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Joe Biden’s Irish Roots

In April 2023, eighty-yea-old Joe Biden enjoyed a successful visit to his ancestral homeland. During his four-day tour, he marked 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement, met Irish President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin, prayed at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock, popped into Ballina, Crossmolina and Carlingford, and attended a reception at Farmleigh House hosted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. “I’m at home,” he declared. “I just wish I could stay longer.” It was his third time in Ireland since 2016, but his first as president.

July 1902. Of all the delegates who attended the convention of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Denver, Colorado, that summer, it was the blue-eyed, Havana-smoking Edward Frances Blewitt who caught the eye of the Denver Post correspondent. Blewitt, whose father was born in County Mayo, Ireland, had been president of the order’s formidable Pennsylvanian branch for a decade prior to his departure for Mexico in 1893. To the Denver Post, the 43-year-old civil engineer was ‘a typical son of Erin’ with the ‘humor of the Hibernian in his cooly meditative eye’. [1a]

By the close of the convention, Blewitt and his fellow Hibernians had offered their unqualified support to their fraternal brethren in Ireland, stating that should the Irish ever ‘take up arms against Great Britain’, they would support them every step of the way.

Joe Biden, who became the 46th president of the US on 20 January 2021, is Edward Blewitt’s great-grandson. ‘I am proud to be descended from Irish immigrants, from County Mayo and County Louth,’ he declared in 2016. ‘Being Irish has shaped my entire life.’ On another occasion, he stated: ‘Northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart. But Ireland will be written on my soul.’ Indeed, by heritage, Mr Biden is about five-eighths Irish, with the families of Finnegan, Arthur, Boyle, Roche and Scanlon, as well as Blewitt, swirling in his bloodline.

All this will become of deeper relevance when Biden attends a state dinner hosted by King Charles III at Hillsborough Castle outside Belfast on 18 April 2023, alongside guests that are set to include UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, and Bertie Ahern.




Joe Biden as a student at the University of Delaware.

The Blewitts were the most successful of his forebears. They hailed from Ballina, Co. Mayo, a town that happens to be twinned with  Scranton, Mr Biden’s ‘very Irish’ hometown in Pennsylvania. (Scranton is also, of course, the hometown for the unfortunate souls who work alongside Michael Scott in ‘The Office.’)

Joe Biden’s first named Blewitt ancestor was Edward Blewitt Senior (1795-1871), a brick-maker who supplied 27,000 bricks for the construction of Killala Cathedral in 1827.[1] Born in 1805 and educated in Dublin, Edward appears to have been one of the civil engineers who helped map Ireland for the Ordnance Survey, as well as Griffith’s Valuation, during the 1830s and 1840s. Edward lived on Patrick Street, Ballina,  and was a rather heroic general overseer in Ballina Workhouse at the height of the Great Hunger between 1848 and 1850.[2] He and his wife Mary (née Mulderig), born 1803, had nine children.[3]

Edward’s son Patrick F Blewitt was born on 5 April 1832 (or 1833); baptism records of Mayo’s Kilmoremoy parish clocked him as “Patt Bluet”, a resident of nearby Ardagh parish.[4] Patrick was all set to go to the seminary college in Maynooth in 1849 when he apparently had a row with his father, who was seeking an arranged marriage for him. He fled Ireland, crossed to Liverpool and fetched up as a cabin boy. He lived for a period in Chile and also visited Hawaii, China and Japan before arriving back to the US and landing in New York in 1851. He was naturalised in 1852.[5]

Meanwhile, Edward, his wife Mary and Patrick’s six siblings upped from Mayo in 1850-1851 and sailed for America on the Excelsior. They initially settled in the Sand Banks in Pennsylvania‘s Lackawanna Valley.[6]  Edward, who was naturalised at the Court of Common Pleas in Wayne County on 1 March 1851, would be active in the Pennsylvanian coal industry .[7] He was also among the settlers who laid out and surveyed the streets of Scranton, for which Colonel Scranton and other pioneers offered to name a district Blewittville but Edward declined. He worked as a civil engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad.  In later life, he was appointed weighmaster of the Oxford Mine but his life was to end in tragedy when he apparently fell off a bridge over the Nay Aug Grove while crossing the Lackwanna River on 21 July 1872. His body was found a few days later. (See here) He was buried in the family plot at the Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton.[8]




US President Joe Biden called to congratulate Ireland rugby team after New Zealand win - Mirror Online

Joe Biden and his siblings call the Irish rugby team to congratulate them after their victory over the All Blacks in November 2021.

