Irish ancestry

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I was watching this video on a vintage TV set for the first time in my life. The Visitor Centre at the Kennedy Homestead was reopened in June 2013, fifty years after the President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in June 1963, and this TV set and the tea cups belong to the era. A cup of tea, salmon sandwiches, and a huge cake – it is what his cousin Mrs. Ryan, with the help of her neighbors, cooked for the occasion. President Kennedy was accompanied by his sisters Eunice and Jean, and they met fifteen of their Irish cousins! In the picture below you see Patrick Grennan, Mrs. Ryan’s grandson. He is a curator of the Kennedy Homestead, the birthplace of their ancestor Patrick Kennedy, a great-grandfather of the President.

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It was the second day of his four day tour when the President traveled by helicopter to Mary Ryan’s farm in Dunganstown, Co Wexford. He had been there before. In 1947, he came to Ireland to visit his sister Kathleen who was staying at Lismore Castle. Kennedy and the other guests borrowed a station wagon and went looking for his relatives in Dunganstown. That is  how he met his third cousins for the first time. He said that his visit was ‘filled with magic’.

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Patrick Kennedy emigrated in 1848 – being the third son, he had no chance of running the family farm. More than a century later, in his speech at the quay in New Ross from where his great grandfather left for America, JFK joked that if his great grandfather hadn’t emigrated, he himself might now be working for the Albatross fertilizer Company, or perhaps for John V. Kelly shop down the road.

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The Kennedy Homestead museum has a unique collection of the Kennedy family’s artifacts including the rosary beads that was in the President John F. Kennedy’s pocket when he was assassinated in Dallas. Jacqueline Kennedy brought her children to visit and gave the rosary beads to Mary Ann, the late President’s cousin and Patrick Grennan’s aunt.

Exposition also includes documents, photographs, audio-visual display, and plenty of space to walk around and contemplate.

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This dress is a replica of a simple linen dress Jacqueline Kennedy wore for her official White House portrait that was painted in 1970 by Aaron Shikler. The dress was made by the Irish designer Sybil Connolly.

The astronaut spacesuit is a replica of the spacesuit worn by John Glenn during project Mercury, the first US manned space program.

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I was told that decorative rugs, like this one, were popular in the 1960s. The rug is a gift to the museum.

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More artifacts and photographs.

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‘I’ll be back in the springtime’  – these were the last words President Kennedy spoke before leaving. His ambition was to serve two terms as President and then appoint himself as Ambassador to Ireland. His sister Jean was to fulfill this ambition. She visited Kennedy Homestead as Ambassador on the 30th anniversary of his 1963 visit, in June 1993. Twenty years later, Caroline Kennedy, the President’s daughter, and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny opened this new Visitor Centre and Museum.

In 2004 I was in Kennedy Arboretum, and on the way back we stopped by the Homestead, but didn’t go in, so I just took some pictures from the road. The Arboretum is a unique place itself and some day I will go there again to write a blog post.

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My personal connection with JFK? Definitely it is this picture with Patrick Grennan taken with assistance from two lovely ladies, Mary and Eimear…

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… and my smooth landing at JFK airport a few days later 🙂

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Just a word about another two famous Americans with Irish roots whose ancestors were not that lucky, and their names are fading away from the old gravestones in the littered and overgrown Clonmelsh graveyard, Ballyloo, Co Carlow.

Pierce Butler, one of the Founding Fathers, was born in Co Carlow, the 5th Baronet of Cloughgrenan, a younger son unable to inherit his family fortune. Butler joined the British Army and was sent to America, where eighteen years later he signed the American Constitution as a South Carolina’s representative to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

Many of his ancestors are lying here in Clonmelsh.

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Walt Disney’s ancestors left Ireland to travel to New York in 1834, and now the Disney Corporation is worth billions. Three of his ancestors are buried in Clonmelsh graveyard, and the Council is cleaning rubbish in this ‘all star’ graveyard every six month just to keep it in presentable state.

