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|Current region||New England|
|Place of origin||Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.|
|Founded||Arrival in the United States: 1849|
|Founder||Patrick Kennedy (1823–1858)|
|Estate(s)||Kennedy Compound (Hyannis Port, Massachusetts)|
The Kennedy family is an American political family that has long been prominent in American politics, public service, and business. At least one Kennedy family member held federal elective office in every year since 1947, a span of time comprising more than a quarter of the United States's existence.
The descendants of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Kennedy include a president of the United States (who had also served in both houses of Congress), five other members of the United States House of Representatives or Senate, and two U.S. ambassadors, a lieutenant governor, three state legislators (one of whom went on to the U.S. House of Representatives), and one mayor.
In addition, Joseph and Rose's daughter, Eunice, founded the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (a part of the National Institutes of Health), and founded the Special Olympics. A granddaughter, Maria Shriver, was married to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and bodybuilder who served as California governor; she was instrumental in creating the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts (now the California Museum).. Other descendants of Joseph and Rose Kennedy have been active as lawyers, authors, and activists on behalf of those with physical and intellectual challenges.
Members of the family have been involved in public service since 1884, 35 years after their forebears arrived from Ireland.
According to genealogist Brian Kennedy in his work JFK's Irish O'Kennedy Ancestors, the Kennedy family who would go on to play a significant role in the United States of America originated from the Ó Cinnéide Fionn (one of the three Irish Gaelic Ó Cinnéide clans who ruled the kingdom of Ormond, along with the Ó Cinnéide Donn and Ó Cinnéide Ruadh). Their progenitor, Diarmaid Ó Cinnéide Fionn held Knigh Castle close to what is today Puckane, County Tipperary in 1546. From there, having lost out to the New English order in the Kingdom of Ireland, they ended up in Dunganstown, New Ross, County Wexford by 1740. It is here that Patrick Kennedy was born in 1823.
The first Kennedys to reside in the United States were Patrick Kennedy (1823–1858) and Bridget Murphy (1824–1888), who sailed from Ireland to East Boston in 1849; Patrick worked in East Boston as a barrel maker, or cooper. Patrick and Bridget had five children; their youngest, Patrick Joseph "P. J." Kennedy, went into business and served in the state Legislature.
P.J. and Mary Augusta Hickey, were the parents of four children. Their oldest was Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy Sr., who amassed a fortune in banking and securities trading, which he further expanded by investing in other growing industries. Joseph Sr. was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, chairman of the Maritime Commission, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom in the lead-up to World War II. He served on The Hoover Commission, officially named the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, from 1947–1949; the commission was appointed by President Harry S Truman to recommend administrative changes in the federal government.
Joseph Sr. and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, were the parents of nine children: Joseph Jr., John, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Edward ("Ted"). John served as President of the United States from 1961 to 1963, while Robert and Ted both became prominent senators. Every Kennedy to hold elective office has served as a Democrat, while other members of the family have worked for the Democratic Party or held Cabinet posts in Democratic administrations. Many have attended Harvard University, and the family has contributed greatly to that university's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Joseph Sr. expected his eldest son, Joseph Jr., to go into politics and ultimately be elected President. After Joseph Jr. was killed during World War II, Joseph Sr.'s expectations transferred to his second son, John. After returning from Navy service, John served in the U.S. House of Representatives for six years, and later as the junior Senator from Massachusetts until he was elected President in 1960. During John's administration, Robert served as attorney general; brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, served as director of the new Peace Corps, and Ted was elected to the Senate. The family was the subject of intense media coverage during and after the Kennedy presidency, often emphasizing their relative youth, allure, education, and future in politics. Ted served in the Senate with his brother Robert, and was serving in the Senate when his nephew, Joseph P. II, and son, Patrick J., served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The family suffered many tragedies, which contributed to the idea of the "Kennedy curse". In 1941, Rosemary underwent a lobotomy intended to curb her behavioral and emotional issues, but the operation left her incapacitated; Joseph Jr. died in 1944 when the Navy bomber he was he was flying during World War II exploded in flight; Kathleen died in a plane crash in France in 1948; John and Robert were assassinated in 1963 and 1968; and Ted was the driver of his car when it accidentally went off a bridge and into a channel in 1969, causing his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, to drown. Of Joseph Sr.'s grandchildren, Joseph II was the driver of a Jeep that rolled over in 1973, leaving his passenger, Pamela Kelley, paralyzed; David became addicted to the painkillers he was given in the hospital, and later died of a drug overdose in 1984; Michael died from injuries sustained in a skiing accident in 1997; John Jr. died in a plane crash in 1999; and Kara died of a heart attack in 2011.
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Italics denote members who married into the family. Only members who held political office are shown below.
Since John F. Kennedy's election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946, there have been very few times in which a Kennedy was not holding public office—first from December 22, 1960 until January 20, 1961 (from Kennedy's resignation from the Senate to his assumption of the Presidency) and next from Patrick J. Kennedy's departure from the House on January 3, 2011 until Joseph P. Kennedy III's election to the House on January 3, 2013.
In 1961, John F. Kennedy was presented with a grant of arms for all the descendants of Patrick Kennedy (1823–1858) from the Chief Herald of Ireland. The design of the arms strongly alludes to symbols in the coats of arms of the O'Kennedys of Ormonde and the FitzGeralds of Desmond, from whom the family is believed to be descended. The crest is an armored hand holding four arrows between two olive branches, elements taken from the coat of arms of the United States of America and also symbolic of Kennedy and his brothers.
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