John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) was born on 29th May 1917 in Brookline Massachusetts, the great grandson of Irish immigrants.
In 1960, at the age of 43, he became the 35th President of the U.S and was the youngest man and the first Roman Catholic to
be elected President. His 3 year term of office saw great economic expansion, the creation of the Peace Corps, the "13 days"
of the Cuban missile crisis, Civil Rights reform and a renewed commitment to the space programme. A charismatic and well
respected leader, the whole world was shocked when on 22nd of November 1963 he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
JFK was proud of his Irish ancestry and even took his oath of office as President of the U.S using the Fitzgerald family
bible, which had been brought to the U.S from Ireland by his forebears.
In June 1963, just 5 months before his assassination, JFK visited his ancestral home of Dunganstown in County Wexford, Ireland.
It was from here that his great grandfather Patrick Kennedy left Ireland for a life in the New World.
Patrick Kennedy, the youngest son of a
tenement farmer, was born in Dunganstown, County Wexford, Ireland in 1823.
The map on the left is an extract from a 6 inch to 1 mile historical map from the Past Homes collection. It clearly shows the
individual buildings and farmsteads that made up the village of Dunganstown in 1840, just 8 years before Patrick Kennedy left
on his journey to the U.S.
The 1840s saw Ireland in the grip of the Great Famine when the failure of the potato crop and the resulting famine caused hundreds
of thousands of Irish to leave Ireland in search of a better life in the New World. In 1848 Patrick decided to join the exodus and
headed to the port of New Ross, 4 miles north of Dunganstown, on the River Barrow.
At the time New Ross was a very busy inland port for those fleeing the great famine. Thousands of people passed through New Ross
boarding emigration ships on their way to America, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
The map on the right is taken from the Index
to the Townland Survey of the County of Wexford. Dunganstown lies in the southwest corner of the map and the port of New Ross lies
to the north on the River Barrow, which runs north-south defining the boundary between County Wexford and county Kilkenny.
The first part of Patrick’s journey took him to Liverpool in England. From there he set sail for Boston, Massachusetts aboard the
ship Washington Irving. Numerous sources report that it was aboard this ship that he met his future wife, Bridget Murphy who was
also from County Wexford.
When JFK visited New Ross and Dunganstown in 1963, he remarked "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
grand children have valued that inheritance".
The Kennedy family homestead in Dunganstown exists to this day and is still owned and run by Kennedy family descendants.
Thomas Fitzgerald was JFK’s great grandfather
on his mother’s side. He was reportedly born in Bruff, County Limerick in 1823. He was a farmer and so probably lived in a rural part of the Parish
or Townland of Bruff, but the exact location is unknown.
The map on the left shows the town of Bruff, which lies at the heart of the Parish and Townland of the same name, as it was in 1840.
Although the Fitzgerald farm was affected by the Great famine, Thomas managed to keep it going until finally, in 1854, he was forced to leave Ireland
and headed for the U.S. Like the Kennedy’s he also settled in Boston, Massachusetts and in 1857 married Rosanna Cox who had arrived in Boston from
County Cavan, Ireland. One of their children, John Francis Fitzgerald (Honey Fitz), JFK’s grandfather, eventually became Mayor of Boston.