One might think that ‘Bobby D’ is your quintessential New York Italian-American given that he has been in countless mafia films and has dual Italian-American citizenship, but he’s actually more Irish despite his name.
Three of De Niro’s four grandparents had Irish ancestry and the legendary actor himself even traveled around Ireland as a teenager in the 1960s. His father, Robert Sr, was half-Irish from his mother Helen O’Reilly’s side of the family, who are all Irish.
De Niro, when speaking about his time in Ireland as a teen stated, “I hitchhiked from Dublin to Galway and took the ferry to the Aran Islands, then I went down through the south. People gave me blankets for sleeping outside and I had breakfast with them in the morning. They were very friendly.”
When he was on his 1962 trip as a 19-year-old, De Niro said he didn’t find any of his distant Irish relatives, but has said in the past that he is trying his best to track down his Irish connection.
O’Reilly was completely Irish and traces her roots back to her own grandparents who escaped Ireland during the potato famine of the 1840s. They were Edward and Margaret O’Reilly, and John and Mary Burns.
Where the ‘De Niro’ comes in, however, was when his grandmother married World War I veteran and second generation Italian, Henry De Niro.
The Hollywood star has looked into his Italian roots as well, finding relatives of his Italian grandfather in Campobasso, a town between Naples and Rome.
His Irish roots are largely overlooked by many, but I would say there was at least a hint of his connection to the emerald isle when he couldn’t become a ‘fully-made’ man in Goodfellas because his character was part Irish.