Who Do You Think You Are?

Timeline are the Irish researchers for Who Do You Think You Are? UK and USA. This has afforded us the opportunity to work on some very exciting stories. We are the behind the scenes detectives that have dug deep into the records to find out where the celebrities have come from and how the stories of their ancestors shaped the lives of their descendants. We have also appeared in front of the camera, guiding the celebrity on their journey through the records.

Who Do You Think You Are? – Rosie O’Donnell (US)

who-think-you-are-Rosie-O-DonnellWith a surname like O’Donnell, Rosie’s family clearly originated in Ireland. A death notice for one of her ancestors in a Canadian newspaper established that her family originated in Co. Kildare and they left Ireland in the 1850s.  Her ancestor was born in Kildare the child of Andrew Murtagh and Ann Doyle.  As their children were born prior to the commencement of civil registration in Ireland in 1864, we undertook a manual search of the parish registers for Kildare and the neighbouring counties and found evidence of the children born to Andrew Murtagh and Ann Doyle in the Roman Catholic parish of Blessington. This parish was located on the border with Co. Wicklow and was made up of three chapels, one of which was the chapel at Manor Kilbride, which is where the Murtagh children were baptised. In 1854, the Board of Guardians for the Naas Union paid for the Murtagh family to emigrate, escaping the destitution in Ireland in the years following the Great Famine.

Who Do You Think You Are? – Martin Sheen (US)

martin-sheen-who-do-you-think-you-areMartin’s mother Mary Ann Phelan left Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary in the 1920s, at the height of the civil war in Ireland. Our research discovered that Martin’s uncle, Michael Phelan had been an active volunteer during the War of Independence and an Irregular during the Civil War.  We investigated the files at the Military Archives for records of his civil war imprisonment and details of his military pension application. Witness statements and newspaper reports helped us to build a picture of his role in one of the most violent areas of the country during Ireland’s fight for independence.

Who Do You Think You Are? – Dervla Kirwan  (UK)

Dervla Kirwan-who-do-think-you-are

Not only is Dervla a descendant of one of the nephews of General Michael Collins, Finian Collins O’Driscoll, who was an active volunteer during the War of Independence and who fled Cork with his family after Collins death in August 1922, her father’s family, the Khan’s had a connection to another great icon of Ireland, James Joyce. We discovered that Dervla’s ancestor, Henry Khan, was a Dublin Jew who was imprisoned in 1902. The anti semetic comments made by the Dublin Recorder, Lord Faulkner, at his trial caused outrage in the Jewish community and were the inspiration for an episode in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Her story told not just of the Collins family of Woodfield in Cork, but also the story of a Jewish immigrant who made a life in Dublin.

Who Do You Think You Are? – Rashida Jones (US)

Rashida Jones traced her ancestry back to a Jewish family who hailed from Eastern Europe. Their journey to the United States took them first to Manchester in England with a brief period residing in Dublin. Timeline researched the period of her ancestor’s time in Dublin before Rashida made the trip here to find out more about her family.

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Who Do You Think You Are? – Chris Moyles (UK)


Chris Moyles came to Ireland to find out more about two branches of his family. Timeline were able to discover the sad story of his great grandfather, James Moyles, who died in France during the early months of the First World War. We were able to piece together the story of his life and what took him to France, leaving a wife and young family behind in Ballina, Co. Mayo.  We were able to document the exact circumstances of his death, which were reported in the local Mayo newspapers. The other branch of his family, who originated in Dublin, told an equally sad story, as they struggled to survive life in the Dublin slums, succumbing to the scourge that was TB, responsible for the largest number of deaths in Ireland in the early 20th century.

Who Do You Think You Are? – Nick Hewer (UK)

Nick-Hewer-Who-Do-You-Think-You-AreNick’s grandfather, Oswald Jamison, was a city Councillor in 1922 during the Belfast Pogroms and not only bore witness to the bloody birth of a divided Ireland, but played a role in trying to bring peace to his city. Digging into the archives of the Free State and the Government of Northern Ireland we found references to Oswald who was part of a group of republicans who advocated recognition of the Northern Government, contrary to Sinn Fein policy. The minutes of the North Eastern Boundary Bureau proved valuable for identifying the attitudes that the southern politicians had about Oswald and his political brothers, whose bid for dialogue and compromise elicited the scorn of Michael Collins. Nick’s story offered fascinating insight into a complex period of Irish history.

As well as the behind the scenes research carried out by Timeline, we have also appeared on camera. Timeline director Nicola Morris has helped Jeremy Irons, Graham Norton, Chris Moyles, Paul Merton, Emma Willis, Julie Walters and Rosie O’Donnell as they navigated the records of their ancestors in Ireland.

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