Meeting Tom Cruise (Fiona Fitzsimons of Eneclann)
Between January and March 2013, Helen Moss and I worked on Tom Cruise’s family history, commissioned by Tourism Ireland to promote the Gathering. The story we uncovered was all the more remarkable, because we had no expectations of what we might find.
Early on the morning of 3rd April, Helen and I met at Iveagh House, as the fans began to assemble outside. Inside, there was a real sense of anticipation in advance of Tom’s arrival. Assembled staffers from Tourism Ireland and the Certificate of Irish Heritage exchanged excited whispers with senior mandarins from the Department of Foreign Affairs, while the Press Pack gathered in the adjoining room, occasionally sticking their heads around the door to gawk at us – all speculating on what Tom Cruise ‘was really like’.
I won’t say that being a researcher is a monastic life, but Helen and I are used to the quiet of libraries and archives. In order to distract us both from our own growing sense of nervousness, Helen explained to me an idea expounded in one of the ‘Ted Talks,’  – that by adopting high power poses, a person can change how they think and feel in any situation. We raised our hands in the winners’ pose, and laughed at ourselves to relieve the tension. We looked up to see Tom Cruise standing outside the door. It was showtime!
At the outset Tom told us that his grandfather had worked on a family tree, but that he knew virtually nothing of his own family history in Ireland, which we took as our cue.
At Tom’s own request, the room had been emptied of people, and I suddenly realised that for him, this was probably an attempt to carve out a ‘private moment’ from what was otherwise a heavy promotional schedule in Dublin.
Tom Cruise’s Family History
Tom’s great grandfather was actually born Thomas O’Mara in 1876, but had been prevailed upon by his mother Paulina (nee Russell Cruise) to adopt the surname Mapother in order to share in a family inheritance. This young man, Tom Cruise’s great-grandfather, also chose to add the name ‘Cruise’ from his mother’s maiden surname, and became the first Thomas Cruise Mapother.
The second strand of our story concerned an earlier generation. Tom’s last Irish born ancestor was his great (x3) grandfather, Patrick Russell Cruise, who read like a character from a Hollywood film. In 1844 Patrick Russell Cruise returned to Ireland from New York, to resolve a dispute caused by an unscrupulous land-agent. The winter voyage would have taken weeks in rough seas, but Patrick clearly felt he had to take matters into his own hands, to right a wrong.
Then, we explained to Tom his deep family history. Our research using historic documents in the National Library of Ireland, the National Archives and Trinity College Dublin showed that the Cruises and the associated families they intermarried with, were the old Catholic aristocracy dispossessed in the 1640s by Cromwell. In the late 1600s at the time of the Restoration, they were re-granted a portion of their former lands and remained visible in the historic records.
The Cruises were Barons in medieval Ireland, and can be traced back to the Anglo-Norman invasion. By the 1190s the Crown granted the Cruise family the lands of the Naul, Grallagh and Hollywood in north county Dublin. This early link to the townland of Hollywood in north county Dublin, is extraordinary in light of Tom’s standing as a Hollywood actor, and only goes to prove that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
Tracing the ancestral line of Tom’s great (x3) grandmother, Teresa Johnson, we traced this branch of the family back to a time even before the 12th Century Conquest. The Johnson family of Warrenstown House county Meath, were descended from the renowned rebel Shane O’Neill (died 1567). Their name is an ‘Anglicization’ of their O’Neill sept name ‘Mac Séain [i.e. Mac Shane or John’s sons]. Through this line, we can trace their O’Neill ancestry with accuracy back to Neil Glundubh, who died in 919A.D.
During the meeting Tom asked us many questions and was clearly intrigued by the fact that these were real stories of his ancestors, which could all be documented in the Irish historical records.
The story of Tom Cruise’s family history has gone around the world in subsequent weeks, and Tom has described Helen and I as ‘amazing women’ – husbands, take note!
For a full account of Tom Cruise’s Irish family history take a look at
Many of the documents that we used to research Tom Cruise’s family history in Ireland and America between the 1700s and 1930s, are available on the findmypast websites