In the report on Edward’s death, it noted that he was ‘the father of mine inspector Patrick Blewitt.’ After his wayward teenage years, Patrick was reconciled with his father shortly after their reunion in the US in the early 1850s and went to work as a draughtsman, later serving as surveyor and engineer for various coal and railroad enterprises. In November 1857 Patrick married Catherine ‘Kate’ Scanlon, who bore him thirteen children, of whom three sons and five daughters survived childhood.[10] At about this time, he apparently went to Iowa, where the state’s first coal mines were opening up. The Blewitts later moved to New Orleans but were back in Scranton by the time of the US Census of 1860. There is a thought that he and his family headed south to Brazil when the US Civil War broke out, returning to Scranton after the war.

By 1869 Patrick was a Mine Inspector in two of the Pennsylvania’s biggest coal-mining counties, Lackawanna and Luzerne.[11] He was almost certainly recruited to implement new safety procedures in the wake of a massive fire at the Avondale Colliery in Luzerne County which caused the death of 110 workers, mostly Irish.

Patrick’s report for 1872 shows how hideous it was to work in the Pennsylvanian coal mines. His district accounted for just over 10,500 ‘inside workers’ and nearly 4000 ‘outside’, a third of whom were boys, as well as over 2000 mules and horses. 67 miners were killed in 1872 alone, primarily from falls of coal, slate and rock, while a further 187 were injured. The deaths left 38 widows and 112 orphans. They had mined over 6.5 million tons of coal which meant each death was worth 98,000 tons.

Coal mining in Pennsylvania was very much an Irish business in the 19th century. It was also one of the most hazardous and dirtiest jobs in the US, as every Irishman working the mines knew well. Not only were they working 60 hour weeks but they were paid a fraction of what their Welsh or English counterparts received. Lackawanna was one of the most violent districts with untold numbers of unsolved murder and assault cases every year.

Not surprisingly the mines became a hotbed of discontent and they provided a fertile breeding ground for the Mollie Maguires, a secret society that emerged in the Pennsylvanian coalfields during the 1870s. By intimidation and violence, they sought to pressurise the state’s anthracite mining companies into improving the worker’s lot.

The Mollies also appear to have infiltrated the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), a conservative Irish Catholic fraternal organisation founded to protect Catholic immigrants from discrimination and to work towards an independent Ireland. The AOH was in turn closely affiliated with both the Fenians and Clan na Gael.

However, the Mollies’ activities proved too much for the Catholic church and, by the 1870s, priests were refusing Catholic burial to suspected members. The crisis peaked in the late 1870s when 20 alleged Mollies were hanged – ten on the morning of 21 June 1877 – although their trials were later deemed unjust and the dead men were granted posthumous pardons. Ten of those dead men came from North West Donegal.

Kate Blewitt died aged 61 at in 1901.[12] By the time of Patrick’s death in 1911, aged 78, the veteran Irish mining and civil engineer was considered ‘one of the best known engineers in the United States and in South America’ while his ‘original maps of the anthracite regions [were] among the most accurate in existence.’ [13] He had survived Kate by ten years. The Irish link held fast in the next generation with three of their daughters marrying into the Hayden, Gallagher and Roche families.




Patrick and Kate’s son Edward Francis Blewitt appears to have been born in New Orleans in 1859. [14]   Educated at Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, he followed the family path to become a Civil Engineer. In1883 he was appointed Scranton’s chief engineer, a post he held for a decade. During this time he served six years as president of Pennsylvania’s AOH. He subsequently went to the Mexican state of Jalisco where he was Chief Engineer on a $3 million project to build 138 miles of sewer and 90 miles of water piping for the drainage system and water works of Guadalajara.

