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The Black Family

' Were - were your parents Death Eaters as well?'
'No, no, but believe me, they thought Voldemort had the right idea, they were all for the purification of the wizarding race, getting rid of Muggle-borns and having pure-bloods in charge. [....] I bet my parents thought Regulus was a right little hero for joining up at first.'

--Harry speaking with Sirius Black (OP6)

Black Family Crest, after design by J.K.Rowling.Ancestry: mostly pure-blood; descendants of mixed blood are not recognized by the family.
Family in general: "The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black" (OP6); Sirius' parents were convinced that to be a 'Black' made you "practically royal."
Family crest is mentioned in OP6 but not described; however, Rowling drew it on her Black Family Tree. It shows a shield with greyhounds rampant charged with a chevron, 2 five-pointed stars and a short sword. In the formal language of heraldry, it is: "Sable, a chevron between two mullets in chief and a sword in base, argent." (Thanks to Richard for the terminology).
Family motto: Toujours pur ("always pure" in French) (from tapestry in OP6 and BFT).
Tapestry: a tapestry exists at number twelve Grimmauld Place that has, according to Kreacher, been in the family for seven centuries (OP6). On it the family's births, marriages and deaths are embroidered with gold thread; family members who have been disowned have been "blasted" from the fabric (a small burn like a cigarette burn is where their name is).
Important sources of information on the Black family: OP4 where we meet the portrait of Sirius' mother; OP6 where Sirius explains the Black family tapestry to Harry, and the Black Family Tree, a hand-drawn tree that Rowling donated to Book Aid International in January of 2006. We believe that this tree is meant to represent a portion of the tapestry.

Related pages:

The known Black family,
in rough chronological order

Sirius Black (1845-1853?)
Older sibling of Phineas Nigellus, Elladora, and Isla. Died when he was around 8 years old.
Possible name derivation: Sirius=seirios (Greek) meaning "burning;" Sirius=the "Dog Star," the brightest one in the Canis Major ("Great Dog") constellation.

Phineas Nigellus Black by Lisa M. Rourke. Phineas Nigellus Black (1847-1925)
Parentage not given (BFT).
Three siblings: Sirius, Elladora, and Isla (BFT).
Hogwarts: Slytherin (first year 1858 or 1859); later Hogwarts Headmaster.
Married to Ursula Flint (BFT).
Five children: Sirius (1877-1952) husband of Hesper Gamp, Phineas (disowned, dates unknown), Cygnus (1889-1943) husband of Violetta Bulstrode; Belvina (1886-1962); Arcturus (1884-1959) (BFT).
Great-great-grandfather of Sirius Black, who has been known to refer to him as the least-popular Headmaster Hogwarts has ever had (OP6). (More...)

Elladora Black (1850-1931)
Parentage not given (BFT).
Three siblings: Sirius, Phineas Nigellus, and Isla (disowned). (BFT).
Never married, no children.
Sirius had an "Aunt Elladora" who started the family tradition of beheading house-elves when they got too old to carry tea trays (OP6); it is unclear whether this is the same person as Phineas' sister. Perhaps Sirius' aunt was simply named for her.
Possible name derivation: nothing found; not a star or constellation.

Isla (Black) Hitchens (dates unknown)
Parentage not given (BFT).
Three siblings: Sirius, Phineas Nigellus, and Elladora (BFT).
Disowned because she 'married Muggle Bob Hitchens', represented by a burn hole in the Black Family Tree (key#1) (BFT).
Possible name derivation: 'Isla' means 'island' in Spanish; it is also the feminine version of a Scottish name referring to the island Islay, which lies off of the west coast of Scotland (WEB LINKOEM).

Sirius Black (1877-1952)
Son of Phineas Nigellus Black and Ursula Flint (BFT).
Four siblings: three younger brothers, Phineas (disowned, dates unknown), Arcturus (1884-1959), Cygnus (1889-1943), and one younger sister, Belvina (1886-1962) (BFT).
Married to Hesper Gamp (BFT).
Three children: Arcturus (1901-1991) husband of Melania MacMillan, Lycoris (1904-1965), Regulus (1906-1959) (BFT).
Possible name derivation: Sirius=seirios (Greek) meaning "burning;" Sirius=the "Dog Star," the brightest one in the Canis Major ("Great Dog") constellation.  

