Meryl Streep (born Mary Louise Streep June 22nd 1949 is an Academy Award winning American actress of theater, television, and film. Streep has received 18 Academy Award nominations, winning three, and 28 Golden Globe nominations, winning eight, more nominations than any other actor in the history of either award. This legend of the acting world can however trace her ancestry back to the very humble beginnings of Dunfanaghy Co. Donegal.
On her maternal side, Meryl’s great-great-grandparents were Manus McFadden born ca. 1831 and Grace Strain born ca. 1842, natives of Hook Head in the district of Dunfanaghy. The McFadden and Strain family farms were in the town-land of Muntermellan. On 4th February 1864, Manus McFadden and Grace Strain married in the RC Chapel of Doe in the parish of Clondahorky. Almost immediately, they took ship for America. On 19th the newly married Manus and Grace McFadden arrived at the port of New York aboard the ship Webster SS. By the time of the 1870 U.S. Census the McFadden family had settled in Pennsylvania. Their child, Mary Agnes McFadden, later married Henry Charles Wolf. Henry Charles and Mary Agnes Wolf’s daughter ‘Mamie’ – Mary Agnes Wolf – is Meryl Streep’s grandmother.
The McFadden and Strain families were closely connected, and research shows an earlier marriage between the two families, in the same generation as Manus and Grace. Ca. 1855 Hugh Strain jr. married Catherine McFadden ie. Grace’s older brother married her sister-in-law. After their marriage, Hugh and Catherine Strain continued to farm on Horn Head, and raised a family. The McFadden family remained in Muntermellon townland. Like the Strain’s, the McFadden house was a traditional white-washed thatched cottage with outbuildings including a cow house and piggery. Between 1901 and 1911 the McFadden’s built a fowl-house and barn. The circumstances of the Strain and McFadden families echoes the Mundy sisters, characters in one of Meryl Streep’s own films – Dancing at Lughnasa, filmed in the Glenties in 1998. Although the landscape around Horn Head is beautiful, the area is remote, and historically families struggled to scrape together a living on unproductive land.
This research, conducted by Fiona Fitzsimons, the research director at Eneclann genealogy company. Irish Independent journalists subsequently found that Meryl Streep probably still has a family connection in Ireland. The Strain homestead passed to their younger cousin Jimmy Lafferty of Horn Head. Mr Lafferty, who runs a holiday home business in the village of Dunfanaghy was pleasantly surprised when he found out about the connection. Streep had returned to Donegal in September 1998 for the premiere of Dancing at Lughnasa and had wanted to discover more about her connection to the county. However, Mr. Lafferty was not aware of the possible connection at this time. Interviewed shortly after being told, the Donegal man complimented the actress and added that he would love to meet her and give her more detail about her ancestry: ‘I can tell her about three generations back of the family here that stayed in Donegal’.