Right this minute, I’m in Ireland on an Ancestry ProGenealogists Heritage Tour, sitting in the Harbor Hotel overlooking Galway Bay. I’ve spent the last week and a half making a clockwise tour of the island. And, it seems that every time we come around another corner someone reminds us about the time in June 1963 when President John F Kennedy became the first sitting U.S. president to visit here. Oh, there’s lots of other historical, ancestral, cultural, and beautiful things I’ve been able to see and do on this trip (you can see some of them here). But, I’m fascinated by the fact that JFK’s visit here 55 years ago still holds a rare place in the hearts and minds of the people of Ireland.
For four days that summer, President Kennedy and his entourage, including two of his sisters, visited people in Dublin and Cork City and Galway and Limerick. On their second day here, 27 Jun 1963, the President made a speech in New Ross (a port town from which many emigrants, including the president’s great-grandfather, Patrick Kennedy, left Ireland headed for America). He remarked that it only took him “115 years to make this trip. And 6,000 miles. And three generations.” Later that afternoon, he had tea at the Kennedy ancestral farm in Dunganstown, County Wexford with some cousins he had never before met.
Visiting places like Ireland, walking in the footsteps of your ancestors (whether it is me here now or the Kennedy family 55 years ago) feels a little bit like time travel. So, I find it an interesting coincidence that this week’s episode of Timeless features a young Jack Kennedy. Apparently, the Time Team brings the 17 year old, future president back to the current year with them to save him from Rittenhouse agents who are trying to kill him.
As always, I’m excited to see how the twists and turns of history are affected by all the back and forth. But, if you’ve been following along, you know I also use it as an excuse each week to dig into some of the records on Ancestry to see what I can find that connects with the story being told.
There is A LOT that has been written about the Kennedy family over the years and I have read quite a bit of it. So, I didn’t think there was anything else I could learn about this Catholic, Irish-American family from Massachusetts. I was wrong. A record turned up that I had never seen before.
In the Spring of 1941, Rose Kennedy and her daughter, Eunice took a cruise down to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Jack Kennedy flew to South America to meet up with his mother and sister. They continued on to Buenos Aires where they celebrated his 24th birthday with some family friends. In a collection of Brazil Immigration Cards, we find Brookline, Massachusetts born John Fitzgerald Kennedy but he lists his “residence in the country of origin” as Florida.
Florida. What? He was from Massachusetts. He had just graduated from Harvard. Back into the records we go.
In 1935, when he was just about the same age as he is in tonight’s episode of Timeless, John was enumerated in the Florida State Census, with his parents and siblings, living in Palm Beach County. That surprised me until I learned that in the early 1930s Joseph Kennedy purchased an estate named, La Guerida and the family spent quite a bit of time there.
The estate was situated on North Ocean Beach Boulevard. The JFK Presidential Library and Museum has photos of the property and various posed and candid shots of family members there over the years, including one of President Kennedy and his wife and children visiting the estate for Easter in 1963, just two months before his famed trip to the Emerald Isle. By that time, La Guerida had been nicknamed the “Winter Whitehouse” due to the amount of time the President and his family spent there.
In that same speech he gave in New Ross in 1963, JFK related the story of an Irish man who visited Washington D.C., had his picture taken in front of the White House, and wrote back to friends saying, “This is our summer home. Come and see us.” To that Kennedy told the people gathered, “It’s our home also in the winter. I hope you will come and see us.” I guess his hospitality didn’t extend to the Palm Beach estate.
Either way, I learned a few new thing about the Kennedy family this week – both on tour here in Ireland and in these records on Ancestry. I was reminded that when digging in to family history, you sometimes have to bounce around in time before you can put the pieces of a family story together. A curiosity in 2018 spurs a search that leads to a clue from 1941 uncovering a 1935 record that ends up being part of the story in 1963 and now we’re back to 2018.
Who says Lucy and the gang get to have all the time travel fun? And, who needs a time machine when you have Ancestry?