The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty

Today, we remember the iconic American family as the vanguard of wealth, power, and style rather than as the descendants of poor immigrants. Their Irish ancestry was a hallmark of the Kennedys’ initial political profile, as JFK leveraged his working-class roots to connect with blue-collar voters. Here we meet the first American Kennedys, Patrick and Bridget, who arrived as many thousands of others did following the Great Famine - penniless and hungry. Less than a decade after their marriage in Boston, Patrick’s sudden death left Bridget to raise their children single-handedly. Her rise from housemaid to shop owner in the face of rampant poverty and discrimination kept her family intact, allowing her only son P.J. to become a successful saloon owner and businessman. P.J. went on to become the first American Kennedy elected to public office - the first of many.


Neal Thompson is a journalist and the author of six highly acclaimed books, including A Curious Man, Driving with the Devil, and Kickflip Boys, and his latest, The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty. 


A former newspaper reporter, Neal has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Esquire, Outside, Men’s Health, Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal, Backpacker, Sports Illustrated and more. Neal has appeared on NPR, PBS, The Daily Show, CNN, C-Span, Fox, TNT, The History Channel, and ESPN. Neal has taught creative non-fiction at the University of North Carolina’s Great Smokies Writing Program, and Hugo House, and served on the board of Seattle Arts & Lectures. Neal is a runner, reader, skier, stand-up paddleboarder, swimmer, yogi, and a naturalized Irish citizen. Originally from New Jersey, he now lives in Seattle with his family.