#147: The Kennedys, Part 2

147.1 Last week we saw how John F. Kennedy had no 1st or 2nd cousins named Kennedy. Now to say he had “no Kennedy 1st cousins” is a bit imprecise. He had 4 1st cousins on the Kennedy side…which is to say, his father Joe had 4 nieces and nephews, and his grandfather Patrick Joseph “P.J.” had 4 grandchildren (not counting Joe’s kids.)  Since these 4 were on the Kennedy side, they were all “Kennedy 1st cousins” in that sense…but their last names at birth were Connelly and Burke, not Kennedy.

147.2  Likewise, Joe Kennedy had 21 cousins on his father’s side…which is to say Joe’s father P.J. had 21 nieces and nephews, and Joe’s grandfather Patrick Kennedy, “the Immigrant,” had 21 grandchildren (not counting Joe and his siblings.) None of these were named Kennedy at birth…they were named Kane, Mahoney, or Caulfield. I do not know if any of these 21 had offspring…I’d say it’s likely some, if not most, did…and all those offspring were JFK’s “Kennedy 2nd cousins,” altho again none were named Kennedy

147.3  Would I someday like to trace Joe’s  21 “Kennedy 1st cousins,” their spouses and children? You betcha…someday, when there’s time…and it may take money, as the only folks who have bothered to put them on-line may have locked them away behind Ancestry.com’s pay-wall. But for now, altho I happen to know the identity of not one of Kennedy’s 2nd cousins, I have no doubt he had some, and they definitely weren’t named Kennedy, which is the whole point.

147.4  Did JFK have 3rd cousins on the Kennedy side? Some in the Old Country for sure and probably some here. What’s more, unlike his 1st and 2nd cousins, it is possible that some bore the Kennedy last name, as we shall see. But before we head to the Emerald Isle, let’s get oriented…

chart 512

147.5  JFK’s 3rd cousins would be the great grandchildren of his great grandfather’s siblings. That great grandfather is Patrick Kennedy, on Chart 512  in green…I was going to draw my own chart from scratch, but found this on line and decided, with a few modifications, it would do the trick. Now what do we know about Patrick Kennedy as established fact? We know he was born in Ireland and emigrated to the US in 1848. Shipboard he met Bridget Murphy. They settled in East Boston and were married on Sept. 26, 1849. They had 5 children, including JFK’s grandfather Patrick Joseph “P.J.” Kennedy. Patrick Kennedy worked as a cooper and very soon became involved in politics, becoming a ward boss for his neighborhood. He died of cholera on either Nov. 21 or Nov. 22 1858. Yes, note the date.

147.6  Based on US census records, Patrick Kennedy was born about 1823. Where in Ireland? We don’t officially know…and by that I mean, there are no civil records or church records confirming his birth or, and this is key, the identity of his parents. All we have is family tradition…and as far as I can determine, researchers have yet to nail those traditions down as solid fact. So armed with all that, let’s do what JFK did during the summer of 1963…visit the land of his ancestors.

mary ryan

147.7  June 23 thru July 2, 1963…this was a state visit, meaning he made speeches and met with government leaders. He stopped in England, Germany (“Ich bin ein Berliner”), the Vatican, and 4 days in Ireland, one of which was spent in County Wexford, the presumed home of Kennedy’s forebears. And ground zero was the town of Dunganstown, in the parish of Whitechurch, the site of the farm where Patrick Kennedy is thought to have been born and raised. His hostess was the widow Mary Kennedy Ryan, seen above. She was the granddaughter of one James Kennedy, and she had married James Ryan, grandson of James Kennedy’s older brother John…yes, Mary and Jim Ryan were 2nd cousins. Patrick Kennedy is believed to be the younger brother of John and James…and he had a younger sister Mary…but only Patrick left Ireland for the US.

147.8  So how are Mary Ryan and John F. Kennedy related? I’ve read many accounts of the visit, and most play it safe and call them “cousins” or “distant cousins”…can’t go wrong there, as that’s certainly true in the broadest sense of the word “cousin.” Among those who venture to make it more specific, a few say “2nd cousins” but most prefer “3rd cousins”…altho one calls them “cousins 3 times removed,” presumably thinking that’s what “3rd cousins” means…ya gotta love it.

chart 513

147.9  But as you can see in Chart 513, Mary Ryan and Joe Kennedy are 2nd cousins, making Mary and Jack 2nd cousins once removed…which is to say, in non-genealogical terms, Mary was Jack’s father’s 2nd cousin. And kudos to at least one writer…which just goes to show, some people can handle the truth!

2c 1r

 147.10  But do we now have any JFK 3rd cousins named Kennedy? We have some 3rd cousins, that’s for sure. Circled in the picture below is nurse Mary Ann Ryan, who along with her sister Josie and late brother Thomas were double 3rd cousins to Jack…thru Mary Ryan their mother and thru James Ryan their father. After the assassination, Mary Ryan was invited to the funeral but declined, daughter Mary Ann going in her place.

nurse mary ann

147.11  It’s interesting to note that the farms that constitute the Kennedy Homestead are now a popular tourist attraction, managed by one Patrick Grennen, son of Josephine Ryan Grennen, who died in 1979…and thus Mary Ryan’s grandson. He recently revealed that Jack had plans to visit again in 1964, this time a personal not public trip, but of course that never happened. One report I read called Grennen Jack’s 3rd cousin once removed…brilliant! Gold star for you!

