening.  He was suffering from angina pectoris.
   "Mr Favor was born at New Hampton, N.H., and received his education there.  He came to Lowell as a young man, and for the past 35 years has been in the city civil engineer's office, where he had made an excellent reputation in his profession, and has made numberless friendships.  He is survived by a wife and four children, Rev. Paul G Favor of Somerville, Mr H F Davis of Winchester, Richard and Ruth Favor."

7 Harriet Eugenia Thompson
Harriet Eugenia Thompson was born Jun 1855 in Lowell, Massachusetts (1900 census), the daughter of Charles Otis "C O" Thompson by his wife Harriet Jane Bailey.  Evidently just after Harriet's birth, the family moved to Iowa to be near her parents, who had moved there the prior year.  I find the Bailey's living there "residents for 1 year" in the 1856 Census, while "C O Thompson" and his wife "H C" were "residents for 0 years" with their baby Eugenie age 1.  Harriet the mother is evidently that one who is buried there having died 21 Jun 1856 according to a cemetery book, or 21 Jun 1857 according to the Bailey family book.  Charles must have then sent his baby back to live with his own mother, because the baby is living in the 1860 census age 5 with Harriet A Thompson age 59, back in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Identifying her as Harriet Jane Bailey is clouded as I also find their daughter Harriet living with Benjamin Bailey and Latta Hopkins in the 1856 Census of Makee, Allamakee County, Iowa, there age 19.  If she is the mother of baby Harriet, then why isn't her husband and baby enumerated here as well, and why isn't she marked as married?  Were her and Charles fighting and she ran home (down the street) to her parents?  Did someone in her parent's family think they were supposed to count her in their household even though she wasn't there?  Was the wife of Charles really some *other* Harriet Thompson, a cousin maybe?

She married William A Favor in 1882/3 evidently in Lowell, just a few years after her grandmother who was also evidently her guardian, had died.  It's not clear if her father Charles Thompson ever saw her again.  He enlisted for the Civil War while still living in Iowa, later moved to Kansas by 1880 and died in 1888/9 probably still in Kansas.

Lowell Sun, 30 Apr 1930
Harriet Eugenie Favor, wife of William A Favor, assistant city engineer for many years, who died in 1911, died Easter Sunday after a brief illness of bronchial pneumonia.  Mrs. Favor had been confined to her bed, however, due to a fractured leg since Christmas.  She is survived by her four children, Rev. Paul Gordon Favor of New Rochelle, N.Y., Mrs. Ruth Favor Davis of New York City, Mrs. Myron M Davis of Newtonville and Richard William Favor of Bristol, N.H.  She had eight grandchildren.  She had made her home with her daughter, Mildred, since her husband's death.  The funeral services were in her Newtonville home.  The burial service took place at the Edson chapel here and were conducted by her son, Dr. Favor.  He performed the same service for his father in his early ministry.

Sources for 7
  • 1856 Special State Census for Makee, Allamakee County, Iowa :"C O Thompson, 26, married, Painter, MA; H C, 19, female, married, MA; Eugine Thompson, 1, female, MA"
  • 1860 Census for Lowell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts : "age 5, MA"
  • 1870 Census for Ward 4, Lowell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts : "Harriet E Thompson, 15, MA"
  • 1880 Census for Lowell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts : "Eugenia H Favor, 24, MA/MA/MA"
  • 1900 Census for Ward 8, Lowell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts: "H Eugenia Favor, age 44, Jun 1855, MA/MA/MA"
  • 1910 Census for Ward 8, Lowell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts : "Harriet E Favor, wife, 55, married first time, 31 years ago, mother of 4, 4 living, MA/MA/MA"
  • Obituary, "Lowell Sun", 30 Apr 1930, "Harriet Eugenie Favor"
  • "The Bailey Genealogy: James, John, and Thomas, and Their Descendants", by Mollis R Bailey.  The Citizen Company of Somerville 1899, reprint Parker River Researchers 1980.  Online at
    Page 254 : "Harriet Jane Bailey born August 9, 1837, was the daughter of Benjamin Bailey and his wife Latta (Hopkins) Fletcher Bailey.  She married at Lowell, Mass., Charles O Thompson, January 9, 1852.  She died June 21, 1857.  Children: Eugenia born 1853, married a Mr Favor; resides in Lowell"

