Prince’s Family Secrets: A Peek into the Icon’s Family Tree


With seven Grammy Awards, nineteen Top 10 songs, and an Oscar for best original song score, Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson) will go down in history as one of the most successful musical artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


Many recall his dispute with his record label and subsequent name change in the 1990s (remember when he went by the “Artist Formerly Known as Prince”?).

Others remember his legendary 2007 Super Bowl halftime show, consistently ranked as one of the top halftime shows of all time.

The fascinating side of the artist that fewer may be familiar with is his “pre-purple, ancestral past,” as expert genealogist Megan Smolenyak  called it. Here are some fascinating tidbits from Prince’s family past she uncovered and shared in the Huffington Post:

  • Louisiana Roots: Like other famous musicians ranging from Beyonce to Fats Domino and Tim McGraw, Prince had strong Louisiana ties. Though the artist himself was born in Minnesota, all four of his grandparents were born in Louisiana.
  • A Presidential Connection:  One of the artist’s great-uncles is buried at Burr Oak, on the outskirts of Chicago. It is the final resting place of many African-American celebrities, including dozens of famous athletes and blues musicians. Among those buried there is one of Michelle Obama’s uncles.
  • Twins and More Twins: Twins run on both sides of Prince’s family. His mother was a twin. And there were also twins on his father’s side. Can you imagine if Prince had been a twin?
  • A Family History of Pushing the Envelope: Prince was known for flouting social norms and always doing the unexpected. Apparently this trait ran in the family. One of Prince’s great-great-grandmothers took a second husband who was less than half her age. He was still a teen and only five years older than his eldest stepchild.
  • Scandinavian Ancestry: Prince’s last name, Nelson, is Anglo-Scandinavian and stems from the Medieval personal name of Nel or Neal.

Among the surnames that appear in Prince’s family tree are:

    • Shaw
    • Phillips
    • Nelson
    • Jenkins
    • Head
    • Hardy
    • Brooks
    • Bonnell

If you share any of these last names, there is a possibility you could be related to Prince. How cool would that be? 

1880 marriage of Ed Nelson to Emma Hardy at Claiborne Parish, Louisiana
1880 marriage of Ed Nelson to Emma Hardy, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana [source: Megan Smolenyak, Huffington Post]
According to Megan Smolenyak, “…two generations [Prince’s paternal grandfather and his parents] means that Prince undoubtedly had dozens, if not hundreds, of Nelson cousins in both Arkansas and Minnesota.”

What surprises await you in your family history? Could you be related to Prince? Find out today.



This post was based on an article by genealogy expert Megan Smolenyak, “Hey Prince, Your Roots Are Showing” that appeared in the Huffington Post.