Many of the main human characters in Star Trek have clear ethnic backgrounds or identities. For example, Picard is French, Chekov is Russian, Sisko is Creole, Scotty is Scottish, Sulu is Japanese (even when being played by a Korean actor), O'Brien is Irish, etc.

What is known about James T. Kirk's ethnic background? Canon establishes that he was from Iowa, and his name sounds similar to a North Germanic root meaning church (c.f. Swedish kirke), so I might guess that he is a descendant of Scandinavian settlers in the US Midwest. Another possibility is that his name derives from Lowland Scots kirk, also meaning church, possibly making him a descendant of Scots Protestant settlers in Appalachia ("Hillbillies") who later moved west onto the prairies in search of cheaper farmland. Is this discussed anywhere?

Note that I'm not asking about the provenance of the name Kirk specifically, but using it as a means to mention probable scenarios.

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    How do you define ethnic ancestry? By the ethnicity of someone's most distant paternal ancestor? By the ancestry of their most distant maternal ancestor? By the ethnicity of their two parents? By the ethnicity of their four grandparents? By the ethnicity of their eight great grandparents, their sixteen great great grandparents. etc.? In Kirk's era, allegedly born in the 2330s, the availability of computer genealogical records may enable Kirk to know all his ancestors back to the generation born about 1800, tens of thousands of ancestors possibly from many different ethnic groups. Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 17:54
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    @Loki Sisko is Creole.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 22:32
  • @M.A.Golding I'm not limiting it to direct paternal ancestry, just using that as an obvious springboard, especially considering that so many other Star Trek characters have last names that are stereotypically associated with their main ethnic identity. If there is a source that says that Kirk's mother's mother's father's mother's father's mother was Puerto Rican, that can be an answer or at least the start of one. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 12:20
  • Himbo-American?
    – RDFozz
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 16:39
  • Just opinion here, but if his name has northern german roots, and is from Iowa, he'd most likely have a German heritage.
    – CBredlow
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 20:13

1 Answer 1


The "Autobiography of James T. Kirk", told in-universe by Kirk himself and licensed by Paramount has some additional information to offer about Kirk's ethnicity. In short, his primary ethnic makeup appears to be broadly Caucasian (presumably Scottish given that the Kirk name evidently predates his American ancestry in the 1800s) as well as part-Italian(?) and part-Sioux on his mother's side.

The house was four bedrooms, two floors, brick and wood. It was built using authentic materials and was a perfect copy of the house that had stood on the property for over 100 years in the 19th and 20th centuries. The property had belonged to seven generations of Kirks; it was family legend that my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Franklin Kirk, purchased the farm in 1843 from Isaac Cody, who was the father of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. My ancestors in the modern era let caretakers manage it, until my grandparents moved back there when they retired. My father, George Kirk, also always had a strong desire to live there.

He had grown up as one of the original “Starfleet brats”; his father, Tiberius Kirk, was already in his twenties when Starfleet Academy was founded, and though he applied, he wasn’t accepted. Still wanting to get out into space, Tiberius signed on in ordnance and supply, eventually serving on several of the then-new starbases. He met and married my paternal grandmother, Brunhilde Ann Milano, a nurse, on Starbase 8. My father was born there on December 13, 2206.


My mother, born Winona Davis, was also from a spacegoing family; her father, James Ogaleesha Davis (his middle name, as befit his heritage, was Native American Sioux, although I never did find out what it meant), was in the first graduating class of Starfleet Academy; his wife, Wendy Felson, was in the third. My maternal grandfather was an engineer, my maternal grandmother a physician, and their daughter, my mother, attended the academy and decided she wanted to be an astrobiologist. She was four years younger than my father, and had him as an instructor in her Introduction to Federation History class.

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    Ogaleeshaa = wears a red shirt. Seriously?. He's a Star Fleet engineer, and is named "wears a red shirt." In TOS, engineering wore red shirts.
    – JRE
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 17:26
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    @JRE - I thought it was funny
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 17:29
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    @JRE: Is that a real name predating the text or one that was invented by whoever wrote that? Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 23:34
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    @ThePopMachine - A very quick check of my handy Sioux-to-English dictionary (that I just happen to have on the shelf behind me) reveals that it's a compound word; Ogle (meaning jerkskin shirt) and ja sa (meaning red). Presumably the name was invented by the author using much the same resource
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 0:01
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    @ThePopMachine - No, I cheated and used one from the internet; lakotadictionary.org/nldo.php
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 17:04

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