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Chris O'Donnell

Given his very Irish surname, Chris O’Donnell was sure that most of his paternal ancestors were pretty recent immigrants from Ireland. He was surprised to learn that he has American roots that go back 13 generations. One ancestor was even an eyewitness to an iconic American event.

Chris’ journey started in St. Louis where we found the McEnnis family in census records. Chris’ great-great grandfather, Michael Joseph McEnnis, was a grocer who was born in Maryland. He was living with his wife Eliza and their four children in St Louis in 1860. Armed with this information, we searched for other sources to give us a more detailed picture of the McEnnis family and found Michael McEnnis mentioned in a compiled history entitled McNair, McNear, and McNeir Genealogies at Ancestry.com. From this book published in 1923, we learned that Michael was a veteran of the Mexican War which led us to search for his military service records.

The compiled history also listed Michael’s parents and grandparents along with his extended family. Many of the men in the family served in the military. Michael’s grandfather, George McNeir served during the War of 1812 “taking part in the defense of Fort McHenry.” George was there during the bombardment of the fort and was a personal witness the next morning to find that the Star Spangled Banner was still there flying over “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Compiled histories can hold a wealth of information and clues. Check out the Stories, Memories, and Histories at Ancestry.com to discover more about your own family.

Learn more about Chris’ journey or watch the full episode on TLC.com. Watch more celebrities discover their family history on all new episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? Tuesdays 9|8c on TLC.

Research Manager on Project:

Lorraine Bourne

Project Hours:

455 Hours

Lorraine has been enthusiastically involved in genealogy and family history work for over 18 years. She has conducted professional genealogy research since 2002 and joined ProGen in 2009, working on client research and the Who Do You Think You Are? TV series, researching celebrities such as Tim McGraw, Reba McEntyre, Kelly Clarkson, Chris O'Donnell, Angie Harman, Melissa Etheridge, Lauren Graham, and others. She also worked with episodes of My Family Secrets Revealed a UK television series.


She obtained a bachelor's degree from BYU in 2005 with a major in family history and  business management. She continues to attend college courses, institutes, seminars, and conferences with in-depth training on research in several areas of the United States and the British Isles. Her areas of research expertise include the United States (Mid-South, Mid-Atlantic, New England, West, Midwest, colonial), Canada (English), England, African-American, Native American, lineage society applications, immigration and naturalization, and military records.