The Irish Kennedys

Ted Kennedy was part of a rich Irish heritage.

ByABC News
August 26, 2009, 2:47 PM

Aug. 26, 2009— -- The Kennedy political dynasty can trace their Irish roots to Dunganstown in Wexford.

Patrick Kennedy, the great-grandfather of John, Bobby and Teddy, left Ireland in 1848 to escape the grinding poverty and make a life for himself.

Patrick probably left for the same reason so many millions of Irish left; to escape the grinding poverty and seek a better life for himself in the "New World."

It is believed that Patrick had already met his future wife Bridget Murphy before he left for America. She followed him over and they married in 1849, in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, known as "the grandest Catholic Church in Boston."

The story of the Kennedy family is of course the classic Irish-American immigrant tale – if not indeed the classic American immigrant tale.

As each generation of Kennedys was born, the family moved up in the world. Bridget took over their successful stationary store after her husband, Patrick, died from cholera.

Their youngest son, Patrick J. Kennedy, went on to become a successful Boston politician, winning five consecutive one-year terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and then three two-year terms in the state senate.

Then his son, Joseph P. Kennedy became a leading member of the Democratic Party, and the U.S ambassador to the U.K. And everyone knows the stories of Joseph's sons, John, Bobby and Teddy.

JFK's visit to Ireland as president in June 1963 was a famous moment in Irish history. While there, he visited Dunganstown, to see the family farm and visit relatives. He also saw the docks of the town of New Ross, from where his great-grandfather boarded a ship called the Washington Irving for the New World.

Speaking at a ceremony in New Ross, JFK paid tribute to his Irish heritage. "When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all his grandchildren have valued that inheritance."