Is my Grandfather William Kempe, Shakespeare's clown?

+7 votes

I'm wondering if my Greatxa few Grandpa Kempe is the same William Kempe who was a clown of Shakespeare's day. Here the wikipedia profile for William Kempe  THE CLOWN can be seen:


& here is my Grandpa William Kempe's wikitree profile


I think its really possible that they could be the same person. On the wikipedia CLOWn page it says that William Kempe is estimated to have passed on around 1603. My grandpa William Kempe is recorded to have been buried 27 March 1597.

There are stories on the wikipedia page of William Kempe the clown being alive after 1597 I don't know their legitamacy though  especially because William Kempe the clowns death date is listed as estimated to be around 1603 so it' could be any year around then... We are talking over 400 years ago.... Any new sources or opinions are gratefully appreciated... Much thanks 



WikiTree profile: William Kempe
in Genealogy Help by Living Cuddeback G2G1 (1.2k points)
edited by Living Cuddeback

2 Answers

+3 votes
Best answer
It's not possible based on the sources on your profiles. I would start with your own earliest KEMPE. Who are his parents ? Find and ask for sources before you make the next leap. Work on the Kempes in your family and the Kempes in their location. Location is a big thing when working with a common name like "Kempe"

Don't start going down from "Clown Kempe"; Work backward from YOUR Kempe and then, you will be able to prove your theory. One never knows.
by Maggie N. G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
selected by Sandi Wiggins


Re: William Kempe, the actor, clown -  although the WikiPedia article " suggested that he was a member of the Kempe family of Olantigh, Kent " , his parentage is unknown. It does not mention wife/children because probably he either did not have any or records in that time period are not available.

+1 vote
Anything is possible, but it seems unlikely. even the wikipedia article dismisses the claim that he was the son of sir Thomas Kempe, as the William in their family has a known burial. Had the son of a prominent family turned actor, they would have publicly disowned him. Believe me: I know it from my family. My great-great grandparents came from prominent families (with Magna carta and Plantagenet ancestry). They became actors in the second half of the 19th C and were paid to go to Australia. That was 400 years after good old William. He may have been a descendant of someone else back in the line, though, as family fortunes could plummet for younger sons and illegitimate children.
by Susan Scarcella G2G6 Mach 8 (81.6k points)

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