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On Dec 5 2013 the great animator Walt Disney would have been 112th years old. Happy Birthday Mr Disney. In celelbration of his birthday we decided to take a look as his Irish roots. 

An Irish family history website, FindMyPast, have discovered records which reveal that Walt Disney’s ancestors rented 33 acres of land in County Kilkenny.

Dublin based website have uncovered documents clearly showing the family’s links to the small parish of Rathbeagh.

The cartoonist has long been rumoured to have ancestry in Ireland, but the newly discovered records show, in detail, Disney’s family history.

General Manager of Cliona Weldon said “Disney is derived from the Normandy French name D’Isigny and it is believed the family is descended from Normans who came to Ireland in 1691.

“So you see, Disney’s Irish ancestry was not a Mickey Mouse story after all. It’s amazing what you can find out about your own family history when you delve into the records.”

Walt Disney’s great-grandfather Arundel Elias Disney was born in Kilkenny c.1801. In 1832 Arundel Elias married Maria Swan who gave birth to their son Kepple Disney, Walt Disney’s grandfather, on the 2nd of November of the same year. Arundel and Maria would go on to have 16 children, including Kepple.

In 1834 Arundel and his family reached America and eventually settled in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. Elias Disney, Walt’s father, was born to Kepple and his wife Mary Richardson in 1859.
The documents uncovered by clearly show Kepple’s rental of 33 acres of land in the parish of Rathbeagh, with further documents showing the Disney family’s sale of lands in Clone, County Kilkenny, possibly before their departure to America.

It’s a puzzle that many other Irish genealogists have been working on for some time and it seems the Findmypast’s latest finding has clarified a great deal.

Speaking to the Kilkenny People genealogist Pat Nolan said “There’s an old story of two towns vying to claim Walt Disney’s heritage. They called in a genealogist to trace the family. After two months study the genealogist had narrowed it down to six towns!”

Nolan said there were 512 ancestors of Walt Disney who are known to have lived in Ireland.

The Kilkenny People also reports that the Disney family is believed to come from Galway after 1740. In Galway they had been a powerful political force where they had controlled the Mayorship and the post of “Collector of the Port” for several years.

It has also been alleged that they were involved in smuggling through the control they welded at the port. One James Disney is alleged to have been heavily involved in smuggling. One of his accomplices was Caption Smith, the commander of a navy frigate who policed the bay.

Eventually the Disney family arrived in Marceline, Missouri where Walt Disney was born on 5th December, 1901. At the age of 16 he served in the Red Cross as an ambulance driver in WWI. His ambulance would have been hard to miss as he had decorated it with his own cartoons.

When he got home he stayed in Kansas and worked as an advertising cartoonist. In 1920 he created and marketed his first cartoon.

Just twelve years later, at the outbreak of WWII Disney had built his own studio in Burbank, California. He employed over 1,000 artists, animators, story-men and technicians. His studio created some of animations greatest hits including “Pinocchio”, “Fantasia”, “Dumbo” and “Bambi”.

Here’s a short video on the Walt Disney’s own life: