Susan Sarandon

By Matt Elton, 12 July 2010 - 10:33am
The Hollywood actress discovers a family history of searching for a better life in her story from the US series
Susan Sarandon

With roots in Wales, Italy and New York, Susan Sarandon's family history tells the story of people searching for a better life.

Half of the legendary Thelma and Louise, Susan Sarandon's illustrious film career started with the 1970 drama Joe and is still going strong today. She recently starred in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of best-selling novel The Lovely Bones, and will soon be seen in the big-budget sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Susan has been awarded countless accolades for her performances, including an Oscar for her leading role in 1995 crime drama Dead Man Walking.

Born in New York in 1946, the actress is the eldest of nine children and has always been fascinated by her family’s history. Her intrigue stems from her father’s surname, Tomalin, which derives from the Welsh surname Thomas, and also her mother’s maiden name Criscione, which is of Italian descent.

In 2006, Susan began the task of tracing her Welsh roots, documented on television for an episode of BBC Wales' Coming Home. The journey took her from the south-west of England to Glamorgan in South Wales, where she discovered a great great uncle had worked in a Welsh-owned ironworks in the Ukraine.

So how did the family end up on the other side of the Atlantic? The answer lies with Susan’s great grandmother, Susanna Beams, who travelled to London before voyaging alone to America in order to marry her husband, William Tomalin, in the late 19th century.

Susan is keen to learn more about the lives of her ancestors in America, and particularly wants to track down her grandmother, Anita Evilyn Rigali, who was born in New York in 1907. Anita was rumoured to have been a showgirl in a speakeasy in the 1920s, and could hold the key to unlocking more doors in the search for Susan's Italian ancestry...

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