Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Meryl Streep's roots traced back to Famine-era Donegal

Irish interest: Meryl Streep
Irish interest: Meryl Streep

The same researcher who helped trace the Irish roots of US President Barack Obama has struck celebrity gold again by tracing the roots of Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep back to Co Donegal.

Her closest Irish relative is 72-year-old fourth cousin Jimmy Lafferty, who has just learned of the family connection. Both are descended from Streep's great-great-grandmother, Grace Strain, who emigrated to New York from Donegal.

"This is such a nice surprise. I hope she comes to see us," said Jimmy, who runs a holiday home business in the village of Dunfanaghy. "My grandmother was an Ellen Strain and she would have been a niece of Grace Strain."

Fiona Fitzsimons, the research director at genealogy company Eneclann, says efforts are now being made to contact the actress.

The 64-year-old's great-great-grandparents have been traced to the townland of Muntermellon on Horn Head, outside Dunfanaghy.

Streep had visited Donegal in September 1998 for the premiere of Dancing At Lughnasa, which was filmed in Glenties. She discovered her great-grandmother was a Grace Strain from the county and named her own daughter after her.

"Her great-great-grandparents on her mother's side were Manus McFadden, who was born in 1831, and his wife Grace Strain, who was born in 1842," said Ms Fitzsimons.

The couple married in the parish church in Doe in February 1864 and Fitzsimons found records of them arriving in New York on April 19, 1864.

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