Meg Ryan’s Irish Heritage

She’s going back to her acting roots, so I took a dive into her ancestral ones.

Megan Smolenyak

--

Credit: David Shankbone (Creative Commons License)

It’s been a while, but Meg Ryan, America’s rom-com queen, anointed through her memorable roles in When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail, is re-emerging with What Happens Later, a movie she co-wrote, directed, and stars in. I’m among the many looking forward to getting snowed in at the airport with both Ryan and her co-star, David Duchovny, but in the interim, decided to climb her family tree.

Born Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra, she assumed her maternal grandmother’s maiden name of Ryan when she became an actress, and those with Irish ancestry will recognize Meg (as well as Peg and Peggy) as a nickname for Margaret. As I researched, it slowly dawned on me that her original name reflects three generations of her direct maternal line since her grandmother was named Margaret Mary, her great-grandmother Emily, and her great-great-grandmother Ann. What a lovely tribute.

After some digging, I arrived at the following roots recipe for Meg Ryan: 31.25% Irish, 25% Rusyn (from present-day Poland), 25% Polish (from present-day Lithuania), 12.5% German, and 6.25% English. Yes, I know it’s confusing that her Rusyn ancestors were from Poland and her Polish ones from Lithuania (welcome to the dynamic borders of Slavic genealogy), but for now, let’s focus on her Irish portion.

As I delved more deeply into her Ryan line, it started ticking all the classic New York Irish boxes, starting with her immigrant, great-great-grandfather, Timothy Ryan, who worked as a bartender. This was likely with his brother, James, who was a liquor dealer and associated with a billiards saloon.

1880 census for Timothy Ryan and family (Ancestry)

Timothy’s son, Thomas (Meg’s great-grandfather), had intended to become a lawyer, but inspired by Theodore Roosevelt, joined the police department instead and worked his way up to Inspector. Spending about four decades on the force, he was known for being dedicated and squeaky clean.

--

--

Megan Smolenyak

Genealogical adventurer & storyteller who loves solving mysteries! You may not know me, but chances are you’ve seen my work. (www.MeganSmolenyak.com)