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There are many election-related blog posts published these days, some of them very hateful. I do care about this election, because it is a big deal globally, but I don’t see how a blog post that is spitting hate can actually help. So, I just want to finish with a quote I copied from Facebook. I do respect this man who has never forgotten his roots, who loved the land of his ancestors and left a legacy of identity to his children, and a legacy of hope for his country. Don’t get me wrong though. I know that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was just a man, as imperfect as a man can be, but do you realise that there is no perfect man who would come and clean up our mess. So, why not to listen to the words of this redhead President that make so much sense? He had inherited Cuba, Vietnam, and Civil Rights problems, something one cannot resolve overnight, but he had started working on that, and there was progress, there was improvement, one step at a time, and it is how it works. One tiny step at a time. Those who promise a quick solution, lie. Only step by step, without trying to fix the past, but with aspiration to build the future.

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Thank you for reading!

inesemjphotography Have a wonderful weekend!

137 comments

  1. Nice bit of history. This post only shows how connected the world is – a US President with roots in Ireland, etc. I like the quote from the President in the last frame. Yes, Kennedy is not perfect but maybe, he did his best as a President.

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      1. True. My bone with politics is that every person that runs is beholden to his party and the interests that support his/her candidacy. They can promise the moon and stars during the campaign but at the end of the day, they will have to weigh the cost of their promises against so many other considerations. Or maybe, I am just being too cynical.

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        1. Possibly. Or it is just mankind’s stupidity surfacing. 70 years after the last mass slaughter, everybody has forgotten. I hope your daughter is better, and that you get lots of videos of the new baby. 🙂

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  2. Hey Inese – I agree about the peaceful approach to politics – whew – and had no idea Kennedy was a redhead either!
    and guess what _ i have a good amount of irish in me as well – like 30 to 35%
    cheers to that!

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    1. Oh, congratulations on being so Irish! 🙂
      Kennedy’s hair had that golden ginger shade 🙂 We have seen him mostly in b&w though.
      My approach to politics is not exactly peaceful. I would never vote for a person, but rather for my own perspectives, my own future. Common sense says me that ‘republican’ and ‘democratic’ are just labels, and neither of them is exactly my cup of tea. Two very rich people are fighting for power right now. For me personally they are equal in their future impact on my life – both positive and negative. I wouldn’t be the one to hate any of these two. Or love, for that matter 🙂

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      1. I hate those labels and it is time for a change in politics and in the way we do church – but do not even want to go there on that either – but both entities seem stuck in many decades past. and not that old is always bad (that would be chronological snobbery, eh?)
        but sometimes inefficient and off is what needs to be repaired.

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  3. Wow! That’s quite a bit of history packed in one post! What I find truly remarkable is strange the twist and turns life takes. I was reading a post on Randall’s blog alluding to a similar flow of thought and you mentioned, “JFK joked that if his great grandfather hadn’t emigrated, he himself might now be working for the Albatross fertilizer Company, or perhaps for John V. Kelly shop down the road.” Fantastic! Makes me more at ease at the twists in my life and there’s no saying where they will lead me. 🙂

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    1. But isn’t it true? We have no idea where our choices can take us 🙂
      The Homestead museum is amazing. Patrick and the members of staff Mary and Eimear are the nicest people ever. I think it is a special place to visit in Ireland, and it is so easy to get there. People who come to Waterford to see the crystal museum, must rent a car and make a 30- 40 min trip to the JFK Homestead. If they are lucky they will get a picture with a Kennedy family member – a great souvenir 🙂

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  4. Beautiful writing and photos. History not rememberessential is doomed to be repeated. I remember the day he died it was unlike anything I had experienced in my young life until 9/11 . Every person I saw from teachers to my mother ever person on the street was bawling not crying heaving. I was in 4th grade. And we had been getting under desks everyday and what films of nuclear war and skeletons and everything disintegrated . So when every single stranger and bus driver people driving cars I just knew we were Bouton to get nuclear weapons on my head any moment I thought I would die. Out teacher had us get up and say pledge of allegiance and it was one of the scariest days on my 60 plus years.

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    1. Absolutely agree with you about 9/11. I feel the same. It was the first really scary experience for all of us who were born after the war. We had a civil defense class and studied everything about surviving a nuclear attack. Scary times.

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      1. The whole time they knew we would die should have kept it to themselves. Then we go home pray now I lay me down to sleep Ifor I should die before I wake pray the Lord my soul my soul to take,. Then when the wind blows the cradle will fall ,down will come baby cradle and all. Is there any way we could not have mental issues lol

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      2. I took my mom to see Pearl Harbor the movie . I thought since she was little when it happened she might like it . After it was over I asked what she thought of it she looked at me and said “I lived it” now I know how she feels. I tried to watch a movie about 9/11 I could not watch it. Walked out now I know what mom felt.

