Kennedy Surname Genealogy

Kennedy is the anglicized form of the
Gaelic O’Ceanneidigh,
descendant of Ceanneidigh.
The root of the name is ceann,
meaning “head,” and eidigh,
meaning “ugly.” There were two origins for the Kennedys, one
in Scotland and the other in Ireland.

Kennedy Resources on

Scotland. The Scottish
clan originated in Carrick in south Ayrshire where the first of the
family was Duncan de Carrick in the early 13th century. This
section of Ayrshire was part of the Galloway Gaidhealachd, a
strong Gaelic-speaking area of the Scottish Lowlands. The family
seat was
initially Dunure
overlooking Ayr Bay and then Culzean Castle at Maybole.

These Kennedys had mixed fortunes in the following centuries:

  • Gilbert Kennedy was close to the
    Scottish monarchy and served as its Regent during the
  • David Kennedy was created Earl of Cassillis in 1509 but died four
    years later fighting the English at Flodden Field.
  • his grandson Gilbert the third Earl was poisoned by the
    French in the 1550’s for refusing to agree that the Scottish crown
    should go to the French Dauphin should he marry Mary Queen of Scots.
  • while David the 10th Earl remade Culzean castle in 1792 into the
    palatial estate that it is today, but went bankrupt in the process.

The origin of
the Highland Kennedys is uncertain.
According to clan
legend, Ulric Kennedy had fled Ayrshire in the 15th century to seek
refuge in the Highlands. From this Highland branch, Kennedys
are thought to have settled around Aberdeen
and on the Isle of Skye.

By the time of the 1841 census, Glasgow accounted for the largest
number of Kennedys, followed by Inverness in the Highlands, Ayrshire
and Perthshire. The Glasgow numbers swelled as the 19th century
proceeded, in part because of Irish Kennedys arriving in Scotland.

England. The Kennedy name
was to be found across the Scottish border in both Cumberland and
Durham by the late 1600’s. One Kennedy family in Cumberland has
been identified
as rural farmers in the Stapleton/Bowcaster area near the border.
Kennedys also showed up at Whickham in
Durham, some of whom may have been coal

Ireland. The Irish
, originally from county Clare, had moved across
the river
to Ormond in northern Tipperary where they were lords of Ormond for
many centuries.

The sept then split into three branches, the
chiefs of which were referred to by their hair colours: don
(brown), fionn (blond), and rua (red). Around
1600, a branch migrated to county Antrim where many Irish Kennedys are
to be found (in addition to the Scottish Kennedys there).

There were also Scottish Kennedys from Ayrshire who had became
in Ulster.

By the time of Griffith’s Valuation in the 1850’s, Tipperary
accounted for 28% of all Kennedys in Ireland, with the other principal
numbers being in Ulster, Dublin, and Kerry. Today the name is
widely spread, with Dublin instead taking the top spot:

  • some
    28% live in the Dublin area
  • a further 10% are in
  • but only 2% are to be found in Wexford, the home county of
    President John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy is the 16th most common surname in Ireland

America. The Kennedy
influx into America was first Scots
and Scots Irish and later Irish.

The Rev.
Samuel Kennedy
, a Presbyterian minister related to
the Ayrshire Cassilis line, came to New Jersey in the 1740’s and was
the pastor
at Basking Ridge until his death in 1787. Archibald Kennedy, also
of this line, was resident in New
York at the time of the Revolutionary War. But George Washington
took possession of his New York home, No. 1 Broadway, and his land on
Long Island was confiscated because of his pro-British sympathies.

John Kennedy, Scots Irish, came to Baltimore in 1785, married well, and
prospered there for a while as a merchant. However, he was forced
into bankruptcy in 1809 and became reliant on his wife’s income.
Their two sons though did well:

  • John was a literary writer who entered politics and was appointed
    US Secretary of the Navy in 1852.
  • while Anthony was US Senator for Maryland from 1857 to 1863.

Tipperary accounted for the largest number of Irish Kennedys that came
in the 19th century into the Boston
area. However, the origin of the most famous Kennedy clan in
Boston was Wexford. Patrick Kennedy left his home Wexford in
Ireland (now the
Kennedy Homestead
museum) for Boston in Massachusetts during
the potato famine. Joe
Kennedy grew up in the Boston Irish community and made the family’s
money in the early 20th century. From Joe came the Kennedy
dynasty, starting with John F. Kennedy the 35th President.

Canada. Kennedys from
Wexford also made it to Newfoundland, and at a much earlier time.
Kennedy fishermen were to be found there by 1700, bringing their
Wexford herring cot with them. Terence Kennedy came in the
1750’s; Nicholas Kennedy arrived with his wife Grace in 1808.
There were many Kennedy sea captains from
Newfoundland over the 18th and 19th centuries.

Kennedys from Ireland had also come to Gaspe in Quebec by 1750 and many Kennedys were buried in the Catholic graveyard there. Sire Kennedy arrived in the Neppanee area of SE Ontario from Ireland around 1830. His son Samuel, an Orangeman, headed west and was one of the founders of the Boyne settlement in Manitoba in the 1870’s.

Alexander Kennedy had come to the Hudson Bay Company post in Saskatchewan from Aberdeen in Scotland in 1803. A fur trader and company factor, he was later posted further west and established on the coast the site for Fort Vancouver (later the town of Vancouver). His son William was perhaps even more noteworthy – an Arctic explorer (he led the search for Sir John Franklin in the 1850’s) and an early arrival in the 1860’s at the Red River settlement in Manitoba.

Kennedy Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Kennedy Names

James Kennedy was Bishop
of St. Andrews and briefly Chancellor of Scotland during the 15th
was JFK’s father and US ambassador to Britain at the
outbreak of World War Two.
John F. Kennedy was elected
35th President of the United States in 1960 and assassinated in 1963.
Robert F. Kennedy, his brother,
was the
US Senator from New York assassinated in 1968.
Ted Kennedy, his younger
brother, was the US Senator
from Massachusetts.
Ludovic Kennedy from Edinburgh
was a British journalist and broadcaster.
Paul Kennedy from NE
England is
a British historian, the author of The
Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
.  Mary Kennedy is one of the
leading personalities on Irish TV.

Select Kennedys Today

  • 49,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 67,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 88,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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