8 Calvin H Davis
Calvin H Davis was born 1826/8 in New Hampshire, the son of unknown parents.  He married Anne P Matthews by 1860, possibly in Maine.  They had at least four children: Herbert 1852/3, Edward Mar 1854, Walter H 1857/8 and Willie M Davis 1863/4 who was later the reverend of West Kennebec.  In 1860 the family is enumerated in Waterville, Kennebec County, Maine were Calvin was an "agent for the sale of books".  And they are living in that same location still in 1870 where Calvin is a "book agent".

Sources for 8

 9 Anne P Matthews
Anne P Matthews was born 1827/8 in Maine.  Her mother is probably that Permelia who appears living with the family "age 72" in the 1860 census of Waterville, Maine, and she is still living with them in the 1870 census as well.

10 Alexander Hatch Morrell
Ancestral File Number 1TN9-476

Alexander Hatch "Alex" Morrell was born 10 Oct 1818 in North Berwick, Maine, the son of Josiah Morrell, Jr and Sarah Quint his wife.  On 8 Jun 1845 in Hall County, Maine, Alex married Eliza "Lizzie" Seavey of Georgetown, Sagadahoc County, Maine.  They had three children: Francis Herbert "Frank" 1846, William H 1850/51, and Eliza J Morrell 1855.  He was a preacher who after a career in Maine, passed some years ministering to the Freedmen in Harper's Ferry, Jefferson County, West Virginia.  He retired and died at Irvington, New Jersey 25 Dec 1885 but his body was taken to Harper's Ferry where he is buried.

11 Eliza Seavey
Ancestral File Number 1TN8-RKD

Bath Independent And Enterprise, 28 Dec 1904, "Eliza Seavey Morrell"
   "At about nine o'clock Sunday morning, in the eighty-eighth year of her age at the home of her daughter, Mrs E E Davis of Augusta, Eliza Seavey, widow of the late Rev Alex H Morrell, passed quietly and peacefully from this to the endless life.
   "For the last twelve years Mrs Morrell had made her home with her daughter.  Her native place was Georgetown, Me. Her father was Thomas B Seavey.  She had resided in Hallowell, Phillips, Oakland and Bath, where her husband held pastorates; also spending about fifteen years in the South at the close of the Civil War in connection with the Freedmen work at Storer College, Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.
   "Funeral services were held in Augusta yesterday."

12 Jacob G Favor

13 Augusta [Unknown]

14 Charles Otis Thompson

15 Harriet Jane Bailey
20 Josiah Morrell, Jr

21 Sarah Quint

22 Thomas Burnham Seavey
Ancestral File Number 1TN8-P5K

23 Keziah Hinckley
Ancestral File Number 1TN8-RDC

44 Reuben Seavey
45 Elizabeth Burnham
46 Josiah Hinkley
47 Kesiah Hutchins

Continued Royal Ascent
  1. Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis (1908-89), actress
  2. Ruth Augusta "Ruthie" Favor (1885-1961)
  3. Harriet Eugenia Thompson (b. 1855) The connection of Harriet Thompson as a daughter of Harriet Bailey daughter of Benjamin Bailey may be incorrect.  I'm looking for the primary source which confirms this.
  4. Harriet Jane Bailey
  5. Benjamin Bailey
  6. Dorothy Worcester
  7. Dorcas Whiting
  8. John Whiting
  9. Oliver Whiting
  10. Samuel Whiting
  11. Elizabeth St John (1605-77)
Elizabeth St John is a 13th-generation descendant of Richard HR Emperor 1256, a 14-generation descendant generation descendant of John, King of England and a 13th-generation descendant of Llewellyn, Ruler of North Wales 1194-1240