Phineas Black (dates unknown)
Son of Phineas Nigellus Black and Ursula Flint (BFT).
Four Siblings: 1 older brother, Sirius (1877-1952), 2 younger brothers, Arcturus (1884-1959), Cygnus (1889-1943), and 1 younger sister, Belvina (1886-1962) (BFT).
Disowned because he 'supported Muggle rights' represented by a burn hole in the Black Family Tree (key#2) (BFT).

Arcturus Black (1884-1959)
Son of Phineas Nigellus Black and Ursula Flint (BFT).
4 Siblings: 2 older brothers, Sirius (1877-1952), Phineas (disowned, dates unknown), Cygnus (1889-1943), and 1 younger sister, Belvina (1886-1962) (BFT).
Married to Lysandra Yaxley (BFT).
Three daughters, Callidora (1915-) and Charis (1919-1973); Cedrella (disowned, dates unknown) (BFT).
Possible name derivation: Arcturus is the brightest star in the constellation Boötes the Herdsman, and the fourth brightest star in the sky: only Sirius, Canopus and Alpha Centauri outshine it. Loosely translated from Greek as "Guardian of the bear."

Belvina (Black) Burke (1886-1962)
Daughter of Phineas Nigellus Black and Ursula Flint (BFT).
4 Siblings: All older brothers, Sirius (1877-1952), Phineas (disowned, dates unknown), Cygnus (1889-1943), and Arcturus (1884-1959). (BFT)
Married to Herbert Burke (BFT).
Children: Two sons, one daughter (BFT).
Name origins? Not a star or constellation; in a Latin context it would mean something like 'lovely wine.' Possible associations with Baal or Beltane. 

Cygnus Black (1889-1943)
Son of Phineas Nigellus Black and Ursula Flint (BFT).
4 Siblings: 2 older brothers, Sirius (1877-1952), Phineas (disowned, dates unknown), 1 younger brother, Arcturus (1884-1959) and 1 younger sister, Belvina (1886-1962). (BFT)
Married to Violetta Bulstrode.
4 children: Pollux (1912-1990), Cassiopeia (1915-1992), Marius (dates unknown; disowned), and Dorea (1920-1977) (BFT).
Possible name derivation: 'Cygnus' = a male swan (Latin). In Greek mythology, 'Cycnus' was the Musician-king of the Ligurians who was turned into a swan (WEB LINKEM). It is also another name for the constellation called "The Northern Cross."

Arcturus Black (1901-1991)
Parentage: Son of Sirius Black and Hesper Gamp (BFT).
Two younger siblings: Lycoris (1904-1965) and Regulus (1906-1959).
Married to Melania MacMillan.
Two children: Lucretia and Orion.
Grandfather of Sirius and Regulus Black.
NOTE: It is unclear if this is the Grandfather who was awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class for "Services to the Ministry" (OP6). This grandfather could also have been his mother's father, Pollux.
Possible name derivation: Arcturus is the brightest star in the constellation Boötes the Herdsman, and the fourth brightest star in the sky: only Sirius, Canopus and Alpha Centauri outshine it. Loosely translated from Greek as "Guardian of the bear."

Lycoris Black (1904-1965)
Daughter of Sirius Black and Hesper Gamp (BFT).
2 siblings: older brother Arcturus (1901-1991) and younger brother Regulus (1906-1959) (BFT).
Not married, no children. (BFT).
Possible name derivation: Lycoris is the horticultural name for plants in the lily family. In Ovid and Virgil she was a mistress of Marc Antony (WEB LINKLewis & Short).

Regulus Black (1906-1959)
Son of Sirius Black and  Hesper Gamp (BFT).
Two older siblings: 1 brother Arcturus (1901-1991) and 1 sister Lycoris (1904-1965) (BFT).
Not married, no children (BFT).
This Regulus would have died just 2 years before his namesake, Sirius' brother, was born.

Pollux Black (1912-1990)
Son of Cygnus and Violetta (Bulstrode) Black.
3 younger siblings: Cassiopeia (1915-1992), Marius (disowned, dates unknown), and Dorea (1920-1977).
Married to Irma Crabbe.
3 children: Walburga (1925-1985), Alphard (disowned, dates unknown) and Cygnus (1938-1992) who married Druella Rosier.
Grandfather of Belletrix, Andromedia and Narcissa.
Grandfather of Sirius and Regulus Black.
NOTE: It is unclear if this is the Grandfather who was awarded Order of Merlin, First Class for "Services to the Ministry" (OP6). This grandfather could also have been his father's father, Arcturus.