147.12  But 3rd cousins named Kennedy? I know of none by name, but looking at Chart 513,  it is a reasonable assumption that there are some descended from the sons of Patrick Kennedy’s brothers John and James…then again, it’s possible there were not, just daughters who all took different surnames when they married…altho did any remain single? The children of John and James are shown in gray boxes, and these are ones I know of…there may be others…and indeed, Patrick may be Mary Ryan’s father. Sons of Jimmy Kennedy, Mary’s brother, would also be likely suspects and he had at least 4 children (see wicked ballsy below)…that could be him circled in in the photo below, from the Kennedy Library and Museum’s exhibit on the trip…and we see the famous walking stick, too.


147.13  And at least one author asserts that after John and James died, some of their children continued to work their farms, which were across the road from each other…but…others emigrated to America, leaving open the possibility of 3rd cousins named Kennedy on both sides of the Atlantic. Sooooo…plenty more research to do some rainy day.

147.14  But before we leave Erin’s verdant shores…one more question: who was the father of Patrick, John, and James? Bearing in mind that corroborative paperwork, or even gravestones, have yet to surface, all seem to agree the brothers are descended from John Kennedy and Bridget Swallow, also given as Shallow…altho backwards from them, it gets really murky…possibly leading back to a Thomas then several Gilbert Kennedys in Scotland…then again, maybe not. But as to the path from this John and Bridget Kennedy to Patrick (JFK’s great grandfather) this is no agreement.

chart 514

147.15  Four possibilities are put forth…it appears (4) is the least likely…it seems to be mentioned less frequently…and wouldn’t you know it, that’s Uncle Wiki’s choice. The links Wikipedia provides for verification show the poverty of their whole approach…one doesn’t mention John or James Kennedy at all…the other does, and it is from no less a genealogical authority than an Irish bed-and-breakfast…OK, fine.

147.16  The other 3 possibilities suffer from an abundance of Patricks. The dates I’ve included are those commonly cited…and you’ll notice in (1) that both father and son died in 1824. I suspect this is an error that stems from the fact that one of the few pieces of documentation we do have is a tithe listing from 1824 that names both Patricks as land-owners…and the younger is even called “Junior.”  But how either or both of these hook up to Patrick the Immigrant nobody can agree on…check this article from no less than the New England Historic Genealogical Society, founded in 1845…pretty weighty, no?

147.17  Notice also that if (3) is correct, Bridget Swallow cannot be Patrick the Immigrant’s grandmother, as she died in 1774 (gravestone) and her son, the Immigrant’s father, was born in 1785. Yet this exact scenario is cited by several sources. Sure, they’re probably wrong, but who knows? Grrrrr…and back next week, to wrap up with some more Kennedy genealogical tidbits…

wicked ballsy

wickey ballsey

Honestly, I don’t mean to complain. But sometimes the earnest researcher…who is doing this for enjoyment as well as edification after all…will feel overwhelmed by the mountain of sheer stuff and nonsense he will encounter. The book excerpt above is a perfect example. It tells of Jack’s first visit to Ireland in 1947, as a first-year congressman. Let’s look at precisely what Michael O’Brien has written:

(1)  Jimmy Kennedy (Mary Ryan’s brother) knew of a Patrick Kennedy visiting there in 1912…this Jack identifies as his grandfather, Patrick Joseph or P.J…and correctly so, for in 1912, Patrick the Immigrant had been dead for 54 years.

(2)  Over at Mary’s place, she is said to be the granddaughter of Patrick’s brother James…and she married her 2nd cousin, grandson of Patrick’s other brother John. But this Patrick is not the grandfather P.J., but instead is his father, Patrick the Immigrant.

(3)  So who is confusing P.J. with this father…Mary Ryan or the author Michael O’Brien?

(4)  And in the end, despite his questioning, young Jack cannot “make a definite link” and concludes that he and Mary are “3rd cousins”…which could very well mean he thought his father’s 2nd cousin was his 3rd cousin, who can say?

chartt 515

But how could Jack not have made a definite link? Is it because he couldn’t tell if Mary was the grand niece of his grandfather P.J. or his great grandfather Patrick the Immigrant? Well, perhaps that’s it exactly…because if you move P.J. into his father’s spot, as we’ve done in Chart 515, then Mary and Jack would be 2nd cousins…not the 3rd cousins Jack thinks they are, nor the 2nd cousins once removed they actually are…ready to give up yet?  No, of course not…but you see what I mean…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


4 thoughts on “#147: The Kennedys, Part 2

  1. Have really enjoyed your blogs about the Kennedys. Just wondering if you ever heard of a Mary Kennedy (born 1865) who married William Ryan (born 1864) on 6 Sept 1885? They are in our family tree and family lore has it that one or both of them was from Dunganstown.

  2. My mother is a Kennedy. From what she has told me, her grandfather Samuel was Joseph Kennedy’s uncle (JFK’s father). Samuel was protestant while Joseph was Irish Catholic. In her will, Rose left money for Samuels wife Nancy but she had already passed away, and my grandfather Datis was the last child of theirs alive but he wouldn’t accept the money because he believed it was blood money.

    • Samuel Harrison Kennedy was born in 1880 in Alabama, far from the Kennedy stamping grounds of Boston, Mass. He married Nancy Adeline Brewer and Datis was the 7th of his 8 children.

      Could Samuel have been the uncle of Joseph Kennedy, JFK’s father? No. Joseph Kennedy’s father Patrick Joseph “P. J.” Kennedy had only one brother, John, who died of cholera 4 months short of his 2nd birthday.

      And P. J.’s father Patrick Kennedy also died of cholera, in 1858, 22 years before Samuel Kennedy was born.

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