Tom Cruise’s strong Irish connections written by the genealogists who unearthed the facts!

Fiona Fitzsimons & Helen Moss, the Genealogists who worked on Tom Cruise's Family TreeFiona Fitzsimons & Helen Moss, the Genealogists who worked on Tom Cruise’s Family Tree

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,’ [1] – 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.[2]

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



Todays genealogy article from our guest blogger Deborah Large Fox is about how to understand Irish names.

Patterns. I have been surprised at the number of researchers who have found that their families, especially in the 1800′s and earlier, did indeed follow a traditional naming pattern. While the pattern sometimes varied with locality or family, generally the first son was named after the paternal grandfather, the second after the maternal grandfather, and the third after the father (with daughters, reverse, with the first daughter named after the maternal grandmother, etc.). Various aunts’ and uncles’ names followed. In families where the naming pattern was not present, I have often found that it was in fact followed, but that an older child had died and the name was re-used for a later born child. So, if your ancestral names did not seem to follow a pattern, be on the lookout for a deceased older sibling, or for a sibling that you have not yet discovered.

Middle Names. I have found that Irish families varied in their use of middle names. Every researcher I ask seems to have had a different experience with middle names. Two stories are often repeated by researchers about the middle names in their families. One is that ancestors were called by their middle names to distinguish between the members of a large family with a number of identical names. In the 1800′s, baptismal records, both Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland, in the southern counties rarely list a middle name. I have found more middle names recorded in nineteenth century church records in the northern counties. When an ancestor is known in family records only by his or her middle name, finding their official or church records can be difficult indeed.
Many researchers have discovered that their ancestor’s middle name was not given at birth, but was taken as a confirmation name. This practice can wreak havoc with one’s research. Few lists of comfirmands from earlier times exist, and I have seen no lists with “taken” confirmation names.
Many researchers have reported that, at an ancestor’s baptism, the Catholic priest demanded that the parents choose a middle name for a child if that child’s first name was not that of a saint’s. Stories abound about this practice–well into the 1950′s and 60′s! I am not sure if this practice was limited to twentieth century America, but it seemed to have arisen in many American cities when Irish immigrants began breaking with the traditional naming patterns and choosing fashionable names.

Nicknames. Ahh, the nickname–created by our Irish ancestors just so that they could look down upon us one day and laugh as we spend years searching for great Gramma Nancy’s records when Nancy’s name was really Anne! And Helen was Ellen, and Ted was Edward, and Biddy was Bridget, and Dick was Richard, and Sallie was Sarah…
One word to researchers of very common surnames: in Ireland, family groups with the same surname were often given family nicknames to distinguish the branches from each other. You might have the Red Brennan’s and the Black Brennan’s, or the Tarlar Donaghy’s, to name a few I have seen. Knowing your family’s ancestral nickname, if they had one, is a crucial research tool when researching local Irish records, especially if you are researching a very common surname such as Kelly or Murphy.
Gaelic and Latin Names. Be on the lookout for Anglicized Gaelic names, especially as you go back in time and into Irish records. As you research RC church records, keep in mind that many priests, both in the US and in Ireland, wrote the names in Latin. Often, the Latin names bear no resemblance to the English or Gaelic names–Eugenio for Owen is one example.
I said it before and I will say it again, Irish genealogy research wouldn’t be so much fun if it were simpler, now would it?