Edward, who wrote poetry, was also head of the Hibernian Order in Mexico during his time there, not that that counted for much. ‘There are just 18 of us in all,’ he admitted in 1902, ‘but they’re Irish boys, and they stand together for all there is in the blood … As Hibernians down there, we’re for distinguishing our old country by helping each other do the best that’s in us.’ He was the Mexican delegate at the A.O.H. National Convention in Denver in 1902 . Attendees declared that if ‘Oom Paul’ Kruger, the Boer leader in their war against the British, had turned up, he would have received a warmer reception than any man alive, except the Pope.

Joe Biden described Edward as ‘an engineer with a poet’s heart‘. A few months after his mother’s death, he found an old box of Edward’s poems in the family attic. ‘In his poetry, my great-grandfather spoke of both continents, and how his heart and his soul drew from the old and the new. And most of all, he was proud. He was proud of his ancestors. He was proud of his blood. He was proud of his city. He was proud of his state, his country. But most of all – he was proud of his family.’

Edward F Blewitt’s Irish roots were never far away. He chaired Scranton’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1897. Nine years later he founded the Irish American Association (which became the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick of Lackawanna County in 1939). Recalling his father’s home turf, he was also a member of the Mayo Men’s Benevolent, Social, Patriotic and Literary Association. In 1907 he stood for the Democrats and became just the second Irish Catholic senator in Pennsylvanian history, retaining the seat until 1911.[15]

Joe Biden with Father Richard Gibbons, rector of Knock Shrine, touching the original gable wall of the church at the Knock Shrine in County Mayo, Ireland, April 14, 2023.

He was popular with both coal miners and farmers, having championed much legislation in their respective favours. He also used his skills as a civil engineer to develop the state’s road system, as well as the construction of a canal from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Another of his legacies was a hospital in Scranton to counter the tuberculosis epidemic that was killing an average of 1,000 Pennsylvanians a year.

Edward was married in Scranton, 1879, to his cousin Mary Ellen Stanton (1861-1887) with whom he had four children before her death from typhoid fever aged 27.[16] Geraldine Blewitt, their youngest child, was born shortly before her death in 1887.

In March 1924, Edward F Blewitt was Toastmaster at a banquet hosted in Scranton by the John Mitchell Club to mark the 146th anniversary of Robert Emmett’s birth. Edward’s photo appeared in coverage of the event in The Tribune (Scranton), 5 Mar 1924, p. 9. Edward passed away in 1926.

I’m unsure how they connect to Frank J Blewitt of the Scranton Times, who appeared in this story, published in The Advocate(New York) on 2 June 1969:

Limerick’s Mayor, Councillor Jack Bourke, was presented with a ceremonial key to the City of Scranton, Pennsylvania, over the weekend. The presentation was made at Limerick City Hall by Mr. Frank J. Blewitt, General Manager of the Scranton Times, who was accompanied by Mr. Hugh Connors, a radio station manager. The two men were in a party of 75 Scranton people who are on a visit to Ireland. Mr. Blewitt said that Ireland had made tremendous progress in recent years but he hoped that Irish hotels would not sacrifice their Irish character for Americanized service.




Joe Biden with the late Ted Kennedy.

Geraldine Blewitt was married in about 1909 to Ambrose Joseph Finnegan.[17] The Finngeans were from Lordship Parish in the Cooley Peninsula of Co. Louth[18] The first to reach the US was Owen Finnegan, a shoemaker who sailed from Newry to New York in 1849. Coincidentally Barack Obama’s Irish ancestor, Joseph Kearney, was also a shoemaker. Owen and his wife Jane (née Boyle) were the parents of James Finnegan, a blind fiddler who married Catherine Roche in 1866, shortly before they moved to Scranton.

