The Tubridy line:
Ryan's paternal grandfather was Sean Tubridy. As a TD and local Medical Officer, Sean had a strong & popular public profile, so it was relatively easy to find mention of him in newspapers of the time. From his obituary in the Connaught Tribune and various articles found on the Irish Times digital archive, Ryan became aware of two things: epidemics of cholera, typhus and the Spanish Flu were rife in Connemara at the beginning of the 20th Century, and having grown up in these surroundings Dr. Sean Tubridy played a crucial role in fighting such outbreaks.
In the Galway City Library & Archives, Ryan was also able to find fascinating mention of his grandfather. It seems that because he took the 'losing' Anti-Treaty side in the Civil War, the new Free State government in Dublin removed him from his job as Medical Officer, and advertised his position! Ryan was able to read a swathe of personal accounts from local people, attesting to the integrity and decency of his Grandfather. He also discovered that the doctors of the county stood up for Sean Tubridy by refusing to apply for his job. Eventually the Department of Health backed down and Dr Sean Tubridy was re-instated.
While in Galway library, Ryan turned to the County census collection on microfilm. On the 1901 census, Ryan was able to find his grandfather Sean as a 4-year old, and learnt that his parents were Patrick & Jane Tubridy: both schoolteachers in Carraroe. From the census form, Ryan also learnt that his great Grandfather Patrick was originally from Co. Clare, and his Great Grandmother Jane from Mayo.
The schoolhouse Ryan's Great Grandparents taught in turned out to be the very same one he had gone to on his Gaeltacht summer as a child! Scoil Mhic Dara in Carraroe still has records from the late 1800s in its archive, which allowed Ryan to glean even more information on his ancestors. Firstly, it appeared that Great Grandmother Jane's maiden name was Waldron, and she was a good 12 years older than her husband Patrick. Then, Ryan read some Inspectors' Reports on the school, which seemed to cast aspersions on the teaching abilities of both Patrick & Jane...
Because Ryan wanted to get to the bottom of these criticisms of his Great Grandparents, researchers turned to the Department of Education files at the National Archives in Dublin. What was found had an explosive effect on Ryan. Among the files were further critiques of his Great Grandfather Patrick Tubridy... but then Ryan stumbled across a letter written in Patrick's own hand. It turns out that Patrick was caught up in a bitter feud with Fr. Healy the school manager – a feud which lasted decades. Over the course of his career as school principal, Patrick was threatened by Inspectors who were under the thrall of Fr. Healy, and slandered from the pulpit by the priest himself. Eventually, the dispute became so aggravated that a tribunal was scheduled, but Ryan's Great Grandfather died prematurely young before his name could be cleared. However, in the Department files were a collection of simple & eloquent letters from local parents, all of them totally supporting Patrick Tubridy as both a teacher and a man. Yet again, Ryan had discovered how the community stood up for his ancestors, while the powers that be tried to knock them down.
Finally, a search through land ownership records and valuation maps eventually pinpointed the farmland in Mayo where Ryan's Great Grandmother Jane Waldron was born and reared – one of six schoolteachers in a family of thirteen... Ryan was able to knock on a farmhouse door and discover that the land is still in Waldron hands – the present owner John Waldron was able to show Ryan the actual cottage his Great Grandmother was born in.
The Andrews line:
Ryan's maternal grandfather was Christopher 'Todd' Andrews: a public figure and lifelong Civil Servant who was a driving force in organisations such as Bord na Mona, CIE, the ESB and RTE. Todd was already the subject of a TV documentary and himself the author of two volumes of autobiography, so we were wary of treading over old ground. Instead, we wanted to help Ryan learn more about 'Todd' the young man and revolutionary.
Using details from Todd's first volume of autobiography, “Dublin Made Me”, we were able to pinpoint the exact room along O'Connell Street where Todd had held a rifle position during the early days of the Civil War. Given Ryan's own fascination with John F Kennedy, it was exciting for him to stand in his own personal 'Book Repository', where his grandfather was wounded almost 90 years ago.
Todd's personal papers were donated by the family to the Archives in University College Dublin. They form part of a treasure trove of information that trace the evolution of the State during the War of Independence and the Civil War. In UCD, Ryan was not only able to read hilariously grumpy letters written by his grandfather while imprisoned after the Civil War, he also uncovered a mention of Todd's wife to be – Mary Coyle. She was a member of Cumann na mBan, and Ryan found her signature in an autograph book signed by female prisoners in Kilmainham Gaol. The female volunteers of Cumann na mBan played such an important role in the War of Independence many of them were imprisoned at the outbreak of the Civil War to restrict their activities. Further research in the Kilmainham archives found another mention of Mary, and historian Sinead McCoole was able to confirm that Ryan's Grandmother had gone on hunger strike while a prisoner in Kilmainham.
Ryan's Royal Blood:
Behind the scenes on every episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, the most vital resource is information from family members. In this instance, a vast amount of work done by Ryan's extended family suggested a number of potential links to European royalty. It was up to Ryan to see if he could put any flesh on these...
Ryan's Republican Grandfather, Sean Tubridy, married a Dublin lady called Kathleen 'Moira' Ryan. Moira was the daughter of Hugh Ryan, Ireland's first State Chemist, and his wife Kathleen Adye-Curran. Using the online 1911 census, and resources in the National Library such as 'Who's Who?', Ryan was able to go further back and discover that his Great Great Great Grandparents were a Dublin barrister called John Adye-Curran and a well-bred English lady called Frances Dolman.
Ryan then used Google to locate a distant cousin from the same side of the family online: author Ronan Sheehan. Ronan had some crucial information, including a very detailed family tree (or 'Pedigree') for Frances Dolman, which suggested she was from a very well-established Yorkshire Catholic family.
To verify Frances Dolman's lineage, Ryan flew to London and the College of Arms: the only official repository of such family trees and pedigrees. With the College's Peter O'Donoghue, Ryan was able to trace back through generations of the Dolman pedigree, which then connected to many more generations of another established family, and then another, and another... Eventually, the direct line led to the 14th Century and Edmund of Langley... who not only was the 1st Duke of York, he was also son of Edward III! And from Edward III, Ryan's direct royal line led back to the 12th Century and King John of England. King John was responsible for signing Magna Carta, a bill of rights which limited Royal power and went on to influence other legal milestones, including the US Constitution.