For more information on your family research visit Deborah’s blog spot:


Today our genealogy tip is a vital one, how to prepare for your genealogy trip from our guest blogger Deborah Large Fox.
Armchair genealogy research has its limits. Sooner or later, most family historians take a research trip. Many records are in local repositories and must be researched in person. Many people take a trip to Ireland or other ancestral location to gain deeper insights into their families’ culture and experiences. Proper planning is key to a successful research trip or genealogical vacation.
A trip can provide the motivation to tackling the organization of your genealogy files. You need to target your research tasks. What ancestors will you be hunting? What sort of records–civil or church, birth or marriage or death–do you lack for those ancestors? Are those records available at your destinations?
Before your trip, determine what records you want to see, where they are located, and when they are available. You do not want to waste valuable time on your trip doing work that could have been completed at home. Reputable guides to Irish records, such as John Grenham’s Tracing Your Irish Ancestors or James G. Ryan’s Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History, are invaluable to Irish family historians. Much preparation can be done online. Most libraries, archives, and other records repositories have online catalogs detailing their holdings. You can call or email the facility to determine if their holdings include the type of records you want for the years you need. Remember to check the hours and days the facility is open, especially during summer vacation periods, when some facilities close. Check if you need an appointment. I’ve heard many a tale of researchers who traveled a long way only to face a “closed” sign and locked door!
Time is a crucial factor to be considered in planning the trip, especially if you want to combine research and leisure. Leave room in your itinerary for enjoying surprises and pursuing discoveries. I would err on the side of including extra leisure time, especially if you are visiting Ireland. Experiencing the culture and seeing the country is important to your family history journey as well.
Be aware that research takes time. Many records that you will need in Ireland are in closed stacks. Often, a researcher must fill out a retrieval request, and a staff member will bring you the records from the archive. During busy times, this process may take twenty minutes or so, another reason to have all the retrieval information with you, including call or file numbers, when you arrive at the facility. You should be ready to fill out those slips immediately upon sitting down!
Every minute of preparation leaves time for research, and fun, on your trip!

For more information on your family research visit Deborah’s blog spot:

Common Surname? Don’t Despair!

Ireland 1808

Today we publish our genealogy tips on common surnames from our guest blogger Deborah Large Fox.

At my genealogy presentations, I often meet people who have given up researching their Irish roots. Most of them have the same complaint: a family surname that is ubiquitous throughout much of Ireland.
“My family’s name is Kelly (or Murphy or Brennan). And, everyone is named Mary and John and Patrick. It would be impossible to find them!” Difficult? Perhaps. Impossible? Never!
Every family is unique, even if the members share a surname with millions of other Irish descendants around the world. To track a family with a very common surname, you will need to be methodical, patient, detail-oriented, and determined. You will spend much time eliminating other families with the same surname, as well as tracking your own ancestors.
As all family historians must do, it is very important to begin with the present day family and work backwards. Your aim is to discover every possible detail about your family members and to determine what distinguishes them from all others with the same name.
As you go back through the generations, spot those characteristics that make your family recognizable. Did many of your ancestors have the same profession or trade? One woman found her family in County Waterford by researching brush makers. Another is following the paper trail left by generations of ancestors who entered the clergy.
Do your relatives share any distinguishing physical characteristics or special talents? Do special nicknames reoccur in your family stories? Often in rural Ireland, one nickname is given to a family branch to distinguish them from others, the Reds O’Brien’s or the Black Brennan’s, for example (hair color is often a distinguishing characteristic of family branches).
Those with a common surname must also pay special attention to the friends and family of their ancestors. Besides researching the baptismal sponsors and marriage witnesses, do a bit of digging on the neighbors and, especially, on the business partners, fellow workers, and fellow parishioners. These people might possibly have emigrated from the same location as your ancestor.
DNA testing can be a brick wall breaker in the case of common surnames. Many DNA surname studies collect and collate family records as well as DNA matches, enabling members to map out and connect family lines that could be difficult to distinguish otherwise.
Don’t forget: you may have a common surname, but your family is unique!

For more information on your family research visit Deborah’s blog spot:


Church records – Finding parish registers

Today, we publish the third in a series of articles written by our guest blogger, Claire Santry, who is behind the excellent website Irish Genealogy Toolkit and her associated blog, Irish Genealogy News. Here Claire examines Chruch records.