Born in 1884 but orphaned by the age of ten, their son Ambrose Finnegan was raised by his maternal uncle, Peter Roche, whose company manufactured signs and bulletin boards. A student at Santa Clara College, California, he happened to be in San Francisco when the earthquake struck. He returned to Scranton, married Geraldine Blewitt and found work as an advertising solicitor for a newspaper.

Ambrose and Geraldine had a son, also Ambrose, an airforce pilot who was killed in the Pacific during World War Two, and a daughter Catherine Eugenia Finnegan, known as Jean. Born in 1917 Jean was reputedly so virulently anti-Irish that she once refused to sleep in a hotel bed after she was told Queen Elizabeth II had previously slept there. In 1941, Jean married Joseph Robinette Biden Sr. Their son Joe was born in Scranton 1942, followed by Francis (Frank), James (Jim) and Valerie. First elected to the US Senate in 1972, Joe came to international prominence when he served as Barack Obama’s Vice President for eight years.

Illustration: Derry Dillon

All up, it is no mere coincidence that one of Joe Biden’s greatest heroes is Wolfe Tone, that The Chieftains were lined up to play at his inauguration or that his codename as Vice-President was ‘Celtic’. Or that he should have connected with Enda Kenny, another Mayo man, when he visited Ireland in April 2016, and returned to the county again as president in 2023.[19] Or that when he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in August 2020, he should recite from the poem, The Cure at Troy, by  the Irish poet Seamus Heaney[20]:

‘History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.’


With immense thanks to Belinda Evangelista, Anne Flaherty and also to Tom La Porte. 




Megan Smolenyak, Joe Biden’s Irish Roots has extensive details on all of this. There are also multiple references to his ancestry by William Addams Reitwiesner here.



The Blewetts are found across Cornwall, Devon and Wales, having crossed from Normandy, Agnes Beaupenny Blewett / Edwards (c. 1509- c. 1575) is alleged to have been a mistress to Henry VIII, and to have bore him a son, Richard Blewitt / Bluett. See here and here and here for more. She was also mother to Sir John Orpen.

There is a suggestion that the Blewitts of Mayo and Cornwall were closely related. The book ‘Cornish Fisherboy to Master Mariner. The Life of Henry Blewett 1836-1891‘ by J. F. Parsons and Nora Parsons (1993) concerns Henry Blewett of Cornwall (See here ) Was he a Cornish relative of the Mayo Blewitts? Henry was born at Mousehole, Cornwall, on 14 October 1836.[i] From September 1853 until January 1854, he served as an ordinary seaman on the, “Elizabeth” of Bristol. This may have been a 46-ton smack owned and captained by H Cawsey, which sailed between Ireland, Cornwall and France prior to September 1853 and after January 1854. (Voyages and crew agreements between these dates have not yet been found. See here). It may also have been the three-masted barque, built on Prince Edward Island, which was captained (and part-owned) by Alexander Hancock, great grandfather of Ernest Hemingway.[ii] Hancock was transporting passengers on Elizabeth from England to North America and Australia. In 1853 he carried a load of gold-seeking immigrants from Bristol to Australia. During the voyage, Hancock and his nephew Henry Churchill produced one of the first (if not the first) newspapers ever published on board a ship, which they called “The Tropical Times“. Also on board were Hancock’s three young children, who had lost their mother in a train accident just days before departure.[iii]

In the 1871 UK Census, Mousehole – where the aforementioned Henry Blewett was born – was given as the residence of Stephen and Johanna Blewitt; Johanna was born at Ballycotton, County Cork, in 1840. Her children are named as Thirza (1881 UK census), Frederick (1871 UK Census) and Annie Lizzy (1871 UK Census). Also of note are Elizabeth Blewitt who was seemingly born in Ireland circa 1825-26 and was living at Redruth, Cornwall (1861 UK Census) and Wheal Rose, Cornwall (1871 UK Census), with her husband John Blewitt, and children John Henry, Benjamin, Nicholas and Mary Ann. On the 1911 UK census Kerry-born Mary M Bluett was living at Egloskerry, Cornwall, with her parents John and Selina Bluett.

