How Irish is Joe Biden? The US President’s ancestry and family links to Ireland explored

How Irish is Joe Biden? The US President’s ancestry and family links to Ireland explored

JOE BIDEN has been hailed as the most Irish-American US President since John F Kennedy – but just how Irish is he? 

The Democrat has spoken frequently of his family ties to Ireland, which can be traced by to Co Mayo and Co Louth, while he has been known to quote Irish poets in his speeches. 

Here, the Irish Post takes a closer look at Biden’s Irish heritage and asks the simple question: is he the most Irish President to ever reside in the White House? 

What are Joe Biden’s Irish roots? 

The 46th President of the United States has Irish roots that stem from two different families: the Blewitts of Co Mayo and the Finnegans from Co Louth. 

Biden’s great-great grandfather Patrick Blewitt was born in Ballina in Co Mayo back in 1932. 

Patrick later left Ireland in the autumn of 1850 and headed off to America. 

He later returned to Ireland to bring his parents, Edward and Mary, as well as his siblings over to live with him in America. 

Patrick's father Edward, is credited with saving thousands of lives through public work schemes in Co Mayo.

The Blewitts eventually settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania where Patrick picked up work as a mining inspector in a job that often saw him travel over to South America. 

Patrick later had a son, Edward F Blewitt, who was born in New Orleans in 1859 and named in honour of Patrick’s father, who died in a drowning accident somewhere in the US in 1872. 

Edward F Blewitt would go on to train as a civil engineer and later gained employment as a city engineer before embarking on a career in politics that saw him elected to the Senate in 1907. 

Blewitt married Mary Ellen Stanton. They had four children together – two boys and two girls – named Patrick, Arthur, Gertrude and Geraldine. 

Geraldine later married Ambrose Finnegan and together they had a daughter called Jean, who was born in 1917.  

Catherine Eugenia "Jean" Finnegan would go on to marry Joseph Robinette Biden Sr. They had four children together Valerie, Francis, James and Joe Biden Jr, the latter of whom would go on to become President. 

Biden’s other great-great grandfather was a man by the name of Owen Finnegan, who hailed from the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth. He married Jean Boyle in 1839 and together they had four children including James Finnegan in 1840 – Biden's great grandfather. 

Later that decade the Finnegan family moved to America, eventually settling in Seneca New York. Owen and Jean died in 1874, with James opting to move to somewhere near Scanton with his wife Catherine Roche. 

Together they had six children, including Ambrose J. Finnegan, who, as already mentioned, went on to marry Geraldine Blewitt. 

Joe Biden (Photo by Rick Loomis/Getty Images)

Is Joe Biden Irish?

Biden considers himself Irish. 

An exchange between the US President and BBC New York correspondent Nick Bryant from his time on the campaign trail famously went viral following Biden’s response to a quick question. 

Asked if he would speak to the BBC, the Democrat replied: “The BBC? I’m Irish.” 

Further proof of Biden’s sense of Irishness can be found in a letter the former Vice President wrote ahead of a visit to Ireland back in 2016. 

In the letter, he wrote: “As Americans, we all hail from many homes. Somewhere along the line, someone in our lineage arrived on our shores, filled with hope. We are blessed to experience that simultaneous pride in where we’ve found ourselves, while never forgetting our roots. 

“James Joyce wrote, ‘When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart.’ 

“Well, Northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart. But Ireland will be written on my soul. And as we join the world in celebrating everything that Ireland has become, and indeed everything that she has always been, I could not be more honored to be returning.” 


How Irish is Joe Biden?

By heritage, Joe Biden is roughly five-eighths Irish. All of his mother’s family traces back to Ireland with ancestors named Arthurs, Blewitt, Boyle, Roche, Scanlon and Stanton accompanying her Finnegan name . The last one-eighth comes from his father’s side, which contributed the Hanafee name.

Why did Joe Biden's ancestors emigrate to America?

Most of the immigrants in Biden's family were born in the early decades of the 19th century and travelled to America mid-way through that century. That indicates that the Irish Famine as a deciding factor in their departure.

Joe Blewitt, a cousin of Joe Biden, sprays a bottle of champagne along with family members in Ballina, Co. Mayo, as locals celebrate his election as the next US President

Does Joe Biden have any living relatives in Ireland? 

Biden is distantly related to Irish rugby players Rob and Dave Kearney through the Finnegan side. 

The President also has several distant family members who live in his ancestral home of Ballina, where a mural has been painted in the town’s Market Square in his honour. 

They include 41-year-old Joe Blewitt, a local plumber and Biden’s third cousin, who hit the headlines during the election after creating a sign for his van that read: “Joe Biden for the White House, Joe Blewitt for your house”. 

Blewitt's sister, Laurita, was also invited by the former vice president onto the campaign trail and told NBC Biden was "so proud of his Irish connection."

Another, Brendan Blewitt, was previously visited by Biden’s mother in the late 1970s and the entire extended family met the President during his visit to Ireland in 2016.