Frank Sheeran is the titular character in the new Martin Scorsese Mafia epic on Netflix called The Irishman. Sheeran, who is played by Robert De Niro in the movie, was a real person, a Teamsters boss with Pennsylvania roots who was linked to the mob. Because he’s a real character and has a somewhat unusual last name, some people are wondering: Is Ed Sheeran, the singer, related to Frank Sheeran, the Irish-American mobster who once confessed that he shot Jimmy Hoffa to death?
At least one cast member thinks so. Stephen Graham, who plays mobster Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano in The Irishman, told the Sun that Ed Sheeran told him that he’s related to Frank. “They’re related, you know. Honest to God — I swear on my nana’s life,” claimed Graham to The Sun. “That’s what Ed said, he says it’s his distant uncle.”
However, before you buy all of that, there’s more. Daily Mail claims that family records show that it’s possible Ed Sheeran and Frank Sheeran are fourth cousins, but even that’s uncertain, and Frank was not Ed’s uncle.
Here’s what you need to know:
Researchers Scoured Records & Couldn’t Find a Direct Link Between Ed Sheeran & Frank Sheeran
Daily Mail reported that genealogists have scoured “birth, marriage and death records in Britain and America dating back to 1845” and found “no direct link between the two men.”
Although Frank Sheeran was part Irish, he was born in America, as were his parents and grandparents, Daily Mail reported. The only chance for a link comes through Frank’s Irish-born great-grandfather Thomas Sheeran, according to the British publication. But that, too, is “slim,” reports Daily Mail. Heavy has unearthed ancestry records confirming that Frank’s father and grandfather (the Irish side of his family) were born in Philadelphia, and his great-grandfather and great-grandmother were born in Ireland.
According to Daily Mail, Ed Sheeran is Irish through both parents. Irish Central reported that Ed Sheeran’s family “come from Maghera in Co Derry, Northern Ireland, on his father’s side and Galway on his mother’s side.”
Ed Sheeran weighed in on the film on Twitter, but he didn’t get into the I’m related stuff, writing, “Robert De Niro is playing a top Irish gangster in a new Martin Scorsese film. The gangster he is playing is called Frank Sheeran. True story.”
The Irishman is based on the 2004 biography of Sheeran’s life – Frank’s, not Ed’s – called I Heard You Paint Houses by writer Charles Brandt, who argues that Sheeran confessed to murdering Teamster boss Hoffa. According to The Smithsonian, the real Frank Sheeran was an Irish-Catholic WWII veteran and truck driver. He did “small jobs” for Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino. He claimed in the book that he was the “right-hand” man of Jimmy Hoffa (played on Netflix by Al Pacino). He also claimed he murdered him at the behest of Bufalino, although some experts don’t think it’s true.
A 1974 article in the Philadelphia Daily News describes Frank Joseph Sheeran as the “son of a Depression steeplejack who worked as a church sexton at Our Mother of Sorrows at 48th and Lancaster in West Philadelphia” and at BVM. The New York Post reports that Sheeran was raised in Darby Pennsylvania in a “rough-and tumble childhood.” He joined the military in 1941 and was sent to Italy. He moved to Philadelphia in 1945, got married, and began working as a grocery chain truck driver, The Post reported. By 1955, he was running errands for gangster Bufalino.
Frank’s father was Thomas Francis Sheeran Jr., who was of Irish descent, and his mother was Mary Agnes Hanson, who was Swedish, Ancestry records show. Here’s Frank’s dad’s draft card:
1940 federal census records show the Thomas Sheeran family (Frank’s dad), including Francis (Frank). Thomas worked as a painter and had an 8th grade education, according to census records. He was born in Philadelphia.
A WWI veterans’ compensation application for Frank’s dad says that Thomas Sheeran’s mother was Elizabeth Sheeran and his father was Thomas Francis Sheeran Sr.
Ancestry records show that Thomas Sr. – Frank’s grandfather – was born in Pennsylvania in about 1859. However, census records say that his parents were both born in Ireland. Thomas Sr. worked in the iron industry as a moulder.
As for the singer, Ed Sheeran was born in England in 1991 to John and Imogen Sheeran of London.
READ NEXT: The Real Life Story of Frank Sheeran.