Thursday, September 27, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #47

Robert De Niro says he wants to investigate his Irish ancestry.

What were the full names of his Irish-American great-grandparents?

Extra credit if you can trace his Irish heritage one more generation through either of these great-grandparents.


Robert DeNiro's great-grandparents were:
Dennis OReilly and wife Mary
Dennis's parents were:
Denis & Catherine OReilly.
sources: Syracuse NY census records family tree.

I'll see if I can find the maiden names of the women.


Without conclusive proof I am guessing Dennis and Mary O'Reilly. Dennis's parents could be John and Mary O'Reilly. This is assuming Mario De Niro, father of Robert De Niro sr. could be listed as Henry Deniro on the 1930 census with his wife Helen.

Drew Smith

According to the Wikipedia, Robert De Niro was the son of Robert De Niro, Sr., and according to the Wikipedia, Robert De Niro, Sr. (born 17 January 1922 in Syracuse, New York) was born to an Irish mother.

In the 1930 census for Syracuse, we find Robert De Niro (Sr.) as a 7-year-old with siblings, his parents Henry and Helen (45), and his widowed 59-year-old grandfather, Dennis O'Rielly. (Given the 1920 census, Helen is shown in 1930 as too old, and Dennis as too young.)

In the 1920 census for Syracuse, we find Dennis O'Reilly (51), wife Mary (50), and children John and Helen.

In the 1910 census for Syracuse, we find Dennis O Rily, wife Mary, children John and Helen, and unmarried sister-in-law Ella Burns.

So the full names of Robert De Niro's Irish-American great-grandparents are Dennis O'Rielly/O'Reilly/O Rily and Mary Burns.

Drew Smith

Mary Burns' sister Ella, who appears as a 41-year-old unmarried woman in the 1910 census, is listed as a forelady in a shoe company.

In the 1900 census for Syracuse is a 33-year-old Ella Burns, foreman in a shoe factory. Her parents are listed as John and Mary Burns.


Robert DeNiro's paternal great-grandparents were:

Dennis Francis & Mary (Burns) O'Reilly.

Also, according to a personal family tree on, Dennis's father was Edward Reilly who d. 21 July 1900 in Syracuse NY, and Mary Burn's parents were John & Mary. [I cannot confirm either of those assertions]



They were indeed Dennis and Mary (Burns) O'Reilly. I used the same line of inquiry as Drew to figure out Mary's maiden name and parentage. It seems that we have conflicting theories on the origins of Dennis.

I'll leave it to Bob to figure out the rest.


Oops.. Make that Dennis' father as Edward O'Reilly not Reilly.

I really should have included my methodology...

I too found Robert De Niro Sr. [Robert DeNiro the actor's father] in Syracuse NY with his parents Henry and Helen DeNiro and family. She is listed as daughter to Dennis O'Rielly age 59 b NY, a widow. In 1920 you find Dennis, wife Mary, and children John and Helen living in Syracuse.

Syracuse Herald Journal, NY, 26 July 1952--Dennis O'Reilly, a life long resident of Syracuse died yesterday at Loretto Rest. He was a graduate of the old Putnam School and a former bookeeper for the Chilled Plow Company for 19 years. Survivors are a daughter Mrs. Helen DiNiro, a son, John O'Reilly, four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. Services will be conducted in Loretto Rest Chapel at 9 AM Monday. Burial will be in St. Mary's cemetery... etc.

And then on a Private family tree on Ancestry, I found:

Dennis Francis O'Reilly, b. 29 March 1866 Syracuse, Onondaga, NY; d. July 1952 in Syracuse, Onondaga, NY; he m. in Syracuse NY to Mary Burns (b. 1868 d. July 1924), dau of John & Mary Burns. She b. NY, parents b. Ireland.

*Dennis' father Edward O'Reilly, b. betw 1815-1844 in Ireland, d. 21 July 1900 in Syracuse, Onondaga NY. In 1888-89 a painter in Syracuse NY [per directory]

I'm sure if Robert DeNiro obtained Edward O'Reilly's and Mary (Burns) O'Reilly/O'Rielly's death certificates (both died in Syracuse NY) more information would be provided about those lines.



Our local paper says Robert believes his family came from Co. Clare. If someone can get more details on Edward I can look it up here in Clare.


My husbands family was somehow related to Deniro. They lived in Syracuse and my mother-in-law remembered him as a small boy. She is passed away now. She thought they were cousins somehow maybe distant. The family he lived with owned a trucking company. I can't remember the name of it right now. My husband isn't home right now. Her family name was Held, and White I believe. My kids laugh and say my husband looks similar to Deniro.

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