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        1. That is exacting why. Men didn’t fight unseen terrorist that blow up cowardly with pressure cookers . Then it was hand to hand combat. Seeing your friends shot next to him and shooting tell enemy looking in his eyes. It was a different time but all war is ugly and men and women who serve deserve the utmost respect. Your father was a hero.

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  5. I really admired JFK, loved him from afar as the one who was in war, on the PT 109, as a candidate and the our President. I never understood how much pain he endured nor the prejudice against his being Catholic, until I was older.
    Thank you for sharing more about his life, the Kennedy’s “Irish roots.” It was such an informative post, Inese. xo

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      1. This was tough and yet proved how to overcome obstacles. Sad the ending of his story wasn’t a better one. John F. Kennedy’s legacy lives on, though. Fabulous post with so much I didn’t realize about his visits and family ties.

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  6. This is stunning for me ~ I never realized this story and how he was so gripped by Ireland (and vice-versa). Such a timely post as well, as the strength he had politically was so unique and so rare…look at the world today and it is apparent. You do a great job with the photos ~ Perhaps the most beautiful part of your post, is the look at the old, worn headstones…the roots of Ireland run deep all over this world, perhaps none deeper than in the USA.

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    1. Thank you so much! The old graveyard in the middle of nowhere speaks volumes. Town council struggles to keep in a presentable state the resting place of the ancestors of American billionaires! Not every Irish-American family honor their roots like the Kennedys do. “Respect” is a big thing. Most of people move around the world, and respect nothing.

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      1. Very true. It is strange how in the USA, the first generation of children became very far removed from their heritage. My parents were clueless about why/how my grandparents came to the ‘New World’ and much of it is the culture of “today and tomorrow” which I do admire…but boy, the value of the past is something to revel in, understand and set a great creative foundation for the future. Both my Mom and Dad are asking me about our family tree and ancestors, and how I wish I could sit down with my grandparents and learn even more…

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        1. Oh how well I understand you. How many questions I have to my parents and grandparents. But never underestimate your other relatives 🙂 I have learned so much from the most unexpected sources, like half-sisters and step-children. There are many resources available online, it just takes a huge amount of time to do the research, but I know people who tracked their roots to the Middle ages.

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        2. Ha, ha ~ this happened with me! My Dad received a call from a distant cousin with all these questions and he had her contact me. She had traced my father’s line back to the mid 1600s in Essex 🙂 Loved it!!!

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        3. I loved the article living life to the fullest. I think living life to the fullest is just being happy . Finding the love of your love and just enjoying that person until the day you die. I think the bigger thing that makes you happy is being saved and learning and growing in the Lord . That is when my life changed for the best. It opened my eyes to all the giftsame I am given. A home , some I love that is my best friend and love of my life. Sone one to go to services with and hold my hand through life. That is really all you need love , love for yourself first that is the hardest unless your a super model and I am sure they have things they don’t like about themselves . But no one can fill you up you have to do that . Then a person you love just builds on it . Then join the love for God . I was out in the world 30 years and did everything I could get into and then some. I thought I was happy but I was really looking for someone to love me and realized I was running from the love of God. I used to have more money than I come spend and was miserable I was just someone to work behind a couple to make my spouse more money a free employee. When I met my current spouse I have l learned to love myself and have had my partner prove a million times that I can count on love , on God on being happy and more money will not make you happy. More faith move love for your spouse and family makes you happy.

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  7. What a brilliant post….thank you so much for sharing this. Like anyone of our vintage, I remember clearly where I was when the announcement of Kennedy’s death was made….I was with my Mother in Kent….In 1966 just a couple of years later, I went to the USA to visit for two years and stayed for twenty eight and so became very familiar with the Kennedy clan. The history of Ireland is positively amazing, and of course so interconnected with the USA. I love the final quote by JFK….so poignant and so true…it should be emblazoned everywhere today. janet. xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Janet. People forget that everything has to makes sense, to start with. We are not voting for a party, we are voting for the course our life will take after the elections. Our life, not the life of our future president. Unfortunately people are so taken away with the media interpretation of everything that they forget about their own better judgment. xx

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  8. Kennedy’s assassination was one of the first shock-horror pieces of news I remember hearing my parents discuss in my early childhood — that, and the Cuban missile crisis. Only the Irish would have so many cousins! I haven’t got any cousins, as far as I know.