Cassiopeia Black (1915-1992)
Daughter of Cygnus and Violetta (Bulstrode) Black.
3 siblings: 2 older brothers Pollux (1912-1990) and Marius (disowned, dates unknown),  younger sister Dorea(1920-1977). She never married nor had children.

Callidora (Black) Longbottom (b. 1915)
Daughter of Arcturus and Lysandra Black.
Two siblings: sister Charis and Cedrella (BFT).
Married to Harfang Longbottom (BFT).
Children: One son and one daughter (BFT).
Possible name derivation: Callidora is a parasite that preys on moths and butterflies. Greek for "gift of beauty."

Marius Black (disowned, dates unknown)
Son of Cygnus and Violetta (Bulstrode) Black.
3 siblings: 1 older brother Pollux, older sister Cassiopeia (1915-1992), and younger sister Dorea (1920-1977).
Disowned for being 'a squib' represented by a burn hole  in the Black Family Tree (key#3) (BFT).

Cedrella Black (disowned, dates unknown)
Daughter of Arcturus and Lysandra Black.
Two sisters: Callidora and Charis (BFT).
Married to Septimus Weasley.
Disowned because she 'married Septimus Weasley' and represented by a burn hole  in the Black Family Tree (key#4) (BFT).

Charis (Black) Crouch (1919-1973)
Daughter of Arcturus and Lysandra Black.
Two older sisters: Callidora and Cedrella (BFT).
Married to Caspar Crouch (BFT).
Children: One son, two daughters (BFT). Her son may have been Barty Crouch, Sr.
Possible name derivation: Greek for "grace or kindness;" a minor Greek Goddess, the Consort of Hephaistos.

Dorea (Black) Potter (1920-1977)
Daughter of Cygnus and Violetta (Bulstrode) Black (BFT).
Three older siblings: two brothers Pollux (1912-1990) and Marius (disowned, dates unknown), one sister Cassiopeia (1915-1992)  (BFT).
Married to Charlus Potter; they had one unnamed son (BFT).
It is doubtful that Dorea is Harry's grandmother because Jo has told us that "James's parents were elderly, were getting on a little when he was born, which explains the only child, very pampered, had-him-late-in-life-so-he's-an-extra-treasure, as often happens, I think. They were old in wizarding terms, and they died." (TLC) Dorea was only 57 when she died.
Possible name derivation: related to the names Dora and Dolores; Dorea is a bacterium found in human feces. Not a star or constellation.

Lucretia (Black) Prewett (1925-1992)
Daughter of Arcturus and Melania (MacMillan) Black (BFT).
One younger brother: Orion (1929-1979) (BFT).
Married to Ignatius Prewett.
No children indicated (BFT).
Aunt to Sirius and Regulus Black (BFT).

Walburga (Black) Black (1925-1985)
Mother of Sirius and Regulus, either very old (especially when you consider that her children were so much younger) or unnaturally aged.
Daughter of Pollux and Irma (Crabbe) Black.
Two younger brothers: Alphard (disowned) and Cygnus (1938-1992).
Married her second cousin Orion Black, so both she and her husband were descendants of Phineas Nigellus Black (also confirmed by BFT). This explains why she refers to the House of Black as the "house of my fathers" (OP4).

Descriptions from the books:
The moth-eaten velvet curtains Harry had passed earlier had flown apart, but there was no door behind them. For a split second, Harry thought he was looking through a window, a window behind which an old woman in a black cap was screaming and screaming as though she were being tortured - then he realised it was simply a life-size portrait, but the most realistic, and the most unpleasant, he had ever seen in his life.

The old woman was drooling, her eyes were rolling, the yellowing skin of her face stretched taut as she screamed; and all along the hall behind them, the other portraits awoke and began to yell, too, so that Harry actually screwed up his eyes at the noise and clapped his hands over his ears. (OP4)

Orion Black (1929-1979)
Father of Sirius and Regulus; he heavily fortified the family home (likely inherited by his wife, also a Black) at number twelve Grimmauld Place, London.
Son of Arcturus and Melania (MacMillan) Black (BFT).
One older sister: Lucretia (1915-1992).
Married his second cousin Walburga Black (BFT).

