Washington, Pa., is part of who Julie Bowen is

March 11, 2017

A star on “Modern Family” has learned more about her ancestral family. And, it has roots in downtown Washington.Julie Bowen, who portrays Claire Dunphy on the ABC hit comedy, is a descendant of the LeMoyne family. She will talk about that, and other aspects of her lineage, at 10 p.m. Sunday on the TLC series “Who Do You Think You Are?”“We had been waiting and waiting, and finally found out four days before the show airs,” Clay Kilgore, executive director of Washington County Historical Society, said Thursday morning. He was involved with the filming of Bowen at the LeMoyne House and LeMoyne Crematory off South Main Street, which took place over two days in November.“Who Do You Think You Are?” is an hourlong show featuring celebrities tracing their ancestries with the help of historians and genealogy experts. It aired for three seasons on NBC, which canceled the series in 2012. TLC has carried it since. Season 9 kicked off last Sunday with Courteney Cox.There is a similar series with an identical name in the United Kingdom.Julie Bowen Luetkemeyer, who dropped her last name for professional purposes, was in Washington for the first time last fall. Until then, she had passing knowledge about the LeMoyne clan - passed on by her parents and sisters. The Luetkemeyers, members of a prominent Baltimore-area family, made their first visit to Washington in 2014 to become more familiar with that branch of their past.“They spent a day here and we showed them a lot,” said Kilgore, who was aware these were Bowen’s kin. “They had a good idea who the LeMoynes were, so Julie knew something about them.“John Julius LeMoyne, a medical doctor, started the Americanization of his family when he relocated from France to Gallipolis in western Ohio. He had stopped in Washington along the way, was attracted to the city and moved here, where he raised a son, Francis - a future medical doctor. Then Francis had a son, John V. - the member of the clan the Luetkemeyers descended from.John V.‘s daughter, Romaine, was Julie’s great-grandmother.Bowen learned about the LeMoynes in detail during the filming of the episode that will be shown Sunday.“What she didn’t know,” Kilgore said, “were all the ties to the Underground Railroad.“Francis LeMoyne was a fervent abolitionist who was active locally with the Underground Railroad. He was the abolitionists’ choice for vice president on the Liberty Party’s ticket in 1840.“That really caught Julie off guard,” Kilgore said.He said Bowen was especially interested in the crematory Francis built, the first in the Western Hemisphere, and his ties to education.Kilgore said LeMoyne launched Washington Female Seminary, the first school for women in Washington County, in 1835 and a school in Memphis for newly freed slaves.Virtually the entire project, not surprisingly, was shrouded in secrecy. That is the nature of shows like “Jeopardy,” “Shark Tank” and “Who Do You Think You Are?” - results shows with big prizes and/or surprises. That is why Kilgore was not aware of the scheduling for the Julie Bowen episode until Wednesday.“One day,” he recalled, “researchers showed up at the historical society, said they were from “Who Do You Think You Are?” and were doing research on a celebrity on the show. They couldn’t tell us. They kept referring to Julie as ‘The Talent.’“We knew the Luetkemeyer family, and the only one I could think of was Julie. I said, ‘I think I know who this is’ and said ‘Julie.’ They smiled.“On Sunday, “The Talent” will show viewers a renowned Washington family is part of who she is.