Celebrities with Surprising Irish Roots

Posted March 17, 2016 by Amanda | No Comment

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! In celebration of the holiday, we take a look at some famous faces in Geni’s World Family Tree with surprising Irish ancestry.

Barack and Michelle Obama

Celebrities with Surprising Irish Roots

Image: Peta Souza / White House

The Obamas each have surprisingly deep Irish connections. The President’s Irish ancestry can be traced through his maternal lineage. His third great grandfather, Fulmoth Kearney, was born in Offaly, Ireland in 1830. He would later immigrate to the United States along with other members of his family. Interestingly, Michelle Obama is also descended from Irish immigrants. Her third great grandmother was a slave named Melvinia. She was impregnated by her owner’s son, Charles Shields. Shields was a descendant of Andrew Shields, a protestant Irish immigrant who fought against the British during the American Revolutionary War.

Martin Sheen

Celebrities with Surprising Irish Roots

Image: City of Boston Archives

At first glance, you may not think that actor Martin Sheen would have Irish roots. Born Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez, Sheen adopted his stage name to help him gain acting parts. Both of his parents were immigrants; his father, Francisco Estévez Martinez, was born in Galicia, Spain and his mother, Mary-Ann Phelan, was born in Borrisokane, Ireland. Sheen even holds Irish citizenship thanks to his mother. In a surprising discovery, he found that his uncle, Michael Phelan, was a leading figure of the IRA and fought during the Irish Civil War.

Walt Disney

Celebrities with Surprising Irish Roots

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Visionary Walt Disney was of Irish and German descent. His great grandfather, Arundel Elias Disney, was born in Kildare, Ireland in 1801. In 1834, Arundel and his brother immigrated to the U.S. with their families. Arundel soon left for Canada, where he married a fellow Irish immigrant.

Muhammad Ali

Celebrities with Surprising Irish Roots

Image: Ronald Reagan Library

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali also has Irish roots. During the 1840s, his great grandfather, Abe Grady, emigrated from the small town of Ennis in County Clara, Ireland to the U.S. He settled in Kentucky where he married a free black woman. In 2009, Ali made his own journey to the town of his Irish heritage where he had the opportunity to meet with distant relatives. Thousands joined Ali in the small town to celebrate as he was made the first Honorary Freeman of Ennis.

Robert De Niro

Celebrities with Surprising Irish Roots

Image: Petr Novák / Wikimedia Commons

Actor Robert De Niro is often known as one of the most famous Italian-American actors in Hollywood. But did you know he also has Irish ancestry? His paternal grandmother, Helen M. O’Reilly was of Irish descent. When De Niro was a young man, he spent some time hitchhiking from Dublin to the Aran Islands.

Do you have Irish roots?

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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