US President Joe Biden was full of praise for Ireland during a 2016 visit to his ancestor’s homeland, and proudly paid homage to his Irish roots.
In recognition of Biden’s Irish heritage, Ancestor Network pieced together his family tree, to discover just how Irish he is.
Genealogist John Hamrock carried out the research and revealed that Biden is in fact five eighths Irish, with ten of his sixteen great-great grandparents been born on these shores.
Hamrock said: “Biden’s family were labouring people, who came from fairly common stock. They were among a generation of Irish people who emigrated to America at the height of the Great Famine.”
On his trip to Ireland Biden stated what his Irish heritage means a “great deal” to him. He had hoped to make the trip to the home of his ancestors with his son Beau, who died of cancer last year.
Biden said: “My grandfather and grandmother Finnegan, all my mother’s brothers, and my father told us about the courage and commitment it took for our relatives to emigrate from Ireland – in the midst of tragedy to distant shores, where they didn’t know what awaited them. It took great courage.”
Biden’s mother, Jean Finnegan was born to Ambrose Finnegan and Geraldine Blewitt.
Hamrock’s research found that Ambrose’s father, James Finnegan, arrived in New York in 1850 with his mother and two younger brothers when he was just 7 years old. The family was from the Cooley Peninsula in Louth. James’ father had arrived in America a year earlier.
James grew up and married Catherine Roche, whose parents had also emigrated from Ireland.
Geraldine Blewitt, (Biden’s grandmother, if you are struggling to keep up) also had Irish heritage. All four of her grandparents were born in Ireland sometime between 1830 and 1845.
Biden’s father’s side of the family were also from Ireland, with his great-great-great-grandparents, John and Mary Ward, being from Co Galway, according to the research.
Hamrock said researching Biden’s family tree took “quite a bit of detective work”. He said: “It’s more challenging the further back you go. It takes good methodology and perseverance.”
Biden has always proudly celebrated his Irish family background. Prior to his visit to Ireland he wrote this letter to his followers.
I’m leaving for a very special trip tomorrow.
I’m going back to Ireland – the country from which my ancestors hailed, and a country whose independence the Easter Rising set in motion, 100 years ago this year. It is my first dedicated trip to this nation as Vice President – during which I’ll meet with the country’s leaders, discuss issues of trade, economic recovery, migration and refugee policy, and other national security challenges, and celebrate our shared heritage. Our shared values of tolerance. Diversity. Inclusiveness.
And it’s a trip I’m so deeply grateful to be taking alongside my children and grandchildren…
…Over the course of my life, I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve traveled all around the world – more than a million miles on Air Force Two alone. I’ve been honored to have held a lot of titles. But I have always been and will always be the son of Kitty Finnegan. The grandson of Geraldine Finnegan from St. Paul’s Parish in Scranton; a proud descendant of the Finnegans of Ireland’s County Louth. The great-grandson of a man named Edward Francis Blewitt, whose roots stem from Ballina, a small town in Ireland’s County Mayo – sister city to my hometown in Scranton, Pennsylvania. An engineer with a poet’s heart. Months after my mother passed away, I found an old box of his poems in my attic.
In his poetry, my great-grandfather spoke of both continents, and how his heart and his soul drew from the old and the new. And most of all, he was proud. He was proud of his ancestors. He was proud of his blood. He was proud of his city. He was proud of his state, his country. But most of all – he was proud of his family.
And that is America: This notion that home is where your character is etched. As Americans, we all hail from many homes. Somewhere along the line, someone in our lineage arrived on our shores, filled with hope. We are blessed to experience that simultaneous pride in where we’ve found ourselves, while never forgetting our roots.
James Joyce wrote, “When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart.”
Well, Northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart. But Ireland will be written on my soul. And as we join the world in celebrating everything that Ireland has become, and indeed everything that she has always been, I could not be more honored to be returning.
You can see what I see right here and across social media.
I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.
Written by Andrew Moore