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    1. Yes, exactly, one of the first shocking news in our life. The life isn’t safe – it hit me and it was a scary realisation.

      I would say those were his third cousins. They shared the same great grandfather. Check your family tree, your second and third cousins should be somewhere 🙂

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  9. Brilliant post, Inese! And I agree: there´s no sense in hateful blog posts because of the upcoming elections.
    Your pictures are as always wonderful and I shared your post with my mom who vividly remembers having seen and heard JFK saying: “Ich bin ein Berliner!” such a long time ago 😉 xxxxxx

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    1. Yes, he was loved in Europe. My mom and I were crying when he was killed. I wish we know the truth one day. Not for curiosity’s sake, but to honor him, and to have an idea how the assassination has changed the world.

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    2. I agree! I love the mix of present and past in this particular post–maybe it’s because you’re in a museum, doing a touch of study. Or it could be that I’m behind, and I’m just excited because I have ANOTHER post of yours to open… 😉

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  10. Great post, Inese! I had no idea Kennedy was a redhead! When I think about him, I see black and white images from the past! Proud to say 1/2 my ancestry is Irish! The Arboretum is fabulous! Looking forward to your next visit there! _Resa (from my Art Gowns blog)

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    1. Resa, it is amazing you are half Irish! This alone is your connection with President Kennedy. I will definitely visit the Arboretum as soon as I settle down after my long absence. Haven’t been there so many years, and look forward to walking the beautiful alleys and seeing fine trees. Also, there was a street art festival I missed, so I will walk around the town and take pictures of the paintings and installments I can find. Thank you again for your visit!

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    1. Thank you Syd! The relatives were always in touch, through letters. It is so sweet that JFK taught his children to honor their ancestors. His daughter came over to open the museum in 2013. It is amazing.

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  11. There are many current politicians who would benefit from taking that message on board! I was also six when Kennedy died but I don’t remember it, though I do remember Robert Kennedy being killed and feeling really sad and uncomprehending as you describe.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Anabel! I knew who he was because I was a lot into doll dresses and fashions, and I admired Jacqueline 🙂
      My parents were in shock, and I have never heard of someone killed like that before. I have never seen a dead body until I was a teenager. My sense of safety was stolen.
      I agree with you about the quote, and I think it is good for everyone to ponder on it. There will be other elections in the future.

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  12. The whole world was shocked on the day J.F. Kennedy died. I remember feeling stunned when news of his assassination came on the TV. I was sixteen at the time. He was a really ‘great’ man, and was respected not just in the US. It was interesting to read about his family in Ireland and the Kennedy Homestead – which I hope we’ll get round to visiting next time we’re in Ireland (which will, hopefully, be next year).
    I totally agree with you about ‘blog posts spitting hate’. They don’t help anyone at all.
    Really interesting post, Inese, and fabulous photos. I also love that quote from JFK.

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    1. Thank you so much, Millie! Kennedy Homestead is very easy to find, but the last stretch of the road is quite narrow 🙂 From New Ross, you will turn right twice, and there are the signs everywhere. Google street map shows an old look – there is a parking lot now, behind the farm.
      His assassination had almost the same effect as 09/11 – shock and sense of insecurity.

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      1. Thank you, Inese. I’ll make a note of the directions now, although it won’t be until at least May that we visit. The last time we visited Ireland was in 2002, so a visit is well overdue!
        JFK was so well liked. I remember my dad – who was half Irish – being appalled by his assassination.

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  13. Inese, this is a truly lovely post. The JFK quote on the final image is so powerful to me — because where I work, the upper executives are so very blameful, always looking for someone to blame, but not taking personal accountability. Of course that attitude trickles down to the next level of management, and the next. So of course one worries about elections…
    Still, this is a beautiful tribute, full of history. Mega hugs.

