The last name Disney doesn’t exactly make you think of the rolling hills, medieval castles, and the quaint towns of the Emerald Isle, but did you know that Walt Disney’s ancestry can be traced back to Ireland? It’s true! Let’s take a look at Walt Disney And His Irish Ancestry.
The last name Disney is actually derived from the Normandy French name D’Isigny. It is believed that Walt’s ancestors settled around Kilkenny, Ireland sometime during the 1600’s. Walt Disney’s paternal great grandfather, Arundel Elias Disney, was born in Kilkenny around 1801. Around 1832, according to land records from Kilkenny, Arundel Elias Disney married Maria Swan. Maria went on to have sixteen children (yep, you read that correctly! I can never complain about being tired out from my three kids ever again!) One of Arundel & Maria’s children was a son, Kepple Disney, who was Walt Disney’s grandfather.
Arundel Elias and his brother Robert eventually collected their families and moved to Liverpool, England, and then later emigrated to Ontario, Canada. According to Canadian records, Kepple Disney eventually married another Irish-Canadian Immigrant, Mary Richardson in 1858. One year later, in 1859, Mary gave birth to Elias Disney, Walt Disney’s father. Later, in 1878, the Disneys moved once again, this time to the United States, where they settled in Ellis, Kansas in 1878.
As a younger man, Walt’s father Elias moved around an awful lot, living in several places throughout the United States over the years. It was during a brief stint living in Chicago, Illinois, on December 5, 1901, that Walter Elias Disney was born. Elias and his wife, Flora Disney, would then move to Kansas City, Missouri with their five children and settle there for a time, before moving to Marceline, Missouri, the famous town where Walt Disney would later find his inspiration for Disneyland’s Main Street, USA.
Later on in his life, Walt Disney and his wife, Lillian, took a trip to Ireland for the premiere of his film, Darby O’Gill and the Little People. While on the trip, the famous couple purchased traditional Irish Claddagh rings which they wore every day. The Claddagh Ring is even featured on Walt’s right hand on the iconic Partners Statues in Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, and at the Team Disney courtyard in Burbank, California.
So the next time you’re walking through the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland, try to slow down and take a look at Walt Disney’s right hand on the Partners Statue. Walt was very proud of his Irish heritage, and it was a big part of who he was. I hope you enjoyed this look back at Walt Disney, his family, and their humble beginnings in Ireland.
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