Ed Sheeran is a world-famous musician. Frank Sheeran was an American hitman suspected of killing Jimmy Hoffa. Could they be related?
While there is no substantive evidence to prove a direct relationship between Ed and Frank Sheeran, Stephan Graham, who stars in The Irishman, a biopic of Frank Sheeran’s life, claims that the hitman is Ed Sheeran’s distant uncle.
There is no way to say for certain, but both Sheerans certainly share a common heritage.
Martin Scorsese’s 2019 crime thriller, The Irishman, follows Francis “Frank” Sheeran’s involvement with Russel Bufalino, a mobster, and the time he spent working with Jimmy Hoffa, leader of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), a powerful labor union. Al Pacino stars as the titular Irishman, with Stephen Graham co-starring as Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano.
It was Graham who disclosed the alleged connection between Ed and Frank Sheeran in an interview with The Sun, reporting that he was told by the singer himself:
“They’re related, you know. Honest to God — I swear on my nana’s life. That’s what Ed said, he says it’s his distant uncle.”
Ed Sheeran has not commented publicly on the connection, so Graham’s anecdote is the only report of this claim so far.
Sheeran posted a tweet back in 2011, when The Irishman was first being conceptualized but made no mention of a family relationship: “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.”
Ed Sheeran was born in Halifax, England in 1991, but he has distinctly Irish roots via his father’s side of his family. His paternal grandparents are Irish, from a large Catholic family. In an episode of the BBC’s “Desert Island Discs podcast, Sheeran recounts spending his vacations in Ireland growing up:
“I come from an Irish family, spent most of my childhood summers and birthdays and Christmases in Ireland listening to trad music bands.”
Many of Sheeran’s songs have an Irish flavor, such as 2017’s “Nancy Mulligan”, which recounts the marriage of Ed Sheeran’s grandfather, William Sheeran to his grandmother Anne “Nancy” Mulligan.
Another single from the Divide album, “Galway Girl”, was recorded with Beoga, a traditional Irish folk band.
Frank Sheeran was born in 1920 in Derby, Pennsylvania, to an Irish father and a Swedish mother. He was a soldier during WWII, after which he became a delivery driver and met mobster Russel Bufalino.
Through the Bufalino crime family, he met Jimmy Hoffa, leader of the Teamsters Union. Frank began working for Hoffa as hired muscle, assassinating rivals and those who turned their backs on the union.
Frank Sheeran has been tied to multiple murders but was incarcerated in 1980 for labor racketeering. Sheeran’s greatest claim to fame is his alleged murder of Jimmy Hoffa, though he was never charged, nor evidence found to corroborate the story.
Frank Sheeran died in 2003, but before his death gave a tell-all confession to Charles Brandt. Brandt published the book I Hear You Paint Houses which served as the inspiration for The Irishman.
Sheeran Family Name
Taking a look at the origins and popularity of the Sheeran family name may give some insight into how probable the connection could be.
The name “Sheeran” originates from Ireland. It is a shortened form of “O’Sheeran”, which itself is an Anglicized version of Ó Sírín or Ó Síoráin, two Irish surnames that mean ‘‘descendant of Sírín/Síorán’.
Approximately 4,724 people bear the last name “Sheeran”, mostly in Ireland and the USA, so it isn’t completely impossible that Ed and Frank Sheeran may be related.
A Slim Chance
Naturally, a claim like Ed Sheeran’s cannot go long before being investigated. The Daily Mail published an article claiming to have proof that Frank Sheeran cannot be Ed Sheeran’s distant uncle.
“Both Frank’s father [… ] and his grandfather […] were born in the States. But his great grandfather was born in Ireland. But this will be before 1845 at the latest. Looking at the birthdates of each generation it seems probable that one would need to back at least two more generations on Ed’s side before we get a link. That will make them no closer than 4th cousins.”
Frank and Ed Sheeran are certainly not close relations, but the possibility of a connection remains.