The full extent of Rosie O’Donnell’s Irish heritage was recently revealed in the U.S. show “Who do you think you are”
O’Donnell, who was born in Queens, New York, was aware her father’s family were Irish but did not realize that her mother, who passed away when she was 10, also had ties to the Emerald Isle.
As part of her genealogy journey conducted by the show, the actress and comedian was led to Canada, where she discovered her mother’s grandfather had arrived from Ireland in 1855.
It emerged her ancestors originally came from Rathmore County Kildare. During the Great Famine, they had moved to Naas where they remained in a workhouse for a year.
O’Donnell flew to Ireland as part of the show where she met with Mario Corrigan, Executive Librarian at Newbridge Library.
Together with his team, James Durney and Karel Kiely, Corrigan worked tirelessly to unearth O’Donnell’s roots.
Corrigan spoke to the Kildare Nationalist recently and said that finding her ancestor’s names in a Poor Law Union minutes book was very rare. He added that O’Donnell was found the experience very interesting.
“She was really nice and interested,” Corrigan told the Kildare Nationalist. “The first time she found out about the workhouse was here in this room with me.”
He said O’Donnell was “very emotional” to hear the Murtagh family story.
Speaking during the TV about the discovery O’Donnell said:
“I always had felt that my life was blessed and if the McDonald and Wolfe family had not sponsored Andrew and Anne [Murtagh], I would not be here…I would not be me. And that’s pretty intense to think about.”
Rosie O'Donnell profile page
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