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What ethnicity was Priscilla Presley?

Priscilla Presley is one of the most iconic women in American pop culture history. As the wife of music legend Elvis Presley, she captivated the world with her beauty and charm. However, there has been much speculation and curiosity regarding Priscilla’s ethnic background over the years. In this article, we will explore Priscilla’s family history and ancestry to uncover the truth about her ethnicity.

Priscilla’s Parents and Upbringing

Priscilla Ann Wagner was born on May 24, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents were James and Anna Wagner. James Wagner was of German descent, born in Indiana. Anna Wagner (née Lillian Marie Odden) was born in Norway in 1912 before immigrating to the United States. Based on the heritage of her parents, Priscilla Presley is of primarily Norwegian and German ancestry.

Priscilla was raised for the first few years of her life in Brooklyn. When she was 5 years old, her family relocated to Queens, New York. At age 14, Priscilla’s father was transferred by the US Navy to Wiesbaden, Germany. It was in Germany that the young Priscilla would be first introduced to Elvis Presley in 1959, at a party at his home. Two years later, Priscilla moved to Memphis to live with Elvis at Graceland.

Theories and Speculation About Priscilla’s Ethnicity

Despite Priscilla’s quite clearly European heritage based on her parents, there have been various rumors and theories regarding her ethnicity over the decades. Here are some of the key speculation points:

  • Some claimed Priscilla had Native American ancestry – this was likely confusion and conflation with Elvis’s Cherokee heritage.
  • Rumors surfaced that Priscilla’s mother belonged to a religious group called the Black Jews, implying African heritage.
  • Unsubstantiated theories emerged that Priscilla’s mother Anna was partly of Hispanic or Latino background.
  • Some accounts suggested Priscilla’s father James had Italian ancestry, though evidence is lacking.

In examining these claims, there is little to no concrete evidence to substantiate any of them. Most accounts trace her mother Anna back to Norway and her father James to Germany. While the rumors added an air of mystery and exoticism to Priscilla’s public image, they do not hold up to scrutiny.

Priscilla’s Self-Described Ethnicity

When the speculations and rumors about the ethnic roots swirled around Priscilla, she addressed the issue herself in various interviews over the years. Priscilla described her heritage as follows:

“I’m mostly Norwegian. We did a lot of research on our family – way back I mean – and a little bit of German is there, and a little bit of English is there, but basically I’m Norwegian.”

In another interview, she reiterated these origins and described herself as “a white girl, Norwegian with blue eyes.” Based on Priscilla’s own account, it is clear she identifies her ethnicity as primarily Scandinavian Norwegian, with some German and traces of English ancestry as well.

DNA Analysis and Genealogical Research

In recent years, advances in DNA testing and genealogical research have enabled a clearer picture of Priscilla’s ancestry. Companies like 23andMe and Ancestry allow people to get their DNA tested and traced back hundreds or thousands of years. Third-party researchers have also delved extensively into Priscilla’s family tree. Here are some of their key findings:

  • Genetic testing confirmed Priscilla’s Norwegian heritage, tracing DNA back to regions in southern Norway.
  • Church records from Norway evidenced ancestors from towns like Bergen and Stavanger.
  • Marriage certificates and census data pointed to German roots on Priscilla’s father’s side.
  • No definitive Native American, Latino, or African ancestry was discovered in DNA tests or genealogical records.

Modern DNA and ancestry analysis validates what Priscilla herself asserted about her origins. She is primarily of Norwegian descent, with German, English, and other northern European lineage as well. There is no genetic or documental basis for rumors about her having non-European ethnicity.


In conclusion, available evidence indicates Priscilla Presley is of predominantly Norwegian heritage, with German, English, and general northern European ancestry also in her family history. While speculation has swirled for years about potential Native American, African American, Latino, or other ethnic roots, these rumors lack sound basis. Priscilla’s own accounts of her descent align with what extensive genealogical research has uncovered. She takes pride in her Norwegian background in particular, paying tribute to her Scandinavian origins. While the stories added intrigue to her public mystique, Priscilla Presley is indeed a Norwegian-American woman, with a dash of German and other northern European mixed in. That solves the mystery of her ethnicity and origins.

Parent Ethnicity
James Wagner (father) German
Anna Wagner (mother) Norwegian

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