Without one central repository for all surviving Irish church records, finding the parish register that holds details of your Roman Catholic or Church of Ireland ancestors may seem like mission impossible. The records that survive are scattered and incomplete. And even if you know the townland and parish where your family lived and the religion they practised, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find any relevant baptism, marriage or burial records because, quite simply, some of the registers no longer exist.
You may have heard about the 1922 fire at the Public Records Office (PRO) in Dublin that destroyed ALL Ireland’s historical records. While the fire was certainly a tragedy, it is not true that all records were lost. Huge collections of precious documents were nowhere near the fire and they still exist. Sadly, others perished, and among them were half of the registers of the Protestant Church of Ireland.
Around 800 survive (either as original registers, transcriptions of those that burned or as fragmented entries). More than 200 registers start in the 1700s and nearly fifty date from the 1600s (the oldest, for St John’s Dublin, in 1619). The remainder begin in the first half of the 19th century.
A good proportion of these records have been microfilmed and are held at the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin. Others are at the National Archives of Ireland. Those for Antrim, Armagh, Derry/Londonderry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone are also held by PRONI in Belfast.
Roman Catholic registers are easily to locate. They were not kept at the PRO so a fuller collection still exists. However, it was illegal for Catholic priests to keep registers for many years so there are few examples pre-dating 1800. Most start in the second or third decade of the 19th century, but there are some unfortunate parishes with registers that begin only in the 1860s.
All Catholic registers have been microfilmed and are available at the National Library of Ireland and, for the six counties of Northern Ireland only, at PRONI. LDS Family History Centers also have access to microfilms.
To start searching Irish church records, you need first to find the appropriate parish for your ancestor’s townland. You can do this on the free Townland Atlas.
With names, approximate dates and a parish, you can then start searching online. The LDS Family Search [] website is a popular and free first call but it’s a bit hit and miss. A better alternative for those with family from Carlow, Cork Dublin and Kerry is [] which is also free. The largest database is provided by [] It’s a pay-to-view database with a huge collection that covers nearly all the island but you need to check the list of parishes included before parting with any money.

Read more about starting your Irish research from Claire at

Evaluating Evidence – Genealogy Tips

“How do I know that the person in this record is my ancestor?” The answer is not always an easy or definite one. To be able to make an intelligent assessment of family connections, a good family history detective considers and evaluates the evidence.
We all have an innate understanding of evidence. If you see fresh snow on the ground in the morning, you use the rule of circumstantial evidence to deduce that it snowed overnight. If you tell your spouse about car accident you witnessed, you are reporting your eyewitness evidence. If, while gossiping with a friend, you tell her that “Annie said Johnny cheated on Sally,” you are passing along hearsay.
Similarly, genealogy records fall into different categories of evidence, and these categories affect their trustworthiness. For example, the information in a 1900 United States census form for a John Magee in Camden, New Jersey, was given by an unknown person to a census taker. In contrast, the 1901 Irish census form for a John Magee in Belfast was completed and signed by a John Magee. The handwritten personal knowledge on the Irish census is more trustworthy than is the third-party hearsay on the U.S. census.
A researcher must consider the nature and reliability of evidence. Who provided the information? Who recorded it? Was there reason for the person to give or enter false information? Was the information within the recorder’s knowledge, or was it hearsay? What the information recorded close in time to the event?
Thus, a birth certificate filled out, by a parent or midwife, on the same day as the birth is generally considered reliable, while much of the information on death certificates is notoriously untrustworthy. Why? Well, the person with the best knowledge—the one who knows the names of his parents, plus his own birth date and location—is the (silent) deceased!
The best practice a researcher can adopt when placing a person into the family tree is to document the evidence she is using to support her claim of ancestry. Citations are crucial! Are you seeking to join a lineage society or to obtain a Certificate of Irish Heritage? Check the requirements carefully, and make sure your records meet the required standard of proof.

Author: Deborah Large Fox

For more information on your family research visit Deborah’s blog spot:

Deborah Large Fox, Ontario, Canada

Deborah Large Fox

I had been pestering my grandmother for information on our family history. The year was 1969, and I was a young teenager, searching for my identity, as were many of my generation that year. How could I know myself if I did not know my roots?