One should bear in mind that some Cornish mine workers migrated to West Cork in the early 1800s to mine for copper. In the ‘staunchly Roman Catholic area’ of Allihies on the Beara Peninsula, there stands a Baptist Chapel that was patronised by Cornish settlers in the area. (See here) The building is now home to the Allihies Copper Mine Museum.

Cornwall is also of relevance to Octavian Blewitt (1810-1884), a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and longer-term secretary of the Royal Literary Fund. He was a son of John Edwards Blewitt, a merchant, and Caroline, daughter of Peter Symons, sometime mayor of Plymouth. He spent much of his early life at Marazion House, in Cornwall, the residence of his great-uncle, Hannibal Curnow Blewitt.  Born in 1769, Hannibal held a five-eight share in the United Mining Company (known more generally as Blewett, Harvey, Vivian & Co.) which started in Cornwall in 1809.  (see here) This evolved into Harvey & Co. which had the first iron foundry in Cornwall, aka Harvey’s of HayleRichard Trevithick, the great Cornish inventor, was married to a Harvey. See also the story of their rivals, the Cornish Copper Company, with Blewitts listed.

There is also an Edward Blewitt, born in Gwinear, Cornwall, in 1828, who was the son of mine agent William Blewett (1796-1955) and Mary Thomas (1798-1862), and who likewise worked as a mine agent, married Jochabed Symons and lived and died in Cornwall.

Adding to the mystery of the Cornwall-Mayo mining links was an article from the Connaught Telegraph of 1852 (not long after Joe Biden’s family left Mayo) stating: ‘We have witnessed the successful test made a few days since by our talented townsman, John Atkinson on a piece of granite over three-fourths of which that gentleman has reduced to copper and tin. The area occupied by the strata from which the specimens tested have been taken covers miles of Mayo. You have each of you, gentlemen, California on your estates.’ It is noted that an owner of very valuable mining properties in Cornwall offered to invest of the Mayo find proved viable.

To bring this full-circle, we have the Nebraskan Edward Blewett (July 23, 1848 – July 18, 1929), who was also born in Cornwall, England, son of William Blewett and Elizabeth Williams and came to the U.S. as an infant. During his childhood, Edward’s father died while copper mining near Lake Superior. (NB: In 1870, only the Irish and the Cornish produced more miners than laborers in the Lake Superior copper district as both ethnic groups had arrived with copper mining skills from the British Isles. See article on Irish and Cornish miners in Michigan’s Copper Country for more.) In 1866 he settled in Fremont, Nebraska, where he lived for the next 42 years. He married Carrie Van Anda (1849-1927) on April 4, 1870. He went on to own several mines in the Western U.S. and Canada. In 1888, a year before the Great Fire of Seattle, he secured a large tract of land, got it platted and then cleared.  According to Kirby Lindsay Laney’s article ‘Fremont History, And The Great Seattle Fire‘ (July 23, 2014): ‘He encouraged development of the area through the expediency of land donations to those who would put it to work – for machine shops, tanneries, furniture factories, foundries, brick yards, and a broom factory.’ In 1889 he witnessed the golden spike being installed for completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Point, Utah. He was also a livestock dealer and president of First National Bank at Fremont. He died in Los Angeles in 1929 at age 81 and was buried in Fremont. Washington’s Blewett Pass is named for him. See also here.

