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Friday 19 September 2014

Streeped in history -- movie star's long-lost relative invites her to Irish ancestral home

Greg Harkin

Published 16/01/2014 | 02:30

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Creeslough cousin Jimmy Lafferty is keeping a seat at the fire for Hollywood superstar Meryl Streep. Pic: declan Doherty
Jimmy Lafferty is keeping a seat at the fire for Hollywood superstar Meryl Streep.

A long-lost Irish cousin of Hollywood star Meryl Streep has invited her to stay with him after learning of his celebrity connection last night.

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The same researcher who helped trace the Irish roots of US President Barack Obama has struck celebrity gold again by completing the Irish family tree of the Oscar-winning actress.

And last night the Irish Independent tracked down 72-year-old Jimmy Lafferty, Streep's fourth cousin and closest Irish relative, to break the news of his famous family connections.

EMIGRATED

Both are descended from Streep's great great-grandmother, Grace Strain, who emigrated to New York from Donegal in 1862.

"This is such a nice surprise. I hope she comes to see us," said Jimmy, who runs a holiday home business in the picturesque village of Dunfanaghy.

"My grandmother was an Ellen Strain and she would have been a niece of Grace Strain. The old Strain house where Grace lived has been tumbled but I built a lovely new holiday home in its place and if Meryl Streep wants to come and see us all, she'll get the traditional cead mile failte and she can stay in the house.

Mr Lafferty added: "I didn't know anything about this, so it's so nice to hear. Ms Streep is a fine actress and it would be wonderful to meet her. I can tell her about three generations back of the family here that stayed in Donegal."

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.

The star of movie greats like 'The Devil Wears Prada' and 'The Iron Lady' said two years ago she wanted to return to Donegal to research her ancestors further.

Now Ms Fitzsimons has saved her all the legwork -- and discovered Grace Strain's husband was also from Donegal.

"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 the researcher.

BEAUTY

The couple married in the parish church in Doe in February 1864 and Fitzsimons found records of them arriving in New York on an emigrant ship on April 19, 1864. Local historian Moses Alcorn, who lives close by, said yesterday: "We knew there was a link through the Strain family but it's great now to see the completed picture.

"Hopefully Ms Streep will come back to Donegal and come up to see where her roots lie.

"She'll certainly be blown away by the beauty of this area."

Irish Independent

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