Johnny Depp Family History


John Christopher Depp II, better known as the actor Johnny Depp, was born on June 9th, 1963 to John and Betty Depp in Owensboro, Kentucky.  He was the youngest of their four children.  The family moved around a lot during his childhood, often moving month-to-month, before coming to Miramar in Florida in 1970.

Johnny’s parents separated in 1978 when he was fifteen.  And it was his mother Betty Sue who was left to bring him up on her waitress income.  It was a hard time for both of them. A year later Johnny dropped out of high school in order to play in a rock band.  After some modest success in Florida, he and the band moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a record deal.

The band broke up, however, and Johnny got into acting instead.  He appeared in small roles in the 1980’s until his breakthrough role in Tim Burton’s film Edward Scissorhands in 1990.  And in 2003 when the first of the Pirates of the Caribbean films was released, he became a megastar.  He would be known for the quirky and offbeat characters that he portrayed.

Johnny Depp has a very distinctive manly persona within the Hollywood acting community.  Despite his chaotic lifestyle, he has had a bevy of beautiful girl-friends and a legion of fans.  A much-publicized defamation case with his ex-wife Amber Heard in 2022, when sordid details of their life together were revealed, might have turned the fans against him.  Apparently it did not and his victory in the case was acclaimed.

Kentucky Roots

Johnny Depp has strong Kentucky roots, from both his paternal Depps and maternal Wells lines.  He has also in the past claimed some Native American ancestry:

“I guess I have some Native American somewhere down the line. My great-grandmother was quite a bit of Native American. She grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek Indian.”

Or maybe not, at least in any documented way.  This shows that he is primarily of English descent, with some French, German, and Irish ancestry.  His Depp surname comes from a French Huguenot immigrant back in 1714.

Johnny’s Maternal Line

Of his two parents, his mother – born Betty Sue Wells – evinced the strongest emotions, both negative and positive.  She could be violent and abusive at home, but Johnny was later understanding of this:

“My mother was raised in a shack in the wilds of Appalachia where the toilet was an outhouse.  She used to say she did the same things that her mom did.  And her mom certainly didn’t know any better.”

He remained close to his mother despite her abuses, often bringing her along to film premieres. She died in 2016.

In the early 19th century her Wells ancestors were among the early settlers in the Big Sandy Valley of northeast Kentucky.  Richard Wells, originally from Philadelphia and apparently an American hero during the Revolutionary War, was the forefather of these Wells.  He came to Floyd county, Kentucky from Virginia with his family of ten in 1825.

The line from his third son Simon began the trail that led to Betty Sue Wells; while a line from a younger daughter Nancy led through marriage in 1836 into the coal-mining Webbs of Johnson county and to the country music star Loretta Lynn (of Coal Miner’s Daughter fame).

In Simon’s line, Commodore Perry Wells – despite his fancy name – worked on the railroads; and both his son Richard and grandson Walter (Betty Sue’s father) were coal miners.

And His Paternal Line

Johnny’s paternal Depp forebears were Huguenot.  Pierre Deppe or Dieppe, fleeing Catholic France, had come to Virginia in 1714.  He followed other arriving Huguenots to Manakin in Goochland county.  Three generations later, his descendant Peter Depp (the “e” long gone) left Virginia and crossed the frontier into Kentucky.

Peter moved to Barren county in south/central Kentucky, an area which was being settled by the Scots Irish.  He married Mary Courts there in 1817 and they raised a family of eight at their farm at Fallen Timber Creek.

Notable descendants were John Burks Depp, a state representative who married a preacher’s daughter, and his daughter Nettie.  In 1913 she became the first female official to be elected in Barren county (a statue is being raised in her honor).  Nettie did not marry.  But she helped raise the children of her sisters Elizabeth and Amanda who both died young.

Oren Richard like his sister Nettie was a teacher and likewise became a superintendent of public education in Barren county.  His son Oren Larry migrated in the early 1930’s to Daviess county in western Kentucky.

Larry and his eldest son Larry had an engineering firm in Owensboro designing roads and bridges.  His next son John, born in 1938 and possibly adopted, was Johnny’s father.  He too became a civil engineer.  Johnny described him as “a good man,” putting up with all of his wife’s ravings as he did.  But he did abandon the family in 1978.