In 1896 the Victoria Daily Colonist of 22 July reported on this last Edward stating:
The Van Anda – an Ideal Mine Great Improvement In the Outlook .
SEATTLE , July 21
Edward Blewett , who was early connected with the Monte Cristo district and was instrumental in interesting the Rockefellers in that group of mines, is in the city . In the course of an interview reported in the Post Intelligencer he said :”I am opening up the Van Audit gold and copper mines on Texada Island, in the Straits of Georgia, about 120 miles from Victoria. I have been at work for about three months and am succeeding beyond my most sanguine expectations in opening one of the largest und best gold and copper mines in British Columbia . Three months ago I put a force of men on the Van Audit and began sinking on the ledge, the vein increasing gradually in width and the ore also increasing in richness. On the surface , while it assayed well in silver and copper , it gave but a small percentage in gold. At a depth of fifty feet the assays showed $6 gold, nine ounces silver, and 10 per cent copper. This was the average of the ore as given by returns of shipments i made to the smelter at Everett .
“I am now making a shipment to San Francisco , the ore , the run of the mine, coming from a depth of seventy feet. This will go fully $20 gold, twenty ounces silver and from 20 to 25 per cent copper. This is the present average of the ore, and its the cost of transportation from the mines to the Puget Sound smelters is but $1 per ton for large lots, the margin of profit on this class of ore is readily perceived by mining men . In all my experience I have never been better pleased with a property, nor have I had one respond so promptly and satisfactorily . The Van Anda is an ideal mine, and nature could not have placed it in better position so far as economic working goes , and so far as the ore is concerned. The mining outlook generally is improving more rapidly than the public is aware, and more money will be made in the mines ill the next few years than the most sanguine ever dreamed of .”

Edward Blewitt / Bluitt, son of William (and brother to William, Patrick and Mary) was born in Ireland c. 1837. The whole family were born in Ireland but living in the All Saints East Ward of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, by the 1851 UK Census when they had an Irish visitor Thomas Loftus. Edward lived there through until the 1901 UK Census. His wife was Bridget. See here.

Another Edward Francis Blewitt (E. F. Blewitt) was born in Ireland in 1791 and recorded as an insane resident of Lantarnam Abbey in Monmouthshire, Wales, in the UK 1851 Census and the 1861 UK Census, living with his brother, Reginald James Blewitt (R. J. Blewitt), MP for Monmouthshire Boroughs, owner of  the iron works at Cwmbran and founder of the Monmouthshire Merlin newspaper. They also had a brother Edmund Blewitt and a sister Frances Mary Anne Dowling (1807-1875), who was married in 1834 to Richard Brinsley Dowling (1803-1859), with whom she had a daughter, Florence Brinsley Dowling. The Blewitt brothers ended up in a messy court case, more of which here and here. Their parents were Edward Blewitt (July 30, 1765-March 08, 1832) and Amelia Duberley; their grandparents are named as Edward Blewitt and **** Courcy and they had an uncle John Blewitt. They were also distant cousins of Octavius Morgan, M.P., of the ‘Tredegar Morgans’, a benefactor of the British Museum.

[i] On 8 May 1884 Henry made a  declaration at the Mansion House, London, stating that he did ‘solemnly declare that my certificate of competency no 24699 was lost at Lisbon, being sunk by the mail steamer Ville de Pernambuco whilst moored to a buoy ready to discharge cargo on 7Apr1884 – crew rescued by two boats – not sufficient time to save any documents or effects, steamer sinking in 15 fathoms water- time from collision to disappearing from 10 to 15 minutes.’ In the declaration, he gave his address as 11 Rectory Square, Stepney Green London.

[ii] Alexander Hancock was a the son of John Hancock (1772-1849) and Sarah Tyley (1779-1864). Alexander and his brother Albert were apprentices on the Rifleman where they learned their trade, and went on to become Sea Captains themselves. Another brother Thomas Tyley Hancock was born in 1799 in Somerset, England, and was a Sea Captain and owner of at least two ships, the Schooner “Trial” and the Schooner “Rifleman” out of Nova Scotia. In 1857, Thomas married Maria Catherine Salsman (daughter of Gasper Salsman/Salzmann and Catherine Barbara Tanner) 1837, at St. Paul’s Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Thomas and Maria had 5 sons (Sidney, Robert Edwin, Charles Albert, Thomas Tyley and John), and three daughters (Anna Maria, Sarah Jane “Jennie” and Martha Emily “Mattie”). Thomas went on to become a Justice of the Peace.