Cygnus Black (1929-1979)
Maternal uncle to Sirius and Regulus.
Married to Druella Rosier.
3 children: Bellatrix, Andromeda and Narcissa Black.
Great-grandson of Phineas Nigellus Black.
Possible name derivation: 'Cygnus' = a male swan (Latin). In Greek mythology, 'Cycnus' was the Musician-king of the Ligurians who was turned into a swan (EM). It is also another name for the constellation called "The Northern Cross."

Alphard Black (d. circa 1976-77)
Uncle to Sirius and Regulus. Alphard was their mother's brother; however he has been removed from the tapestry because he 'gave gold to his runaway nephew,' represented by a burn hole in the Black Family Tree (key#5) (BFT).
Possible name derivation: Alphard is a star in the heart of the Snake in the constellation Hydra.

Bellatrix (Black) Lestrange (1951-1998) (SEE Lestrange, Bellatrix Black)
Daughter of Cygnus and Druella (Rosier) Black. (BFT).
2 younger sisters: Andromeda (disowned) and Narcissa (Black) Malfoy.
Married Rodolphus Lestrange.
No children indicated (BFT).

Andromeda (Black) Tonks (?1953- )
Mother of Nymphadora, married Ted Tonks, a Muggle-born wizard. Sirius told Harry that Andromeda had been "blasted" off the Black family tapestry (OP6).
Disowned because she 'married Muggle Ted Tonks' and represented by a burn hole  in the Black Family Tree (key#7) (BFT).
Nymphadora was born in 1973, so Andromeda probably started Hogwarts in the early to mid-1960s making her older than her cousin Sirius. Andromeda was Sirius' favorite cousin. 

Narcissa (Black) Malfoy (b. 1955) (SEE Narcissa (Black) Malfoy)
Daughter of Cygnus and Druella (Rosier) Black. (BFT).
2  sisters: Bellatrix (Black) Lestrange, and Andromeda (disowned).
Married Lucius Malfoy.
One son, Draco (born 1980).

Sirius Black by Marta T. Sirius Black (1959 or 60 - June 1996) (SEE Sirius & Quotes by and about Sirius

Regulus Arcturus Black (1961-1979) (SEE Black, Regulus)
Regulus, a Death Eater at the age of 16, was the mysterious R.A.B. who stole the locket Horcrux and died in the process (DH10).

Dates unknown
Araminta Meliflua
Mrs. Black's cousin who "tried to force through a Ministry Bill to make Muggle-hunting legal" (OP6).
Possible name derivation: Mellifluous="flowing or sweetened with (or as if with) honey," (NSOED). Commonly used to describe a pleasant voice.

Disowned family members

According to Sirius, one could be disowned for disagreeing with the belief in pure-blood supremacy, being "blood traitors," or marrying a Muggle, Muggle-born or a half-blood wizard. On Rowling's Black Family Tree, disowned members are indicated with a numbered scratchy black circle.

  1. Isla Black - Sibling of Phineas Nigellus and Elladora (#1 on BFT) 'married Muggle Bob Hitchens'.
  2. Phineas Black - Second-oldest child of Phineas Nigellus and his wife Ursula Flint (#2 on BFT) 'supported Muggle rights'.
  3. Marius Black - Son of Cygnus and Violetta Bulstrode (#3 on BFT) 'a squib'.
  4. Cedrella (Black) Weasley - Sister of Charis and Callidora (#4 on BFT) 'married Septimus Weasley' (The Blacks consider the Weasley family to be 'blood-traitors').
  5. Alphard Black - Uncle of Sirius and Regulus Black, disowned for supporting Sirius (OP6) (#5 on BFT) 'gave gold to his runaway nephew'.
  6. Sirius Black - removed after he ran away from home (OP6) (#6 on BFT) 'ran away'.
  7. Andromeda (Black) Tonks - removed for marrying Muggle-born wizard Ted Tonks (OP6) (#7 on BFT) 'married Muggle Ted Tonks'.
  8. Nymphadora Tonks (OP6)

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Original page date 21 November, 2005; Last page update 8 October, 2007.