On the Prowl for Bruce Springsteen’s Irish Roots

A genealogist digs into the iconic artist’s Emerald Isle past

Megan Smolenyak
7 min readApr 14, 2018


Photo by Peter Pakvis/Redferns via Getty Images

I once had the pleasure of watching Bruce Springsteen accept the Ellis Island Family Heritage Award with his lively mother and aunts whose parents were Italian immigrants. I love researching immigrant roots of all origins, but admit that my ears perked up when he mentioned that he and his wife, Patti, were carrying on the “Irish-Italian mating tradition of Central New Jersey” and described his father as “a turbulent Irishman.”

Having Irish Jersey heritage myself, I was inspired to dig into Springsteen’s Emerald Isle past. But to do this, I would need to clamber up his family tree, identify one or more Irish immigrants, and then try to cross the pond, and as anyone who’s ever dabbled in Irish genealogy knows, that’s often easier said than done. The key is identifying the home town or parish — or at a bare minimum, the county — and particularly for those descended from Famine emigrants when records were patchy and barebones, this can be a challenge.

Because Springsteen is so famous, I was well aware that I could probably google my way to a fair bit about his family tree, including his Irish ancestry, but experience has taught me that such sources are often riddled with errors, so as is my habit, I started from scratch. This, it turned out, was a smart move.

Ann’s Loss, Our Gain

Diving in, I soon discovered that despite his surname, Bruce’s father, Douglas Frederick Springsteen (nicknamed “Dutch”), was at least three-quarters Irish. I had the luxury of choosing from among his O’Hagan, Farrell, Sullivan, Garrity, and McNicholas lines, and opted for Garrity — mainly because Ann Garrity caught my attention.

Born in Ireland, Ann had journeyed to Freehold, New Jersey, married a fellow Irish immigrant, and given birth to at least eight children, only to be widowed at age 34. Perhaps as a…



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)