The Kennedy family is an American political family that has been prominent in American politics, public service, and business. At least one Kennedy family member held federal elective office in every year between 1947 and 2011, and then from 2013 onwards, a span of time comprising more than a quarter of the United States's existence.
The descendants of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr and Rose Fitzgerald 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's 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, served as First Lady of California and was instrumental in creating the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts (now the California Museum) .
Members of the family have been involved in public service since 1884, 35 years after their forebears arrived from the Republic of Ireland.
Kennedy family in September 1963
|Current region||United States|
|Place of origin||New Ross, County Wexford (Irish forebears)
Boston, Massachusetts (American political dynasty)
|Estate(s)||Kennedy Compound, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts|
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 his wife, 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.
Joseph Sr. and his wife, Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, were the parents of nine children: Joseph Jr., John, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Edward. John served as the 35th President of the United States, while Robert and Edward (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 expected his eldest son, Joseph Jr., to go into politics and ultimately be elected President. After Joseph Jr. was killed in World War II, Joseph Sr.'s expectations transferred to his second son, John. After returning from World War II 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 his administration, President Kennedy's brother, Robert, served as attorney general; and brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, served as director of the new Peace Corps. The youngest brother, Ted, was elected to the Senate in 1962. The family received intense publicity, often emphasizing their relative youth, allure, education, and future in politics.
In a biography for the White House website , Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey wrote that the Kennedy administration's "economic programs launched the country on its longest sustained expansion since World War II," and that the administration "laid plans for a massive assault on persisting pockets of privation and poverty"; "took vigorous action in the cause of equal rights, calling for new civil rights legislation"; facilitated a peaceful resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis; started the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps to build relationships and assist in economic development abroad; and promoted the arts as having a "central role ... in a vital society."
The family suffered many tragedies, which contributed to the idea of the "Kennedy curse". Rosemary underwent a lobotomy intended to curb behavioral and emotional issues, but the operation left her incapacitated. John and Robert were assassinated in 1963 and 1968. Ted was the driver of a car that went off a bridge (Chappaquiddick incident) and into a channel in 1969; a campaign aide, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. Joseph Jr., Kathleen, and John Jr. died in airplane crashes.
Kennedy family tree[i]
Patrick Kennedy M, b. circa 1823, d. 22 November 1858
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.