Patrick Kennedy (1823–1858)

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Patrick Kennedy
Born Between January 15 and February 16, 1823
New Ross, Ireland
Died November 22, 1858(1858-11-22) (aged 35)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Cause of death Cholera
Resting place Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Farmer
Spouse(s) Bridget Murphy
(m. 1849; his death 1858)
  • Mary L. Kennedy
  • Joanna L. Kennedy
  • John Kennedy III
  • Margaret M. Kennedy
  • P. J. Kennedy
Parent(s) James and Maria Kennedy
Relatives See Kennedy family

Patrick Kennedy (bet. January 15 and February 16, 1823 – November 22, 1858) was an Irish farmer who moved to East Boston, Massachusetts from County Wexford, Ireland. He was born in New Ross, Ireland. He was the father of businessman/politician P. J. Kennedy, paternal grandfather of businessman/politician Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and patrilineal great-grandfather of World War II casualty Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and longtime Senator Ted Kennedy.

Early life

Patrick Kennedy was the youngest son of farmer James Kennedy (1770–1840) and his wife Maria (c. 1779 – February 16, 1835).[1] James Kennedy was born in Dunganstown,[2] (Whitechurch, New Ross, County Wexford) in Ireland to John Kennedy (1738–1803) and Bridget Shallow (1744–1774). James inherited a small farm from his father during the Penal Law times in Ireland. Patrick had three older siblings:

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


By the time Patrick reached adulthood, both his parents were dead and the family homestead was controlled by his eldest brother John, 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.

The Kennedy Farm is still an operating farm, luckily the farm is situated in the "Golden Vale", which is the most furtile land in Ireland. The Family owned a small amount of lifestock, a few dairy cows and some chickens who provided eggs. The property also has a small bog on it, which is where Patrick and his brother would cut out rectangle strips of wet turf, which needed to dry out so that it could be used to heat the home and keep the open hearth fires lit for cooking. Other aspects of 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.

It was decided that the farm could not sustain Patrick and his other siblings in addition to John and his family. The family had enough money to send one of the siblings via the steerage section to imigrate to America. The decision of whichsibling to imigrate came down to a coin was toss between Patrick and his brother, the loser of the toss would be the brother to imigrate to the US, while the remaining brother would stay and work the farm which was John.

At the age of 26, Kennedy decided to leave Ireland. It is assumed this was for reasons of starvation related to the Irish 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, Patrick Kennedy decided to follow.[4]

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. Patrick Barron helped settle him into Boston life and organized his coopering job on Noddle's Island (present-day East Boston). Not long after, Barron's cousin Bridget Murphy (daughter of Phillip Murphy and Mary Barron)[5] made her way to Boston and married Kennedy, on September 26, 1849 in the Holy Redeemer Church by Father John Williams, who later became Boston's Roman Catholic Archbishop.[6]


Patrick and Bridget had five children:

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

The arrival of P. J. was a particularly happy occasion after the death of John. However that same year Patrick succumbed to the highly infectious cholera that infested East Boston, and died on November 22, 1858, exactly 105 years before his great-grandson John would be assassinated.

Bridget 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 their son P. J.

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 Catholic President. In June 1963, John F. Kennedy made a state visit to Ireland, in which he visited Dunganstown[2] and New Ross in County Wexford in what was seen as a personal tribute to his ancestry.

Since the visit of President John F Kennedy to the homestead the Murphy Family for No Fee allows access to the farm to any visitors who drive up the dirt road to the farm. They are truly honored to be related to the American Kennedy Family that they believe it is their duty to share the homestead to anyone. The original milking shed which is a small building made of stone and white wash paint was converted into an informal museum. Many members JFK's siblings would later go to the homestead with their children so they could understand where they came from. Photographs of different members of the Kennedy family hang on the stone walls and there are many guest books with antedotes by some of the Kennedys. The Murphys told me it was very important to Jackie that both John Jr and Caroline learn about their Irish ancestory and she would let the children "work" the farm with their Irish cousins. Another Murphy family favorite was Senator Ted Kennedy who visited the homestead multiple times and the Murphys said, "Ted was more Irish than American, as he had the wit and humor of an Irishman not an American.

The Murphys do not receive any financial benefit for opening up their farm, they do it because they are so honored to be related to the Kennedys and believe it is important for others to benefit from visiting the farm. Sadly this side of the Kennedy family has seen too much tragedy with the deaths of their children in their early adult years. By the late 1980's only Mrs. Murphy and her two grandsons remain at the homestead as both her daughters and her son in law died young. They will never sell the farm but they had to lease the fields to other farmers in the area as the boys were too young to work the farm and Mrs Murphy was in her 80's.


  1. Maier, Thomas (2003). The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings. Basic Books. p. [page needed]. ISBN 978-0-465-04317-0. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "John F. Kennedy's Ancestors". Irish Townland Maps. Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  3. "Kennedy Homestead". Warren Farm Guest Cottages. 
  4. Maier 2003, pp. 31–32.
  5. Laxton, Edward (1998). "The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America". Henry Holt and Company. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  6. Collier, P.; Horowitz, D. (1984). The Kennedys - An American Drama. [full citation needed]
  • "Kennedy". Political Graveyard. Retrieved December 21, 2008.