Our Irish roots were an inseparable part of who we were as a family. The family kept its stories of Ireland, and passed those stories on to each generation. I heard tales of Richard Large, who left County Kilkenny to work in the Pennsylvania mines and died of Black Lung disease from the coal dust. I learned that my Tracy and Magee ancestors helped to establish the first Catholic parish in Camden, New Jersey, in response to the anti-Irish riots that they had endured as immigrants from Ireland. These ancestors rose tall in my mind as mythic figures, just as exciting and noble and tragic as any fictional character.

How could I not trace these stories back to Ireland? How could I not visit the places where these heroes of my childhood, these people who made the fabric of my being, lived and and laughed and cried and died?

That day in 1969, Grandmom, tired of my questions, went to her bedroom closet and emerged with a shoebox. She handed me a few old letters. One  letter was dated 1847, and it was from a Peggy Lagan in Innishatieve, County Tyrone, to her children in Philadelphia. Peggy wrote of failed crops, neighborhood gossip, and  children with the pox. Suddenly, my ancestors were no longer simple stories, but were flesh and blood people with personalities brought back to life. I later found that Peggy Lagan was my third great grandmother. Holding that letter was like grasping Peggy’s hand across the years.

Peggy never let go of my hand, and many years later, she led me back to Ireland and to her cottage under a sycamore tree. I sat beneath Peggy’s tree and wished that Grandmom was still alive and could see me there. After leaving Peggy’s homestead, I headed south to County Kilkenny to trace more family stories. As I passed a white-haired woman on a rural road, she turned and nodded at me. My heart skipped a beat. There stood May Magee, my grandmother, with that secretive smile she always wore. When I recovered from the shock, I looked in the rearview mirror, but the woman was gone. I have no doubt that Grandmom, who was known for her extrasensory gifts while alive, had appeared to me. After all, what better time and place to meet Grandmom again, but in Ireland?



Today, we publish the second in a series of articles written by our guest blogger Deborah Large Fox.

The dead and the living are the yin and yang of Irish genealogy. Our living and deceased relatives are interconnected, and our research must include searching for both. The living relatives are the ones who will point us in the right direction for finding our deceased ancestors.
Contrary to many of the current marketing slogans aimed at family historians, diving headfirst into online databases is a recipe for mistakes and misinformation. We must have a basic amount of knowledge about our ancestors before searching in these databases. Otherwise, we run into the danger of collecting false information. Many are the times I have had to correct people who have incorporated the wrong families into their trees by following the “hits” on an online database search engine. For example, a researcher cannot claim a “John Magee” on a census record without knowing enough about her Magee family to be able to discern whether the person on the retrieved record is in fact, or very likely to be, “her” John Magee.
So, how does one determine if a person named in a census or other record is most likely an ancestor? As I advised last month, all researchers must begin with themselves in the present, and then work backwards and laterally, in time and generations, through their ancestral tree. Therefore, after you have recorded your current family information, the next step is one that some researchers dread and others love—contacting living relatives for information. Yes, you must now contact that aunt whom you have not seen for years!
Contacting living relatives is very important for Irish family researchers. We need to know our Irish family stories. The Irish tradition is an oral one. Ireland’s early history and its ancient legal system were kept in song and verse. Since so many Irish records have been lost, many life events were not recorded, except in the hearts and minds of the Irish people.
Find and contact as many living relatives, both young and old, as you can. You never know who has a letter or photograph or story that could prove vital to your family history. Your living family stories will help you determine your ancestors’ locations, spouses, children, and occupations, and could provide other clues that will prove instrumental in determining which John Magee is your John Magee.
Plus, you might meet a relative interested in joining you on your genealogical journey!

