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. 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.

  1. 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.

    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.

  2. 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.

    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.

      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.

  3. 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.

    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

      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.

        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.

    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.

    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.

  4. Great post and thanks for sharing the photos of the museum. My fav is actually the one with you guys in the bush…. Lmao. 😀

    1. Haha, this picture was taken in Kennedy Arboretum, and the bush is actually a maze 🙂 I don’t know if it is still there – we took the girls to see it in 2004.

  5. That’s a nice quote to finish on, Inese. I hadn’t been aware of the museum before your article, but it sounds like an interesting place to spend an afternoon.

        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.

          1. 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.

            1. 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.

    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.

      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.

  6. 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.

      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.

        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.

  7. 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.

    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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. That is an awesome tour of The Kennedy Homestead museum. That is a good piece of knowledge to know. I love his speech in the last picture. I hope it resonates more in the US these days.

  11. May you be back in the Springtime to those who matter most to you, A lovely post my darling. Your photographs are stunning as aye, Amazing the people the Celtic regions bled away. x

  12. 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

    1. Absolutely agree with you, David. His approach was very realistic, careful and competent. He left America to his successor in a better state than he got it. Many hugs! xxx

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