A Glimpse at Bill Cosby's

Virginia Roots

By James Pylant

Beloved actor and comedian Bill Cosby is a sixth generation descendant of a slave named Maria, who was owned by the Cosby family of Nelson County, Virginia.

The comedian's descent from Maria was learned after he commissioned genealogist Johni Cerny to undertake in-depth research on his ancestry. Ms. Cerny's article, "From Maria to Bill Cosby: A Case Study in Tracing Black Slave Ancestry" appeared in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 1, pages 5-14.

Below is a summary of Bill Cosby's ancestry:

Maria1, a slave, born ca. 1797 - died after 1829.

Sam Thomas2 Cosby, born ca. 1820-1823, Nelson County, Virginia - died apparently died before 1870. Spouse unknown.

Zachariah "Zach"3 Cosby, born 17 January 1841 in Nelson County, Virginia - died 10 July 1924 in Nelson County; married ca. 1865, to Louisa Daniel Johnson.

Samuel Russell4 Cosby, born 21 December 1881 in Schuyler, Nelson County, Virginia - died in January 1977 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; married 24 January 1912 in Amherst County, Virginia, to Gertrude Thornhill.

William Henry5 Cosby, born 9 March 1913 in Schuyler, Nelson County, Virginia - died 25 November 1974 in Boston, Massachusetts; married 6 September 1936 in Philadelphia to Anna Pearl Hite.

Dr. William Henry "Bill"6 Cosby, born 12 July 1937 in Philadephia, Pennsylvania; married 25 January 1964 in Gilney, Maryland, to Camille Olivia Hanks.

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