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Facial Hair Friday: When Irish mustaches are smiling

Patrick Joseph Kennedy, circa 1900. From the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston KFC 2706 (PC 245)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

With all the hoopla over the upcoming release of the 1940 census on April 2, we haven’t really been thinking about facial hair all that much.

But then fellow National Archives staff member Jeannie (of the OurPresidents tumblr blog) sent me this photograph, and genealogy, facial hair, and St. Patrick’s Day all came together.

The mustachioed and bespectacled man to the left is Patrick J.  Kennedy, the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy and—like many Americans—the child of Irish immigrants.

His mustache, while of Irish descent, was grown in the United States.

JFK’s great-grandfather was Patrick Kennedy. He left his work as a cooper in his hometown of Dunganstown, County Wexford, and made his way to the United States and settled in Boston.

In 1849, Patrick married another Irish immigrant, Bridget Murphy, who also came from County Wexford. But after just nine years of marriage, Patrick died and left Bridget a widow with four small children. The youngest was Patrick Joseph “P.J.” Kennedy, JFK’s grandfather.

P.J. continued the family line by marrying Mary Augusta Hickey, whose parents were also orginally from Ireland. The couple lived in East Boston and their son, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, was born on September 6, 1888.  He was John F. Kennedy’s father.

Many Americans can trace their roots back to Ireland. In this 1850 census that listed President Zachary Taylor, four members of his household also list their place of birth as Ireland. One was doorkeeper, the other was a messenger, one was noted as “Mary Riley,” and the other was “Mary Riley 2nd.”

The 1940 census will cover the 1930s, which was a turbulent time for the United States.  And for the firt time, census takers asked a random sample of the population (1 in 20 people) an extra set of questions, including place of birth of their mother and father, and their mother tongue. How many Irish immigrants will appear in these records?

The 1940 census will be released to the public on April 2 at 9 a.m. You will be able to search it online for free. Ádh mór oraibh!


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