Pierpont Morgan descended from five generations of distinguished citizens of New England—both sides of his family had come to the New World before the Revolution. One of his maternal ancestors was James Pierpont, a founder of Yale, whose daughter married Jonathan Edwards. Further down that line came the Reverend John Pierpont, Pierpont's maternal grandfather, a Unitarian minister, poet, and radical antislavery and temperance activist. On the Morgan side, Pierpont's grandfather, Joseph, cofounded the Aetna Insurance Company and left an estate worth about $1 million in 1847. Junius Morgan (Joseph's son) married the Reverend Pierpont's daughter Juliet in 1836. A year later, their first child, Pierpont, was born in Hartford. They also had three daughters—Sarah, Mary, and Juliet—and Pierpont's only brother, Junius, who lived only to the age of eleven.
After his success with a Hartford dry goods firm, Junius Morgan accepted a partnership in the investment house of George Peabody & Co. (later to become J. S. Morgan & Co.,) and moved his entire family to London in 1854. Pierpont had just graduated from Boston's English High School. To prepare his son for a career in international banking, Junius sent Pierpont to Europe after high school to learn French and German. By the time he started work as an apprentice banker in New York in 1857 at the age of twenty, he was fluent in both languages and familiar with more cultures than most Americans of his day. For the next thirty years, he and his father worked together funneling capital from Europe to the emerging American economy, and Pierpont crossed the Atlantic at least once a year to meet with his London partners and continue his European cultural education.