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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 nation's existence.[1] The descendants of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Kennedy include six members of the United States House of Representatives or Senate, one of whom became president of the United States; as well as 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.

Political family
Coat of Arms of John F. Kennedy.svg
Coat of arms granted to President John F. Kennedy in 1961 by the Chief Herald of Ireland
Kennedy family on jpk birthday sept 1963.jpg
Kennedy family in September 1963
Current region United States
Place of origin New Ross, County Wexford (Irish forebears)
Boston, Massachusetts (American political dynasty)
Distinctions Kennedy curse
Estate(s) Kennedy Compound, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts

All told, members of the family have been involved in public service since 1884, 35 years after their first forebear emigrated from Ireland.



The first Kennedys to reside in the United States were cooper Patrick Kennedy (1823–1858) and Bridget Murphy (1824–1888), who sailed from Ireland to East Boston in 1849.[2] Their son Patrick Joseph "P. J." Kennedy went into Massachusetts politics and business.

P.J. and his wife, Mary Augusta Hickey, were the parents of four children. Their oldest was Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy Sr.,[3] who amassed a fortune in banking and securities trading, which he further expanded by investing in other growing industries. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph was appointed the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, directed the Maritime Commission, and served a controversial term as Ambassador to the United Kingdom in the lead-up to World War II.

Joseph Sr.'s wife was Rose Fitzgerald. They had nine children together: Joseph Jr., John, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Ted. John served as the 35th President of the United States, while Robert and 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 under Democratic administrations. Many have attended Harvard University, and the family has contributed greatly to that university's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Joseph originally hoped for his eldest son, Joseph Jr., to become a politician and ultimately to be elected President. After Joseph Jr. was killed in World War II, Joseph Sr.'s hopes transferred to his second son, John. After returning from military service in 1947, 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 presidency, John appointed Robert as Attorney General and his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, as director of the new Peace Corps. Ted was elected to the Senate in 1962. The family received intense publicity during John's term as President, often emphasizing their relative youth, allure, education, and future in politics.

The family suffered many losses and incidents, which contributed to the idea of the "Kennedy curse". Rosemary underwent a lobotomy which left her incapacitated. John and Robert were assassinated in the 1960s. 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.


Offices heldEdit

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 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.

Coat of armsEdit

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.[4]


  1. ^ Levenson, Michael (February 13, 2010). "Pondering a Congress without Kennedys". The Boston Globe. 
  2. ^ Maier, Thomas (2003). The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings. Basic Books. p. [page needed]. ISBN 978-0-465-04317-0. 
  3. ^ The Kennedy Family The JFK Library, accessed Feb 10, 2016
  4. ^ "John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States". American Heraldry Society. Archived from the original on August 3, 2016. Retrieved October 27, 2009. 

External linksEdit