[iii] Hancock’s daughter Caroline later travelled from Australia to Panama with her father, sister and brother, crossed the isthmus on mule-back and took passage to America. From the East Coast, the Hancocks took a series of trains to Dyersville, Iowa where they had a relative, and where Captain Hancock “swallowed the hook” and became the town’s postmaster. Caroline married Ernest Hall of Sheffield and they were parents of Grace Hall Hemingway. (See here)



[1.a] Of Edward Blewitt’s involvement in Pennsylvania’s AOH, the Denver Post (16 July 1902) said: “He was city engineer for ten years in Scranton, Penn., previous to his departure for Mexico six years ago. He was for six years, besides, state president of the Hibernians of Pennsylvania.’

[1] Could Edward Blewitt have been a kinsman of the London-born organist and composerJonathan Blewittwho moved to Ireland in 1811 to become private organist to Lord Cahir. He was subsequently appointed organist of St. Andrew’s, Dublin. In 1813 he became composer and director of music at the Theatre Royal in Dublin. He was also appointed organist to the Freemasons of Ireland by the Duke of Leinster. By the time he moved back to London in 1820, he had written many Irish arrangements. His father Jonas Blewitt was a distinguished organist in his own right. In 1802 the German organist Johann Bernhard Logier (J. B. Logier) was appointed organist in Westport before becoming director of the band of the Kilkenny Militia in 1808. Appointed musical director of the Royal Hibernian Theatre in 1809, he remained in Ireland for all but three years (Berlin) until his death in 1846. Johnathan Blewitt helped Logier bring his system of music teaching to Ireland, publishing a book An Epitome of the Logerian System of Harmony in Dublin.

Logier’s link to Westport is notable but what really brings this full circle to County Mayo is that when Jonathan Blewitt was struggling financially in later life, the Irish composer William Vincent Wallace (1812-1865) played a benefit concert for him in 1848. Blewitt was also the beneficiary of a dinner given on Bachelor’s Walk in February 1845. (See here for more on Wallace, including his photo.)  Spencer Wallace, W. V. Wallace’s father, was born in Killala in 1789 but moved to Ballina early on, where he was a music teacher and regimental bandmaster with the North Mayo Militia. W. V. Wallace’s brother was born in Ballina in 1813 and named Wellington Wallace in honour of the Iron Duke.

(Jonathan Blewitt was a godson of the English composer Jonathan Battishill; he was a lover of the singing actress Elizabeth Davies who moved to Ireland with her actor-lover Anthony Webster in 1776, dying in Cork a year later.)

[2] For more on Edward Blewitt’s role at the Ballina Workhouse, see here.

[3] See ‘Edward Blewitt Sr’ on Ireland Reaching Out for more. Dates of birth for Edward and Mary recorded in United States Census of 1860 here. Mary Mulderig’s parents may be referenced in 1851 census here. According to this link to the 1851 census, Pat Murphy of Carrowview, Knockanrillawn [sic], Ballina, County Mayo, was a son of Francis Murphy and Mary Mulderrig, connected to Ardagh [Rappacastle] 1851 and a Maria, Pat, John, Francis also listed.

[4] Edward Blewitt jr’s death record gives his birth as 4 Apr 1833 and his mother as Mary Mulderig. If born in 1832, he was a twin of his sister Maria, born October 1832, whose death in Scranton in October 1870 is recorded here. Maria was also on the Excelsior.

[5] Patrick Blewitt was naturalized in Essex, New Jersey, on 30 October 1852, as per this record and this 1856 record. See also this page on him.

[6] There is room for speculation that Patt Blewitt, the ancestor of Joe Biden, may have been a son of Edward Bluet and Mary Redington, born on 24 April 1832 in Kilmoremoy. According to an article on Ancestor Network: ‘This is open to question. Given that the ship’s manifest records Patrick and his sister, Maria Bluett as both being 18 years old and are possibly twins, however no corresponding baptismal record was found for a Mary/Maria to these parents. Edward Blewitt’s death record gives his birth as 4 Apr 1833 and his mother as Mary Mulderig. It is also possible that an incorrect name has been recorded in the baptismal register or an incorrect date of birth was recorded on his death record. No Blewitts were recorded in Rappacastle townland in any of the C19th land records. Instead an Annesley Knox, the landlord of the estate was the only individual recorded in Rappacastle in Griffith’s Valuation in 1856. No further genealogical information was found on Kate Scanlon or Mary Mulderrig.

