Monday 26 September 2016

He's born in the USA - but Bruce's people are Lilywhites

Claire McCormack

Published 18/10/2015 | 02:30

BRUCIE BONUS: Springsteen’s family tree was re-written
BRUCIE BONUS: Springsteen’s family tree was re-written

He sang Born in the USA but Bruce Springsteen's a Lilywhite at heart.

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Fresh evidence retraces his Irish roots to Rathangan, Co Kildare.

The research challenges previous assertions that the 66-year-old rocker's great, great grandmother hailed from Rathowen - a village near Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Historical records show that Ann Garrity left Ireland during the Famine and arrived in Freehold, New Jersey, in 1852 - the same town her famous great, great grandson was born in almost 100 years later.

However, new findings from expert US genealogist Megan Smolenyak claim the Garrity family are actually natives of Co Kildare.

Last summer, Ms Smolenyak - who famously discovered US President Barack Obama's roots in Moneygall, Co Offaly - decided to dig into The Boss' Irish ancestry after the National Library of Ireland released their entire collection of Catholic parish records online.

It took her just two days to make the discovery.

"Finding Famine-era Irish heritage tends to be an iffy prospect, hinging on whether you can determine a township or parish of origin. But we owe it to our forebears to get it right," she said.

However, Ms Smolenyak said she didn't set out to contradict the former claims.

Ms Smolenyak said she has encountered numerous incorrect claims about celebrity roots.

Earlier this year when asked to research Hillary Clinton's ancestry, she discovered that everyone had a quarter of her family tree wrong.

"I always play it safe and start from scratch," she said.

"My goal was simply to find a parish record for one of Mr Springsteen's ancestors to accompany an article I was writing. I wasn't setting out to dispute any claims," she said.

But once she found the obituary for Christopher Garrity - Ann's father - saying he was from Co Kildare, she said "it was clear the Westmeath assertion was off".

The expert, who has located families of thousands of soldiers still unaccounted for from WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam, is "confident" that she's got it right.

"I methodically followed the family's trail back to Rathangan, and it all fits snugly - family members' names, ages, sequence, time of emigration," she said.

Read more: 10 reasons why Bruce Springsteen is 'The Boss'  

"I resisted the urge to jump to conclusions. The Garrity family that began in Rathangan is the one that emigrated to Freehold, New Jersey," she said adding that it's "certainly possible" some relatives still live in the area.

"It would take a lot of digging and a bit of luck but anyone from Rathangan sporting the Garrity or Kelly name has a chance," she said.

Although Mr Springsteen has yet to comment on the findings, which feature in the current issue of Irish America magazine, Ms Smolenyak said it's important he walks in the footsteps of his real ancestors.

"Ann Garrity crossed the Atlantic at 14 with two younger sisters. She adjusted to a new country, had 10 children and became a young widow. It was an extraordinary life, but ordinary for her times. What a shame if she were to remain hidden to her descendants."

Read more: The evolution of Bruce Springsteen as 'Born to Run' turns 40  

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