findmypast.ie has conducted research on Bram Stoker’s family tree which sheds new light on how he created the gothic horrors of Dracula.
Count Dracula, the Transylvanian nobleman and daddy of all vampires, was originally Irish rather than Transylvanian, according to new research by the family historian who previously traced Barack Obama’s Irish roots, Fiona Fitzsimons.
Dracula is the title character of the 1897 Gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker, the Irish writer who died 100 years ago, on April 20, 1912.
Many historians have wondered how Stoker, a one-time Dublin civil servant and chum of Oscar Wilde came to imagine the gothic horrors of Dracula and now, new research into Stoker’s family tree by the genealogy website findmypast.ie provides the answer. The new findings are the fruit of months of research by Fiona Fitzsimons, a director of findmypast.ie and the historian who last year identified Obama’s closest living Irish relatives, enabling the U.S. President to meet them on his state visit to Ireland.
Bram Stoker turns out to have been of an old family with a glorious history. His direct ancestor, Manus “The Magnificent” O’Donnell, once ruled much of Ireland and led a rebellion against Henry VIII.
“We have discovered that Bram Stoker could trace his own direct family line back almost 1,000 years,” said Fitzsimons. In short, his own lineage turns out to have been remarkably similar to Dracula’s.
Fitzsimons added: “Stoker did not use overtly Irish references in Dracula, but his main theme is taken from Irish history – the history, we now learn, of his own family – recast in the writer’s imagination.”
Although the Stoker family on Bram’s father’s side were of humble stock, it was already known before now that Bram’s mother Charlotte was descended from the Blakes, a landed Irish family.
What Fitzsimons has now discovered, with the help of land records found on findmypast.ie, is that Charlotte also descended from the O’Donnells, one of Ireland’s greatest families, with one of its oldest recorded lineages.
The story goes back farther still; from 561 A.D. the O’Donnell lords were the hereditary keepers of the psalter (holy book) of St Columba, revered in Ireland as the patron saint of poets.
These objects remained in the O’Donnell’s keeping until 1843, when they were given to the Royal Irish Academy. Their donation received wide press coverage and was a cause célèbre.
Fitzsimons said: “Our research has proven links between the writer’s family, the oldest surviving Irish manuscript in existence, and one of the greatest treasures held in the National Museum of Ireland. The manuscript book and its reliquary provide evidence that Stoker’s O’Donnell family could trace their direct lineage back more than 1,300 years to 561 A.D.”
Fitzsimons believes the true inspiration for Dracula was Manus the Magnificent, Stoker’s direct ancestor.
This is not to say that Manus was either a vampire or a tyrant, since he was neither, but he was a feudal leader with great power over much of the country and hisheroics in gory battle are just as likely an inspiration for Dracula as any historical figure.