5 Things You Didn’t Know about Megan Rapinoe’s Roots

Megan Smolenyak
Jul 16 · 3 min read
Megan Rapinoe celebrating championship at NYC parade. (Used with permission. Credit: Andy Bass)

Megan Rapinoe’s been blowing minds for some time now, but her (latest) stellar FIFA World Cup performance coupled with her blunt, yet thoughtful commentary have propelled her onto an entirely new level of the international stage. She’s provided a massive inspirational injection to millions at a time when we needed it most.

So naturally, as a genealogist, I felt compelled to take a peek into her past — meaning her ancestral, rather than personal, history. At this point, I’ve only had the chance to take a quick dive into the paternal side of her heritage, so more remains to be told, but here are a few bits and pieces that bubbled up.

1) Her ancestry is one-quarter Italian, and as a fellow Megan and Irish-American, I’m delighted to say that it’s also one-quarter Irish (yes, the classic garlic-Gaelic combination usually associated with New Jersey). It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that her Irish relatives include a few who stood up to the British.

2) As to the Italian and Irish towns that get bragging rights for Megan, take a bow, Lanciano and Ripacandida, Italy, and Treanacally and Kilrooskey, Ireland!

3) Surnames from this half of her family tree include the following: Bermingham/Birmingham, Casalanguida, Gallagher, Lane, Lepore, Madden, Piedilato, and Rapino(e), among others. Perhaps my favorite is Gioiosa which sports an impressive 5:2 vowel-to-consonant ratio. If you share any of these names, there’s a chance that Megan’s your cousin, and if you happen to have roots in California, Illinois, and/or Pennsylvania, your odds of a connection are even better.

Teamwork now … (Credit: Fredric King)

4) Her Irish immigrant great-grandfather had six sisters. One of them died young, but the other five — Bridget, Kate, Mary, Maggie and Lizzie — all emigrated to America and settled in Philadelphia. Demonstrating excellent teamwork and coordination, they assisted each other’s arrivals and even found jobs for each other, as seen in this census record where three of them are working in the same household — a house that still stands today.

… and then. (1920 U.S. census, Ancestry.com)
house where the Birmingham sisters lived (Google Maps)

5) One of her Italian great-great-grandmothers, an immigrant, defied convention. Here she is arriving in the U.S. with some of her kids (her husband and oldest son had come ahead):

passenger arrival record (Ancestry.com)

Note that the children have the Rapino name, while she’s traveling under her maiden name of Teresa Casalanguida (which translates roughly to “languid house,” no doubt a perfect place for chillin’ and tea sippin’). This was the norm for Italian women at the time who were accustomed to retaining their maiden names. Once they came to the U.S., though, most began using their husband’s surnames. But not Teresa. Years later — married but with no husband in sight — she and her children are recorded in the U.S. census under her maiden name.

1920 U.S. census (Ancestry.com)

And speaking of the Rapino branch (yes, an ‘e’ was added in later years), it’s thanks to an ancestral fluke that the US has Megan on its team. Her Rapino great-great-grandfather initially immigrated to Canada, but decided to strike out once more for Pennsylvania — which is why she’s striking for America.

Megan Smolenyak

Written by

Genealogical adventurer & storyteller who loves solving mysteries! 6 books, 20+ TV shows, former Ancestry.com Chief Family Historian, cold case sleuth for many.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade