Joe Biden recently visited the town of Ballina in County Mayo, Ireland – the former home of his great-great-great grandfather Edward Blewitt and his wife, Mary.
Edward had trained as an engineer with the Ordnance Survey, and was employed as an overseer for the Ballina union workhouse. Ciarán Reilly, a historian at Maynooth University, notes Blewitt “gave employment to hundreds in Ballina – the epicentre of famine … also saved many lives in the county which was worst hit in 1845 and after, losing 30 per cent of its entire population to either starvation or emigration.”
In 1851, Edward, Mary and their eight children boarded the passenger ship the SS Excelsior in Liverpool, England and emigrated to America. They arrived in New York and eventually settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which happens to be the sister city of Ballina.
It is thought the move to America was influenced by his son Patrick, who had been working as a cabin boy and had traveled the world extensively, all before the age of 18. He returned to Ireland and then traveled to America with his parents and his siblings.
SPEAKING OF PATRICK
Patrick, Biden’s great-great grandfather, was Edward and Mary’s second child, born 20 April 1832 in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland. He was baptized on 24 April 1832 at the Parish of Kilmoremoy, County Mayo and Sligo, Ireland.
Patrick lived an adventurous life. He ran away from home as a young man to avoid an arranged marriage by his father. Patrick then enlisted as a cabin boy on a ship that later caught fire while at sea. After being rescued, Patrick again left Europe for a life at sea.
His travels took him all around the world — China, Hawaii, Chile, and Brazil were some of his stops along the way.
In 1857 he married Catherine Scanlon and together they had 13 children.
One of those children was Edward F. Blewitt, Biden’s great-grandfather, pictured here.
Edward, in addition to being a city engineer, was a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate (1907-1911).
Found in The Scranton Tribune (18 Mar 1897) on Newspapers.com.
Over his lifetime, Patrick owned a coal mine, assisted in building railroads, was a city engineer, and president of the school board.
He passed away in 1911 and his obituary in The Tribune Republican (27 Nov 1911) recounted his exciting life in great detail. It’s a must read.
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