For more information on your family research visit Deborah’s blog spot:

Irish Genealogy – Griffiths Valuation

Today, we publish the second in a series of articles written by our guest blogger, Claire Santry, who is behind the excellent website Irish Genealogy Toolkit and her associated blog, Irish Genealogy News. Here Claire examines Griffiths Valuation

The lack of 19th century census returns has meant that land records have taken on increased importance in the search for Irish ancestors. By far the most important of these land compilations is Richard Griffith’s Primary Valuation of the Tenements of Ireland, commonly referred to as Griffith’s Valuation.
It lists every landlord and tenant in more or less every household in Ireland, and covers more than one million dwellings and nearly 20million acres. It is the only near complete account of mid-19th century Ireland.
Because it’s so often referred to as a census substitute many researchers expect to find listings of individuals arranged by household. Unfortunately, the Valuation wasn’t carried out for family history purposes! It was a taxation survey, charged with determining the amount of tax, or rates, each householder or landowner should pay towards the support of the poor and destitute within the newly created Poor Law Unions. The tax was to be paid on the size and quality of the property and land.
As such, the names and details of all those who lived in each household was irrelevant. Only the person contractually responsible for the land or property – the leaseholder or householder – was of interest to the authorities.
The Valuation includes the name of the townland, the name of the householder or leaseholder, the name of the person from whom the property or land was leased, a brief description of the property, land acreage and soil quality, and a valuation of the land and buildings. It was compiled on a county by county basis between 1847 and 1864 and is especially useful to those whose ancestors left Ireland in the emigration exodus that followed the famine. Most of the south and west of the island, where the famine hit hardest, had been valued by 1855.
For family historians who don’t know where their ancestors lived, Griffiths Valuation can help narrow down locations areas where their surname was most prevalent. This can be useful for identifying areas for further research.
Arranged by county and sub-divided into Poor Law Union, barony, parish and townland, Griffith’s Valuation, together with its corresponding maps, can help you to pinpoint the exact location of your ancestor’s property or land. It can be searched free of charge at

Read more about starting your Irish research from Claire at

Welcome To Irish Genealogy: The Forgotten First Step

Author: Deborah Large Fox.
When I visit an archive, I can always spot the person researching Irish genealogy. One glance around the room reveals an Italian researcher dancing with delight, two Polish researchers slapping “high five’s,” and one poor soul in the corner–our Irish researcher–pulling out her hair with two fists. Yes, Irish genealogy is difficult. Through the centuries, Irish records have been destroyed or kept haphazardly. After many of our ancestors emigrated, they seem to have hidden from the census taker or were quite inventive with the information they gave to him.
But don’t despair! Irish genealogical research is not impossible. Diligence and education are the keys. Never give up, and constantly educate yourself about Ireland and its records. In this series of posts, my aim is to be a companion as we navigate the world of Irish genealogy together. Beginner or expert, we are all novices when we find a new generation to tackle or a new location to research.
So, what is the first step? It is one that is frequently neglected by beginning and experienced researchers alike. We have all heard the rule, “start with yourself and work back.” However, many researchers forget that the most important word in that sentence is “yourself.” In our hurry to dig up ancestral records, we neglect to organize and collect our own. Treat yourself as you would an ancestor and take the time to document your own life. Find your vital and church records. Record the significant dates and events of your life. If you have a genealogy computer program, fill in all the fields for yourself, including sources. Besides recording your own data, this is a great way to learn the bells and whistles of the program.
Pay attention to details as you document yourself. Those details could provide valuable clues to your family history, clues that will become important later in your research. Were you named after an ancestor? Why were you baptized in a certain church? Who were your sponsors and why did your parents choose them?
As an ongoing project, begin now to record your own life story. You don’t have to write a literary masterpiece. Short snippets or long chronological narratives are both fine–simply tell your story in your own words and style. What a gift you will be creating for future generations!

For more information on the above author visit Deborah’s blog spot by clicking on the below link:
Irish Family Research Blog Spot (Help! The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancetors!)