Related to JFK?

‘Lore’ is a body of knowledge or tradition that is passed down among members of a culture, usually orally. It’s the lore in “folklore,” and responsible for spreading the word on mythical figures like Santa Claus, Paul Bunyan, and even Uncle Sam… Humans need and love their lore.

That definition of ‘lore’ comes from Most families have stories they pass on to their kids. These family legends generally have a germ of truth, and over time the stories morph and grow. After a few generations, it’s difficult to sort out what’s true and what’s exaggeration.

One piece of lore in my husband’s family was that the Hickeys are related to the Kennedys and specifically President John F. Kennedy.

In the 1980s — before I married into the family and heard their lore — I’d read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s best-seller, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga. Goodwin is, of course, an acclaimed historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning American biographer. In her book, Goodwin included family trees of the Fitzgerald and Kennedy families. And there it appears: Mary Augusta Hickey was John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s paternal grandmother.

JFK’s ancestry has been well-researched and fully-documented. His grandmother Mary Augusta Hickey was born in Boston in 1857. Family trees posted on the Internet seem to agree about her paternal line:

  • Mary’s father:  James Hickey, born in County Cork in 1836
  • Mary’s grandfather: Michael Hickey, born in County Cork in 1786
  • Mary’s great-grandfather: Charles Hickey, born in County Clare in 1760

So far, I haven’t been able to find evidence of “our” Hickeys back beyond Bill’s great-great-grandfather, James Hickey, and his 1810 marriage in Cappawhite, County Tipperary. Did James or his ancestors originally come from County Clare? Maybe.

The following information comes from; it’s unsubstantiated, like the  names/dates in Mary Augusta’s family tree, and simply copied from the Internet:

The original Irish for Hickey is O hIcidhe, from iceadh, meaning ‘healer’. The Hickeys were part of the tribal grouping, the Dal gCais, which produced Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland who defeated the Vikings in 1014. This grouping had its territory in the area now part of Co Clare and north Tipperary, and it is this area with which the Hickeys remain closely identified. Their surname arose because of their position as hereditary physicians to the royal O’Brien family. From their original homeland, the name spread first into the neighbouring Co Limerick, and from there even wider so that Hickey is today one of the most common and widespread of Irish surnames.

Years ago, a Hickey-cousin-once-removed told the story about visiting Ireland and asking at a pub if there were any Hickeys in that community. The bartender replied, “Aye, the woods are full of ‘em.”

That’s our mantra as we keep searching for Hickey roots in Ireland.

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