Allison Brooks Janney
Paternal 23rd Cousin
The road to discovering one's ancestral past can be a long and often arduous journey. Then there are times that all the pieces just seem to fall in place and you discover that you are related to an amazing person like the talented Allison Janney.
During this seemingly never-ending pandemic, I spent time watching a TV show called "Mom". I had seen a few episodes in the past, but with being home 24/7, I had the luxury of being able to watch more TV than usual while I worked. One of the shows I was quickly hooked on was "Mom" and I thoroughly enjoyed the characters. The lead character was Christy Plunkett, played by my 25th cousin, once removed, Anna Kay Farris. The other lead character was Christy's mother, Bonnie, played by Allison Janney.
I never set out to make contact with Allison, but one day I happened to come across a tweet that she had made asking for donations to Amelia Air, a pet rescue group co-founded by her niece, Petra Janney. I listened to Allison's online request, then checked out Amelia Air. It's a great charity that rescues shelter animals and finds them their forever homes - and the do most of this by flying the animals out of high-kill shelters (Petra is a pilot). Anyone that knows me and my menagerie of pets knows I love animals (especially dogs), so I made a donation and put a simple "Done" response on Allison's social media post.
I thought that was that - I had made my modest donation to help fund the rescue and thought nothing more of it...until I received a personal message from Allison Janney herself. Long story short, she and I communicated a few times by text which I thought was amazing, and I was chuffed to communicate with a celebrity (in the past my interactions have been brief conversations during unexpected encounters with a few celebs). Allison seemed like a really nice lady, and better yet, she was devoted to helping dogs and other pets find their forever homes. I decided to do some more research on this lady.
I don't normally do much digging into a celebrity's background unless I discover that I am distantly related to them so that I can spin up a brief biography on this website. However, I wanted to know more about this actor other than her role as Bonnie Plunkett on "Mom", as Elaine Crocker in the movie "Spy" and Charlotte Phelan (the mother) in "The Help". Beyond that though, I didn't know much about Ms. Janney. After some digging around on the internet, I discovered that there is much more to Allison than just these few characters.
Allison Janney was born on November 29th, 1959, in Boston, Massachusetts. Allison is the only daughter of Macy Brooks Putnam (1934-2020) and Jervis Spencer Janney Jr. Allison also has 2 brothers, Jay and Henry "Hal" (1961-2011). Macy was a former actress and Jervis was a real estate developer & a jazz musician.
Allison had originally hoped to become a figure skater until an unfortunate accident put an end to that dream (however, she did win an Academy Award for playing Tony Harding's mother in "I Tonya"). She attended Kenyon College where she answered a casting call for a play that was being directed by Paul Newman. Allison was chosen as a cast member and later was advised by Joanne Woodward (Newman's wife) that she should further her acting studies in New York at The Neighborhood Playhouse which she did.
Allison's devotion to her craft paid off and she had some early comedic roles on Guiding Light and As The World Turns, two popular daytime soaps. Allison also acted on Broadway, and has achieved acclaim including a Tony nomination for portraying Violet Newstead in the theatrical rendition of "9 to 5". She has also acted in a myriad of movies and TV shows, most of which this author is embarrassed to say he has not yet seen (sorry Allison!).
Allison has won countless awards for her acting talent, most notably an Oscar for Best Suporting Actress for her role in "I Tonya". Allison has also won:
British Academy Award, also for Best Supporting Actress (I Tonya)
7 Prime Time Emmy awards
A Golden Globe (I Tonya)
7 Screen Actors Guild awards
And many, many more awards and nominations. In fact Allison's list of achievements is so long, I'd have to set up a separate webpage just to list them!
Off screen/stage, Allison is a huge dog lover. She supports her niece Petra's work with Amelia Air as mentioned earlier. This takes me back to my original interactions with Ms. Janney. When one spends as much time as I do researching thousands of relatives, mostly dead, but many still living, you begin to develop an innate sense for finding clues (or Easter Eggs as I like to call them) that have been left for future generations to tie to their past. This happened soon after I began my original communication with Allison.
The fact that Allison's middle name is "Brooks", and her mother's middle name was "Brooks", caught my attention. I am descended from the Brooks family so any time I see that name I start to check records. I also immediately noticed that Macy's maiden name (if that's even a correct term anymore) was "Putnam". Putnam is not a common name, and the only time I have come across that surname in my research is through my paternal cousin, Amelia Earhart's husband, George Palmer Putnam II. The surname Putnam along with the name of Petra Janney's co-founded charity "Amelia Air" was too good to be a coincidence. So I started digging.
It turns out that George Palmer Putnam II was a relative of Macy, Allison and Petra (and others, of course). That was the first connection I had between Allison's family and mine, but it was only by marriage. The Brooks surname surely had to be a connection. After tracing Allison's Brooks surname back as far as I could, I could find no relation to my branch of the Brooks family. It was disappointing.
Then out of the blue I came across an article on MSN recently that was written about celebrities who had royal lineage, in particular, those who are related to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Since I am also a distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth (19th cousin, once removed), I read the article. I recognized several celebrities who I have already confirmed are distant cousins of mine (some are on this website), but one immediately caught my attention: Allison Janney.
The article stated that Allison was a 20th cousin of Queen Elizabeth through their shared great-grandfather, King Edward I of England. Edward I was my 22nd great-grandfather so now there was a very strong chance that Allison and I were more than 6 degrees of separation away on the family tree.
Now King Edward I died in 1307, which is 714 years ago. This means that there are a LOT of people between 1307 and 2021 to go through, but once I have a warm lead to follow, I'm like a hound on the hunt - nose down, focused and following the trail.
I was convinced that any common lineage between myself and Allison Janney had to be through her maternal side of the family, but just to be sure, I worked on both her maternal and paternal ancestors. Surprisingly, I found a common ancestor on Allison's paternal side - Charles I of France, Count Valois (my 22nd great grandfather). Charles I lived from 1270-1325 which is farther back in time than Edward I, but so far he is the only concrete connection I have to Allison Janney and her family.
I will continue to research and try to find out how Allison is related to Edward I, but for now I'm at least satisfied to be able to put yet another shining star on my family tree...and just in time for Christmas!