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9 people with unexpected Irish ancestry

It’s not just JFK, ya know.

EVERYONE KNOWS WELL about Neeson, Brosnan and the usual suspects, but some people are still surprised to find out that Michael Fassbender is an Irish lad.

So, in the spirit of the month of St Patrick, it got us thinking – are there any other secret Hollywood heads out there that hail from the best small country in the world in which to become famous?

Psst – we haven’t gone for just any old celeb who says they’re of “Irish descent”. Proven genealogical link or bust, we’re afraid.

1. Mischa Barton

Though best known for her rich California girl role in teen series The OC, Mischa Barton was actually born in London to an Irish mother, by the very Irish name of Nuala Quinn. Mischa’s grandfather on her mother’s side was actually an Irish professor at the University of Belfast. She says she’s an “Irish-English girl who grew up in New York”.

Source: PA/Press Association

2. Gene Kelly

The Golden Era dancing actor was born in Pittsburgh – but his maternal grandfather was an immigrant from Derry. Sure no wonder he had such a fine head of hair.

Source: EMPICS Entertainment

3. Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay’s controversial father, Michael Lohan, was born in Galway. The carroty hair and freckles might have been a giveaway here, though.

Source: AFF/EMPICS Entertainment

4. Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain was born in Washington, but his ancestors emigrated from Tyrone in Northern Ireland in 1875. Researchers found them to have been shoemakers originally named Cobane from the village of Inishatieve, near Pomeroy. Apparently Cobain himself thought his family came from Cork, though.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

5. Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen’s mother, Mary-Ann Phelan, was born in Borrisokane in Tipperary. Sheen still maintains strong links with Ireland and holds Irish citizenship. At the end of the filming of The West Wing, he announced his plans to study English, philosophy and theology in NUIG in Galway in 2006. He was 65 at the time. He left NUIG after completing a semester.

Source: © Tammie Arroyo/AFF-USA.COM

6. Walt Disney

Walt Disney’s great-grandfather, Arundel Elias Disney, emigrated to the New World from Gowran in Kilkenny, making Walt at Irishman by blood.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

7. Olivia Wilde

Though Wilde was born in New York, she has dual citizenship with the US and Ireland due to her father, journalist Andrew Cockburn, having been born and raised in Youghal in Cork. She also took her stage name “Wilde” from Oscar Wilde.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

8. Muhammed Ali

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, bai. Muhammed Ali’s great-grandfather was from Ennis in Clare. His name was Abe Grady and he emigrated to Kentucky in the 1860s.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

9. Michelle Obama

Yep, we all know Barack himself can trace his people back to Offaly, but did you know his wife can too? Yes, her ancestry has been tracked as far back as an Irish slave owner who emigrated to America in the 1700s.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

Who’s your favourite Irish-American export or do you reckon it’s all plastic paddywhackery? Let us know in the comments.

Read: Is the Irish accent actually the sexist in the world? >

Read: 11 ways to tell if you’re Irish… according to you>

About the author:

Fiona Hyde

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