01 July 2011

Genealogy in the Movies

     Genealogy has become so popular that Hollywood has taken note of it and is using it as a plot device! In the recent comedy Little Fockers, Robert DeNiro plays a family historian who is obsessed with the future of his family dynasty. He has an elaborate family tree on the wall of his study. The ancestral name is "Byrne," so I am assuming an Irish connection (by the way, both DeNiro, famous for his portrayals of Italian characters, and Ben Stiller, who plays the Jewish main character, have Irish roots).
     The movie made me think about other movies that contain genealogy themes. The Shipping News is my favorite, both for its exploration of the theme of ancestry and its fabulous musical score. Quoyle, the main character played by Kevin Spacy, moves to his ancestral home in Newfoundland and discovers the dark side of his family history. While not strictly an "Irish" family, the town and seafaring characters reflect the Celtic heritage found in that part of Newfoundland.
     ( Watch the Trailer for THE SHIPPING NEWS )
     While not strictly genealogical in theme, the movies Far and Away and Gangs of New York can be helpful to family historians who would like to understand the hardships that their Irish ancestors may have encountered in coming to and settling in the United States in the 1800's.
     I shouldn't forget (or maybe I should!) to add The MatchMaker, in which Janeane Garofalo plays an assistant to a U.S. senator. The senator is facing re-election and is in need of Irish American votes, so he sends his assistant to Ireland to "dig up" his Irish roots and to find present-day Irish relatives. While you won't learn much about Irish genealogy from this very "light" comedy, you might like some of the shots of Ireland.
     So, get out the popcorn and rent some DVDs with a genealogy theme! (By the way, I am not guaranteeing that you will LIKE any of these movies, just noting their connection to Irish genealogy!) Readers, know any more genealogy movies?