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    1. Thank you so much, Teagan. I still remember how the President’s assassination broke my little 6 year old heart. I knew who his was, and I adored his wife 🙂 I didn’t know people could be murdered when there was no war.
      I understand what you are talking about. Some upper executives have no idea what is going on, and blame the lower level to camuflage their own incompetency.
      Wish you safe elections! Many hugs! xxxx

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      1. I remember sitting on the floor, in front of a black and white TV. Not old enough to understand why everyone on TV cried, but fully grasping that something beyond horrible had happened. So I started to cry too… Which utterly infuriated my father. LOL.

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        1. I imagine! See, I have heard a lot about the War and people being killed, but it was different, and I couldn’t comprehend it. I too cried, I was afraid that Jacqueline was dead. You didn’t understand what happened, but it was in the air, and it was palpably frightening. No one was safe.

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    1. Thank you so much! JFK was a great president indeed, and I just wanted to tell that I think he was great not because I think he was perfect. Even that the 2016 election is quite an ugly event, instead of hating and criticizing, people should have to pay attention to the aspects that matter for them and this country. They won’t get a perfect president, for sure, but they will have to live and build their future with the one that wins. President Kennedy’s quote is for all of us, not only for politicians.

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    1. Thank you Derrick! I was six in 1963, and Patrick Grennan wasn’t born yet, so I hadn’t talked with anyone who would remember the visit. Yet I know that it was a remarkable and very inspiring event for Ireland.

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        1. I think they are all great people, regardless of their circumstances.
          Having a president in your family tree sounds like fun, of course, but when I read about JFK family I realised that they have rather tragic history. As old people say, there is only a certain amount of luck to go around. I am very sorry for the intelligent, capable men whose life was cut short. All of them could do much good to the country if they lived.

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        2. I know that many male members of the family were cut down in their prime. Ted Kennedy is the only one I can think of off-hand who had a very long public career, although there may well be others I don’t know about.

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        3. Yes, and it was very brave of him, I think. There were 9 children, and only four reached an old age. I have never read much about the family before I had to write this blog. Jacqueline was the only person I followed up. About the rest of them I learned from the papers.

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    1. Thank you so much! It is amazing how these people preserve the memory of President Kennedy. I cannot forget the 6 years old me watching the news, and asking my shocked parents What happened? And the sense of insecurity! I haven’t heard about people getting murdered when there was no war.

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      1. I also remember the murder of Kennedy…a little older than you, I was in my bedroom throwing darts at the board when my father shouted up the stairs that he was dead. I carried on throwing the darts, yet not taking account of whether I ‘scored’ well or not.

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  14. I had thought I had a lot of Irish ancestry in part because I can trace my last name back to a specific Irish man several hundred years ago, person by person. Had my DNA done and I very little Irish ancestry. I was astonished. Made me rethink some things.

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      1. I knew I would have a lot of Swiss because two great grandfathers came directly from there. When people research more thoroughly, they frequently find out people “cheat” and that changes the genetics. Have you ever watched the ancestry show on PBS here? I have one great grandfather who disappeared and there is no record of his death anywhere.

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        1. No I have never watched the show.
          I am sure people cheat, and change names and everything. Still, I have heard from people whose ancestors hade lived in a certain place for centuries, but that didn’t show much in their genetics.

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  15. Wow, what an awesome looking museum. Someday. I toured the White House during Pres Bill Clinton’s administration and he had the painting of JFK that is in the graphic about “the answer” hanging there. I recall it striking me as if it looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by! It is a posthumous portrait. The head was painted from a photograph of the President walking down the stairs, and someone was modeling for the body, I think it was Bobby Kennedy, but I might be wrong.

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  16. Hi Inese, the Kennedy Homestead and Kennedy Park are fascinating places and I love your photos of the homestead.
    I so agree that the mere mention of American Presidents is fraught with complexities right now ~ maybe they always were in their own way!

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  17. INESE, Being a very young person during the Kennedy era, I truly appreciate this tour of the Kennedy homestead. But most of all I appreciate your very wise ending to this post. May the Creator guide all of us and our leaders this November.

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  18. JFK was the hope of a generation and not just of Americans. Before he was cruelly taken away it was hoped he’d go far at solving some of those problems you mention.Like many, I can’t help but wonder if he was a threat to someone because of that.
    I wonder how many of the current problems we’d be having if there had been a statesman of his stature , faults and all, allowed to serve his terms.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

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