Jane Seymour Fonda

Paternal 28th cousin, 1x removed

Even after almost 2 decades of family history research, I still manage to continue finding surprises in my family tree. Such is the case with well-known actor, Jane Fonda.

I am related to Jane through her mother, Frances Ford Seymour who, by co-incidence, was born in Brockville, Ontario, Canada in 1908. My relationship to Frances, and her daughter Jane, however, is not through my Canadian roots - our shared heritage is much farther back on our family trees.

My familial relationship to Jane Fonda goes back to our common ancestor, Malcolm III "Caenmor, King of Scotland (26 March 1031 - 13 November 1093). I am descended from Malcolm through his daughter, Matilda (sometimes called Editha) down through the Plantagenet family. Jane, her mother and her brother, Peter, are descended from Malcolm through David I, King of Scotland.

Jane Seymour Fonda (her Seymour middle name coming from her mother) was born in New York City on December 21st, 1937. Her father was famous actor Henry Fonda (1905-1982) and her mother was Frances Ford Seymour (1908-1950), a socialite. Jane was the first of two children born to Henry and Frances, with her famous actor brother, Peter, being the other. It was the second marriage for both Henry and Frances. In addition to Jane and Peter, Frances had another daughter, Frances de Villers Brokaw, with her first husband, George Tuttle Brokaw. Frances first husband, lawyer, George Tuttle Brokaw, died at age 55 on May 28, 1935. 

Jane's father Henry told her mother Frances that he wanted a divorce in August, 1949.  Henry's announcement combined with years of prior emotional problems (Frances had been sexually abused as a child), admitted herself into the Austen Riggs Psychiatric Hospital in January, 1950. On April 14th, 1950, Frances committed suicide at the hospital. It wasn't until years later that Jane found out the truth about her mother's suicide, having been told that her mother had died from a heart attack. Jane was 12 at the time of her mother's death.

Jane's father, Henry, went on to marry an additional 3 times after Frances' death (he was married a total of 5 times). 

Jane's interest in acting came after appearing with her father at a charity performance at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Jane ultimately ended up training at the Actors Studio after meeting Lee Strasberg. By coincidence, Jane was in class with another of my paternal cousins, Marilyn Monroe. 

Jane started getting roles in movies in 1960, and throughout the 1960's, Jane acted in 17 movies (from the information that I can find). After her 1965 movie, Cat Bayou, Jane came to prominence in Hollywood. Jane demonstrated that she was an actor with depth - playing both serious dramatic roles and comedies with the same convincing ability. Jane's first Oscar came in 1971 for Best Actress in Klute. Her second Oscar would come in 1978 for her movie Coming Home.

My first personal memory of Jane Fonda, the actress, was for her role in Fun with Dick and Jane, released in 1977, which was a comedy. The next role that I remember Jane in was in 9 to 5, another comedy starring alongside Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin, which was released in 1980 (and still seen regularly on TV). Many more movies and TV shows would follow, and each time Jane played the roles to perfection which, in my humble opinion, is being able to make the viewer forget the actor and believe the character that they are portraying. Jane manages to do accomplish this feat each and every time.

Jane Seymour Fonda is not a one-dimensional person, however, and there is a lot more to the lady than acting. Jane is also a passionate activist who throws herself fully behind causes in which she believes. Jane has been involved in the struggle to change the world starting with the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements in the 1960's right up to the present day, where she strongly supports the environment. Jane's activism has drawn negative comments and attention from The White House under President Richard Nixon who, through his from negative propaganda campaigns, attempted to ruin Jane's reputation. The negative propaganda from Jane's Vietnam War opposition still exists to this day.

Whether you support the same causes as Jane or not, her support and belief in the causes that she holds dear cannot be criticized. When Jane believes that a change is needed for the greater good, she gets behind the cause 100% and puts herself on the front lines of change. For that, no one has the right to criticize her; you can only respect her.

So much more could be written about  Jane Seymour Fonda: she is a mother of 3 children, she is a philanthropist, she operates several charities, an exceptionally talented actor, a writer and an outspoken believer in changing things that she believes should be changed. Unfortunately I cannot do this cousin justice, but if you look, you will find reams of information about this incredible woman.

Jane Seymour Fonda, a paternal cousin descended from our mutual Grandparents, King Malcom III and his wife, Queen Saint Margaret. Although 28 generations separate us, and we have never met each other I am still proud to call her "family".

© 2023 by William B. Taylor

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