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How Irish was John F Kennedy?

To say that the Kennedy’s and Ireland go hand in hand is an understatement of huge proportions.

The Kennedy’s, that quintessential political dynasty and embodiment of the American dream, are as “Irish” as they come. From their very roots right through to the present day, the family has retained its heritage as well as come to be shaped and defined by it in some cases. 

The Kennedy’s most famous son, John Fitzgerald Kennedy represents that connection like no other.

How Irish was JFK? In short, very. 

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JFK's Irish Roots

At one point, between the 19th and 20th centuries, America was the world’s melting pot as the New World was a place were people from every corner of the globe mixed and converged. 

As a result almost all modern Americans can trace back their ancestry to be a mix of Italian, German, Dutch, Scottish, English, French, Scandinavian and so on.

The Kennedys, and JFK, were slightly different.

The Kennedys can directly trace all of their roots back to the Emerald Isle of Ireland. JFK’s four grandparents were all children of Irish immigrants who left their native land during the mid 19th century for shores anew.

The Kennedy side started with Patrick Kennedy emigrating from his native Dunganstown, County Wexford, via the port of New Ross, in 1848 during the horrors of the Great Hunger, also known as the Irish Famine. A year later Patrick married his wife Bridget Murphy, originally from Owenduff in Wexford, and began setting up their new life in the Irish stronghold of Boston.

During a similar timeframe the Fitzgeralds made their move across the Atlantic Ocean as Thomas Fitzgerald and Anna Rose Cox, of Limerick and Cavan respectively, sought to escape the poverty and destitution of rural Irish life at the time.

Interestingly the Holy Bible on which JFK placed his hand and was sworn in to an oath of office on his 1961 Inauguration came directly from Ireland via Thomas Fitzgerald. 

Irish in America

Although it can only be viewed from above with the benefit of hindsight, and both families wouldn’t know it at the time, both the Kennedys and Fitzgeralds set upon their own path towards the American dream. 

Both families came to American as regular laborers, peddlers, coopers and manual workers but the arrival of each new generation brought about an increase in fortune and standing in society. 

Peddlers and coopers gave way to retailers, clerks and tavern owners and they in turn eventually gave way to politicians, ambassadors and finally the highest seat of them all, the President of the United States of America.

Throughout all of this both families, and JFK’s parents Joseph Patrick Kennedy and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy, retained a deep sense of heritage, “Irishness” and connection to their Catholic faith.

This manifested in all manner of ways but included JFK visiting Ireland for the first time in 1947 long before the glare of cameras and worldwide attention documented his 1963 summertime visit. Local folklore has it that the future President tracked down his long-lost relatives in Dunganstown, arrived at their farm in Wexford and simply introduced himself as “young cousin John from Massachusetts”.

Jfk Eamon

Kennedy Legacies

We all know the unfortunate events of what happened next.

John F Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, the first and to date only ever Roman Catholic to hold the position and, at 43 years old, he was also one of the youngest to ever take the office.

Despite all of this, and despite his charm, grace and political nous he was gunned down in his prime.

Thankfully, the Kennedy story didn’t end there. The family has been blighted by numerous tragedies over the decades but remains standing to this day and key figures, like Kerry Kennedy continue to shine a light for the family, Irish Americans and the Irish in general.


It might not be the happiest of endings but JFK’s rise, and the rise of the Kennedys in general, is an incredible story that all started with four young Irish people, two men and two woman, seeking refuge and searching for hope during one of Ireland’s darkest hours. 

We’ll be thankful for that. 

Thanks for reading our blog! As a thank you, you can get 10% off any Irish plot of land by using the code: BLOG10

Click here to view plots.

The perfect gift for those with Irish Roots

Your own little piece of Ireland

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