Rosie ODonnell Traces Family Ancestry

Rosie ODonnell arrives for the amfAR 25th Annual New York Gala at Cipriani in New York on February 9, 2011.       UPI /Laura Cavanaugh

Rosie ODonnell traveled from New Jersey to Canada to Ireland on NBCs Who Do You Think You Are to track down her family roots. The comedian and talk-show host was interested in finding out about her mothers family, who she learned little about after her mothers death in 1973.

Rosie was just ten years old when her mother died of cancer, and she or her family history werent discussed, following traditions of Rosies Irish-Catholic traditions. Rosie teamed up with her brother Ed for the reality show search.

In addition to searching for information regarding their mothers family history, the siblings wanted to uncover a long-time family mystery: a photo of an unknown woman that hung in their childhood homes playroom.

Armed with the names of their maternal grandparents, Kathryn McKenna (Nana) and Daniel Murtha, Rosie and Ed began their search. They started their mission in Jersey City, New Jersey, after discovering the location as Daniels hometown from his draft card.

ODonnell then used Census records to discover that her great-grandfather was born in Canada, and was married twice, once to Rosies great-grandmother, Ellen, and previously to a woman named Anna. Ed and Rosie concluded that Anna was the woman in their playroom photograph.

The siblings then traveled to New York City to search for Annas death certificate. At the Brooklyn Historical Society, they found that Anna had died from injuries sustaining from an oil lamp explosion. The oil lamp got knocked on to the stove by Annas infant daughter while she was cooking breakfast. Anna sacrificed herself to shield the baby from the flames.

The infant was Elizabeth Murtha, Daniels half-sister. Rosie tracked down Elizabeths grandchildren in New Jersey, where she found that they recognized the old photograph of Anna.

Ed and Rosie finished their search by following baptismal records to Quebec, Canada and newspaper clippings to Kildare, Ireland. There, they found some of their ancestors escaped the potato famine by fleeing to Canada.

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