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Patrick Kennedy
Born c. 1823
Dunganstown, County Wexford, Ireland
Died November 22, 1858 (1858-11-23)
East Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Cause of death cholera
Resting place Cambridge, Massachusetts
Nationality Irish
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Bridget Murphy Kennedy (m. 1849) «start: (1849)»"Marriage: Bridget Murphy Kennedy to Patrick Kennedy (1823–1858)" Location: (linkback:
Children Mary L. (1851–1926)
Joanna L. (1852–1926)
John (1854–1855)
Margaret M. (1855–1929)
Patrick Joseph (1858–1929)
Parents James Kennedy and Maria Kennedy
Relatives John F. Kennedy, great-grandson

Patrick Kennedy (c. 1823 – November 22, 1858) was the father of P. J. Kennedy and great-grandfather to John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. He was born in Dunganstown, County Wexford, Ireland, and emigrated to the United States, settling in East Boston, Massachusetts.


Early life and Penal times

Patrick Kennedy was a son of a farmer James Kennedy (c. 1770 – c. 1835) and his wife Maria (c. 1779 – February 16, 1835). James Kennedy was born in Dunganstown (Whitechurch, New Ross, County Wexford) in southern Ireland to John Kennedy (1738-1803) and Bridget Shallow (1744-1774).[1] He inherited a small farm from his father, John Kennedy, during the Penal Law times in Ireland. Patrick had three siblings:

  • Mary Kennedy, who married James Molloy[2]
  • James Kennedy (1816-1881) married Catherine Colfer and was a local farmer[3]
  • John Kennedy (1804-1864) married Mary K Gunnip 1816-1881 and was also a local farmer[4]


By the time Patrick reached adulthood, both his parents were apparently dead and the family homestead was controlled by his older brother John Kennedy, more than a dozen years Patrick's senior, who was already married and the father of four children. The eldest son normally inherited whatever claims existed to the family's farm. Because of the life-threatening scarcity of food and resources, the rest of the children, such as third son Patrick Kennedy, usually were expected to leave for the New World. Patrick also had a brother James and a sister Mary.

Patrick's life as a farmer in Dunganstown consisted mainly of cutting and tying bundles of grain by hand, and planting and tilling potatoes for his family's consumption. This routine varied only when he ventured into the nearest town, New Ross, with supplies of barley, and when the family attended mass about a mile away.

At the age of 26, Kennedy decided to leave Ireland. It is assumed this was for reasons of starvation related to the Irish Potato Famine, illness, or because he knew that a third-born son had virtually no hope of running his family's farm. His good friend at Cherry Bros. Brewery in New Ross, Patrick Barron, who taught Kennedy the skills of coopering, had come to that conclusion months earlier and left for America. In October 1848, in love with Barron's cousin Bridget Murphy and with a plan to wed, Patrick Kennedy decided to follow.[5]

Patrick Kennedy arrived in Boston on April 22, 1849, having sailed from Liverpool, England on the Washington Irving, a substantial packet ship from the East Boston yard of Donald McKay.[6] Patrick Barron helped settle him into Boston life and organised his coopering job on Noddle's Island in east Boston. Not long after, his fiancée Bridget made her way to Boston and six months later they were married, on September 26, 1849 in the Holy Redeemer Church by Father John Williams, who later became Boston's Roman Catholic Archbishop.[7]


The Kennedys had five children as follows:

Name Birth Death Notes
Mary L. Kennedy August 6, 1851 March 7, 1926 Married on January 1, 1883 to Lawrence M. Kane; had issue.
Joanna L. Kennedy November 27, 1852 February 23, 1926 Married on September 22, 1872 to Humphrey Charles Mahoney; had issue.
John Kennedy January 4, 1854 September 24, 1855
Margaret M. Kennedy July 18, 1855 April 2, 1929 Married on February 21, 1882 to John Caulfield; had issue.
Patrick J. Kennedy January 14, 1858 May 18, 1929 Married on November 23, 1887 to Mary Augusta Hickey; had issue.

The arrival of their fifth child was a particularly happy occasion after the death of John. However that same year thirty five year old Kennedy succumbed to the highly infectious cholera that infested East Boston, and died on November 22, 1858—105 years to the day before his great-grandson John F. Kennedy would be assassinated.

Bridget Kennedy later went on to buy a stationery and notions store in east Boston where she had worked. The business took off and expanded into a grocery and liquor store, which helped pave the way for the success of her son P. J. Kennedy.

The story of Patrick Kennedy has become probably the most famous of any of Ireland's millions of emigrants, due to the quick success of his children and grandchildren in American society and ultimately his great-grandson John F. Kennedy's election as the first Irish-American Catholic President (the only Roman Catholic to date). In June 1963, John F. Kennedy made a state visit to Ireland, in which he visited Dunganstown and New Ross in County Wexford in what was seen as a personal tribute to his ancestry.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]
  5. ^ Maier, Thomas (2003). The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings. Basic Books. pp. 31–32.,M1. Retrieved December 21, 2008. 
  6. ^ Laxton, Edward The Famine Ships The Irish Exodus to America 1846-51 London Bloomsbury 1997 p144 ISBN 0747535000
  7. ^ Collier, P. and D. Horowitz (1984). The Kennedys - An American Drama. 



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