Searching for Marilyn’s Scottish Roots

Marilyn by Sam Shaw, 1957

The search for Marilyn’s Scottish ancestors, first reported here, is still in progress, as Steven McKenzie writes for BBC News.

“The actress’s mother, Gladys Pearl Monroe, had ancestral links to Scotland, according to Clan Munro USA. It believes that an ancestor of Monroe, an alternative spelling of the Scottish surname Munro, was a Highlander banished to America in the 1650s.

Free DNA tests are available, but there has been a lower uptake than expected. The association’s genealogy committee said it was ‘surprised’ more Scots had not taken up the offer of the free test kits, but remains hopeful they will be forthcoming.

The society has already successfully tracked down and tested a living descendant of Monroe’s great grandfather. The results were compared to the others in its Munro DNA Project, a database of hundreds of samples provided by Munros living all over the world whose family trees have been studied.

The project includes the descendants of Munros from Easter Ross in the Highlands, also the fifth US president James Monroe and Scots soldiers who were imprisoned and then banished to the American colonies after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Worcester was the last battle of the English Civil Wars and involved thousands of Scots combatants.

The association said the YDNA test already done had shown that the Hollywood actress was a descendant of one of those soldiers, said to be a Highlander whose family came from Aldie, near Tain, in the Munro clan’s Easter Ross stronghold.”

Marilyn’s Scottish Roots

Marilyn by John Vachon, 1953
Marilyn by John Vachon, 1953

Marilyn never visited Scotland, but it’s thought that her ancestors may have travelled to America from the Highland village of Tain, the Scottish Herald reports. (This follows another story about her family links to Indiana and Mexico.)

“The search is now on for distant relatives of the star in the Highlands after it was found her ancestors may have come from the small town of Tain.

Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortensen, was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the home of the movie business – a far cry from the remote town on the coast of the Dornoch Firth.

Tain is perhaps best known for being the oldest Royal Burgh in Scotland but connections to one of Hollywood’s biggest stars could be a big draw for the town.

DNA research by the Clan Munro USA has found that Monroe was descended from a soldier from the area who was exiled to America after the English Civil War.

The research made use of a sample provided by a male relative of Monroe’s grandfather Otis Elmer Monroe.

It found a link to John Munro, a soldier from the area around Tain, who travelled to America in the mid-17th century.

He was one of many Scotsmen who fought for the Royalist cause during the English Civil War to be exiled after its defeat by Oliver Cromwell.

He is thought to have settled in what is now the US state of Rhode Island.”