Johnny Depp’s Family Tree

  • Johnny’s Maternal Wells Line
  • Richard Wells (1760-1838) from Philadelphia m. Susannah Hutchinson (1779-1862) in Virginia in 1797
  • – George Wells (1800-1877) m. Elizabeth DeLong
  • – Moses Wells (1804-1878) m. Margaret Hillman
  • – Elizabeth (Betsy) Wells (1807-1885) m. John Hillman
  • – Simon Wells (1810-1884)
  • – Rosanna Wells (1811-1878) m. John Spears
  • – John Wells (1815-1880) m. Nancy Webb
  • – Nancy Wells (1817-1843) m. William Webb
  • – William Wells (1818-1887) m. Mary Ann Butcher
  • – Agnes Wells (1820-1908) m. Samuel Auxier
  • – Mary Wells (1823-1911) m. William Butcher
  • Simon Wells from Virginia m. Mary Porter (1815-1905) in Kentucky in 1833
  • – Andrew Wells (1833-1905)
  • – Martha Wells (1841-1908) m. David Morgan
  • – Commodore Perry Wells (1849-1909)
  • – Mary Ann Wells (1859-1933) m. James Colegrove
  • Commodore Perry Wells from Boyd county, Kentucky m. Rebecca (Beckie) Litteral (1852-1921) in Kentucky in 1873
  • – Edward Wells (1875-1923) m. Hannah Donita
  • – Richard Wells (1877-1955)
  • – John Wells (1879-1953) m. Minnie Williams
  • – Charles Wells (1884-1944) m. Minnie Meade
  • – Ollie Wells (1889-1982) m. William Luke
  • – William Wells (1891-1981)
  • – Oliver Wells (1894-1939) m. Emma Thornberry
  • Richard Mack (Tood) Wells m. Annie Cooper (1886-1926) in Kentucky in 1904
  • – Walter Wells (1905-1970)
  • – Grace Wells (1912-1973) m. John Gibson
  • – John Wells (1917-1975) m. Josephine Bowling
  • Walter (Pawpaw) Wells m. Bessie Whitaker (1904-1984) in Kentucky, divorced
  • – Jacqueline Wells (1927-1995) m. Denver Sammons
  • – Bill Wells (1931-2007) m. Pauline Sparks
  • – Betty Sue Wells (1935-2016)
  • – Peggy Wells (1936-2014) m. John Conley
  • Betty Sue Wells m. John Dale in 1952; rem. John Depp (b. 1938) in 1960, divorced in 1978; rem. Bob Palmer
  • – Danny Depp (b. 1953), adopted from first marriage
  • – Debbie Depp (b. 1956), adopted from first marriage
  • – Elisa Depp (b. 1960) m. Daniel Dembrowski
  • – Johnny Depp (b. 1963) m. Vanessa Paradis (two children), rem. Amber Heard, divorced
  • Johnny’s Paternal Depp Line
  • Peter Depp (1795-1865) from Virginia m. Mary Courts (1793-1840) in Barren county, Kentucky in 1817, rem. Drucilla Terry in 1842
  • – Walter Depp (1819-1863)
  • – William Depp (1821-1855) m. Anthena Bailey
  • – John Depp (1823-1896)
  • – Thomas Depp (1825-1898) m. Emily Grinstead
  • – Joel Depp (1830-1889) m. Sarah Sartain
  • – Virginia Depp (1833-1857) m. Robert Gasaway
  • – Christopher Depp (1835-1917) m. Nancy Dougherty
  • – Mary Depp (1839-1864)
  • Walter Depp (1819-1863) m. Marcella Burks (1822-1902) in Barren county, Kentucky in 1841
  • – Gertrude Depp (1842-1923) m. Edward Hatchett
  • – Peter Depp (1842-1925)
  • – John Depp (1845-1927)
  • – Adolphus Depp (1853-1941) m. Elizabeth Bagby
  • – Frances (Fanny) Depp (1855-1946) m. James Young
  • – Lou Depp (1857-1941) m. Willie Bagby
  • – Raymond Depp (1861-1949)
  • – Walter Depp (1863-1904) m. Virginia Anderson
  • John Burks Depp m. Mariba Reneau (1846-1928) in Barren county, Kentucky around 1866
  • – Elizabeth (Lizzie) Depp (1868-1903) m. William Allen
  • – Mary Depp (1870-1967) m. William Rowland
  • – Tipton Depp (1871-1947) m. Amanda Cox (died young)
  • – Nettie Depp (1874-1932)
  • – Oren Richard Depp (1879-1912)
  • – Lillie Depp (1881-1949) m. James Matthews
  • Oren Richard Depp m. Effie Palmore (1880-1962) in Monroe county, Kentucky in 1904
  • – Oren Larrimore Depp (1905-1970)
  • – Thelma Depp (1906-1998) m. Earl Amos
  • – Lennis Depp (1910-1994) m. Frank Wells
  • – Oren Richard Depp (1912-1998) m. Beverly Ford
  • Oren Larrimore (Larry) Depp m. Violet Grinstead (1907-2000) in Barren county, Kentucky in 1930
  • – Oren Larrimore Depp (1931-2020) m. Lena Harrod
  • – Virginia (Ginger) Depp (b. 1935) m. Darrell Morrow
  • – John Depp (b. 1938), possibly adopted
  • – Robert Depp (b. 1948) m. Sheila Edward
  • John (Jack) Depp m. Betty Sue Wells (1935-2016) in Tennessee in 1960, divorced in 1978
  • – Danny Depp (b. 1953), adopted from Betty Sue’s first marriage
  • – Debbie Depp (b. 1956), adopted from Betty Sue’s first marriage
  • – Elisa Depp (b. 1960) m. Daniel Dembrowski
  • – Johnny Depp (b. 1963) m. Vanessa Paradis (two children), rem. Amber Heard, divorced



Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *