William Penn

William Penn (1644 - 1718)

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William Penn
Born in Barking, London, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Rickmansworth Parish, Hertfordshire, Englandmap
Husband of — married in Bristol, Gloucestershire, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Ruscomb, Twyford, Berkshire, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 4 Apr 2011 | Last significant change: 13 Dec 2018
18:59: Debi (McGee) Hoag edited the Biography for William Penn (1644-1718). (added link to Glielma's profile in the Burial section) [Thank Debi for this]
This page has been accessed 7,982 times.

Categories: William Penn and Early Pennsylvania Settlers Project | Activists and Reformers | Quaker Notables | Prisoners of the Tower of London | Prisoners of the Fleet Prison | Canterbury (1699) | Quaker Emigration to America | William Penn's Great Charter | Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Slave Owners | Quaker Abolitionists | Fleet of William Penn | Welcome, sailed August 1682.

William Penn
William Penn was a part of William Penn's Pennsylvania Settlers community.
Join: William Penn and Early Pennsylvania Settlers Project
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Activists and Reformers poster
William Penn was a part of the Abolitionist Movement.
Join: Activists and Reformers Project



Penn at 22.
Penn at 22.
William Penn was born October 14, 1644, in London, England. He was the son of Admiral William and Margaret (Jasper) Vanderschuren Penn. His father was an English admiral, a landowner, and was knighted by King Charles II; his mother, Margaret Jasper Vanderschuren, was the daughter of a merchant. [1] William was the brother of Margaret, Mary and Richard Penn.[2]

Baptism 23 Oct 1644 All Hallows, Barking By the Tower notes his parents where of the Tower Liberty. [3]

William was a Quaker

Although a member of a distinguished Anglican family and the son of Adm. Sir William Penn, Penn joined the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers at the age of 22. The Quakers obeyed their "inner light", which they believed to come directly from God, refused to bow or take off their hats to any man, and refused to take up arms. [4]

Tower of London, c.1670
Tower of London, c.1670
Penn was a close friend of George Fox, the founder of the Quakers. These were times of turmoil, just after Cromwell's death, and the Quakers were suspect, because of their principles which differed from the state imposed religion and because of their refusal to swear an oath of loyalty to Cromwell or the King.[5]

William Penn, as a Quaker, was persecuted for his beliefs in England. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London for seven months during 1668-69 for pamphleteering[6]


Penn founded Pennsylvania as a bastion of religious freedom. It was one of two colonies, along with Rhode Island, that tolerated Quakers . Penn wanted to establish a colony where people could live harmony:

Ferris, J. L.(1680). The Birth of Pennsylvania.
Ferris, J. L.(1680). The Birth of Pennsylvania.[7]
Consequently, on June 24, 1680, Penn asked King Charles II (1660-1685) for a charter for land in America. The only available tract in eastern North America lay west of New Jersey, north of Maryland, and south of New York, an area that England had conquered from the Dutch in 1664 and which the King had given to his brother James, the Duke of York. After appropriate discussions the King granted Penn's request on March 4, 1681.[8]
Charter of Pennsylvania


William married twice, and had a large family ... 7 children with his first wife, and 8 with the second.

He first married Gulielmas Marias Springetts, daughter of William S. Springett and Lady Mary Proude Penington. They had the following children:

  1. Gulielma Maria (1671/2 - before 1685)
  2. Maria Margaret (born and died 1673/74)
  3. Springett (1674/5 - 1696)
  4. Letitia (1678 - 1746) m. William Awbrey (Aubrey)
  5. William, Jr. (1679/80 - 1720)
  6. Unnamed child (born and died 1682)
  7. Gulielma Maria (1685-1689)[2][9]

Two years after Gulielma's died, he married the 25-year-old daughter of Thomas Callowhill and Anna (Hannah) Hollister: Hannah Margaret Callowhill. Penn was 52. They had eight children over a twelve year period:

  1. John Penn (1699/00–1746). Single.
  2. Thomas Penn (1700/01–1775) m. Lady Juliana Fermor[10]
  3. Hannah Penn (1703 - 1707/8)
  4. Margaret Penn (1704/5 - 1771)
  5. Richard Penn, Sr. (1705 – 1771)
  6. Dennis Penn (1705/6 - 1721/2)
  7. Hannah Penn (1708 – 1709)
  8. Louis Penn (1707-1724)[11][12][9]

William Penn, his second wife Hannah, and daughter Letitia Penn (by his first wife) sailed out of the Isle of Wight on September 3, 1699 on the Canterbury, or Canterbury Merchant. The ship reportedly survived an attack by pirates during the voyage, which ended December 3, 1699 at Philadelphia[13] - a city planned and developed under Penn's direction.[12][9]

Death and Legacy

Although a slave owner,[14] Penn is remembered for peaceful tolerance. He forged a treaty with the local Leni Lenape Indians and saw that the tribe was respected and the terms of the treaty honored, saving the colony from the conflicts and attacks other English colonies suffered. [15]

William Penn contributed significantly to our form of government in the United States. Penn’s belief that “Religion and Policy…are two distinct things, have two different ends, and may be fully prosecuted without respect on to the other” took hold and became one of America’s most important ideals the separation of church and state which is the basis for religious freedom. [16]

Quakers believed that everyone had to seek God in his or her own way. Penn also thought that religious tolerance – or “liberty of conscience” – would create stronger governments and wealthier societies. Penn was unique among his fellow philosophers in that he had the opportunity to act on his beliefs. In Pennsylvania, religious tolerance was the law. [16] William Penn's belief that this would create wealth was disappointed. He had hoped that his colony would be profitable for him and his sons. It never became so:

"William Penn died penniless in 1718, at his home in Ruscombe, near Twyford in Berkshire, and was buried in an unmarked grave next to his first wife in the cemetery of the Jordans Quaker meeting house near Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire in England. His wife as sole executor became the de facto proprietor [of Pennsylvania] until she died in 1726."[17] William is buried at the Old Jordans Cemetery, Jordans, Chiltern District, Buckinghamshire, England.[18][19]


Old Jordans Cemetery, Jordans, Chiltern District, Buckinghamshire, England
Find A Grave Memorial# 802

William Penn and Hannah Callowhill were declared US Honorary Citizens by Ronald Reagan in 1984.[20]

Penn's Works



Fantel, H. (1974). William Penn: Apostle of Dissent, (pp.6). NY: William Morrow & Co.; ISBN 0-688-00310-9, p 72
Hirsch, A. D.(n.d.). A Tale of Two Wives. ournals.psu.edu.
Impey, E. & Parnell, G. (2000). The Tower of London: The Official Illustrated History. Merrell Publishers in association with Historic Royal Palaces. ISBN 1-85894-106-7.
Jenkins, H.M. (n.d.). The Family of William Penn: Founder of Pennsylvania, Ancestry and Descendants. Google Books.
Weems, M.L. (n.d.). The Life of William Penn: The Settler of Pennsylvania, the Founder of Philadelphia, and One of the First Lawgivers in the Colonies, Now United States, in 1692. N.p. Google Books.
Some Pennsylvania Dutch Genealogies (n.d.). N.p. archive.org. E--book.
Standing, H. (n.d.). Quakers in Delaware in the Time of William Penn. nc-chap.org. PDF.
William Penn: An Historical Biography Founded on Family and State Papers by William Hepworth Dixon, Hepworth Dixon Published 1856


  1. Biography: William Penn. www.biography.com.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Some Pennsylvania Dutch Genealogies (n.d.).
  3. https://www.ancestry.ca/interactive/1624/47188_302022005561_0175-00383?pid=22117430
  4. Beliefs and Practices of the Religious Society of Friends. www.religioustolerance.org.
  5. Fantel, 1974
  6. Impey & Parnell, 2000
  7. Penn, holding paper, standing and facing King Charles II, in the King's breakfast chamber at Whitehall (Wikipedia)
  8. Colonial Days. Pennsylvania State Community Documents, 1681 -1776. www.portal.state.pa.us.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Jenkins, n.d.
  10. Father: Thomas, 1st Earl of Pomfret; 4th dau.
  11. Hirsch, n.d.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Wikipedia: William Penn.
  13. paraphrased from Category: Canterbury (1699) citing Wikipedia: Canterbury (ship)
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Penn owned at least 12 slaves," but "gradually came around to advocating abolition." When he died, Pennsylvania was still, "a long way from ending the practice." (Pennsylvania slavery by the numbers. www.ushistory.org).
  15. Penn Treaty. penntreatymuseum.org.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Penn in American History. www.pennsburymanor.org.
  17. See links, citations and family tree (Wikipedia).
  18. findagrav.com.
  19. Wikipedia: Jordans, Buckinghamshire
  20. Proclamation 5284. www.reagan.utexas.edu.
  21. See more of Penn's work at Wikipedia.
Edited for Jan 2014 Style Standards. See Gedcoms in Changes.


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It may be possible to confirm family relationships with William by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. Y-chromosome DNA test-takers in his direct paternal line on WikiTree:
  • Dale Penn Find Relationship : Y-Chromosome Test, haplogroup R-M269

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Images: 12
William Penn (1644-1718)
William Penn (1644-1718)

William Penn's Signature
William Penn's Signature

William Penn Image 3
William Penn Image 3

The Birth of Pennsylvania
The Birth of Pennsylvania

Seal of the City of Philadelphia
Seal of the City of Philadelphia

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On 8 Dec 2018 at 00:14 GMT Kathy Rabenstein wrote:

This seems to have two burial spots for Wm. Penn--next to his first wife and in Old Jordans Cemetery. Should be explained if body divided.

On 31 Jan 2018 at 11:37 GMT Debi (McGee) Hoag wrote:

Because William arrived on one the Penn Fleet ships (obviously LOL), the Penn Project is a better choice to manage the profile. Therefore the Quakers Project box should be removed. I tried to change it to the {{ Quakers_Sticker }} but couldn't get the placement correct within the biography. Would someone else please give it a try. At the least, the {{ Quakers }} template needs to come off the profile. Thanks, Debi - Quakers Project Leader

PS sorry about the duplicate message. Discovered how to make the set braces appear for the Template names in the comment.

On 5 Nov 2017 at 22:07 GMT William Collins wrote:

Son Louis appears to be undocumented. Perhaps that is why he is listed in an incorrect order. There was an eighth child of William and Hannah: A child, unnamed, b. or d. 1697.

This child is noted by Mr Cadbury in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, LXXXI, 79.

On 1 Apr 2017 at 20:21 GMT M (Joslin) J wrote:

Wondering about his inclusion as a slaveholder and an abolitionist  ??

On 23 Apr 2016 at 18:35 GMT Ken Wise wrote:

I am proud to say that I have found several ancestors of mine that bought, or was warranted land, from William and his sons John and Thomas. John Penn's house, Thomas' son, is not far from where I live, in Selinsgrove, PA.

On 9 Jul 2014 at 17:15 GMT Liz (Noland) Shifflett wrote:

intriguing bio here

On 2 Jul 2014 at 00:57 GMT Paula J wrote:

There are two children named Gulielma Maria and two named Hannah. Please do not merge these as they are not the same people.

On 1 Jul 2014 at 11:37 GMT Paula J wrote:

I propose we disconnect Ann as wife from William Penn. I cannot find any evidence he was married more than twice.

Anyone disagree?

William is 24 degrees from Rosa Parks, 21 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 11 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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