It is to be noted that other Blewitts of Ballina sailed for the US on the Shannon in 1849, as per here and also here. There were also Bluetts on the Infanta in 1848 here; Blewitts on the Phoenix in 1857 here; .

[7] The Irish Family History Centre’s article and Family Search (under Ed Blenett) say Edward arrived on the Excelsior.

[8] Ireland Reaching Out that ‘Edward Blewitt Sr’ states that he died in a drowning accident in 1871, aged 76. He should not be included with the Edward Blewitt, son of John and Rachael Blewitt, who died in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, on 3 May 1879 as per here and here.

[10] Born circa 1838, Catherine ‘Kate’ Scanlon was seemingly the daughter of Anthony Scanlon and his wife Honora Heffron, of ‘a wealthy family’ of the west of Ireland. Her father was a member of the coast guard in the British service, generally stationed at Killala Bay, County Mayo, but he also travelled the coast, with his wife in tow. I imagine she was connected to Daniel Heffron, who was born in Killala, County Mayo and served in the 83rd Foot Regiment and the Mayo Militia, being discharged aged 40, circa 1827.

It seems Kate had a brother, also Anthony, who was born in Donegal in 1827 and travelled much of the coast with his father as a child. He then moved to Quebec, where he helped lay the track of the Erie Canal. This may be a record of his emigrationaged 21 on the last day of 1847. In 1848 Anthony II was a railroad man who “brought his family to Carbondale, where his remaining years were spent in the enjoyment of the comforts which his ample means rendered possible.” According to his obituary in the Elmira Telegraph in 1904, he married Catherine ‘Kate’ Stanton in 1853; she was about the years his junior. The couple appear in the 1870 US Census here (as Scanlen) with children: Mary (b. 1854), Anthony (b. 1855), Edward (b. 1856), John (b. 1859), Thomas (b. 1860), James Henry Scanlon (1862-1897), Michael (b. 1864) and Patrick (b. 1866). They are on the 1880 US Census here. An account of the Scanlons in ‘Portrait and Biographical Record of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania’ (1897), p. 674, says that two sons and seven daughters were alive at that time. Their oldest daughter Mary Ellen(b. 1854) married Edward F Blewitt in 1879, and was mother to Edward Blewitt (1881). At the time of their son Anthony’s suicide in 1895, Anthony II was described as ‘night baggage manager at the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Depot.’

Anthony and Kate’s Anthony F. Scanlon (1855-1895) was a detective who shot himself with a 32-calibre revolver at his home at 108 Anthony Street, Scranton, in 1895. (See fuller details of Anthony at The Scranton Tribune, 10 June 1895). This was in response to a court case in which a man by name of Alex Dunn claimed Anthony had committed an assault and battery on him ‘with Intent to kill, lev­eling a pistol and firing two shots’. His funeral and burial in Hyde Park Catholic Cemetery is detailed here. (E. F. Blewitt was one of the pall-bearers.)

There is some confusion over Anthony’s date of birth as he is recorded as being born in 1854 here, as a 2-year-old in 1860 here and as a 6-year-old in 1860 here, or see here, so which was he!?  Anthony Scanlon was not the luckiest of names in 19th century Scranton. In November 1875, 17-year-old Anthony Scanlon of Scranton was stabbed to death by his Sand Banks neighbour,  15-year-old Henry Kelly, when he confronted Kelly about throwing stones at the windows of their home in the 7th Ward.  “There, damn you!’ exclaimed Kelly as he plunged in his long knife. I’ll learn you to interfere with my Hallow Eve fun.’ The same article noted that young Anthony had returned from a funeral in Archibald of his ‘cousin and namesake Anthony Scanlon, who was stabbed to death by his uncle, Michael Nealan, a few days ago.’

Mary Scanlon, daughter of an Anthony Francis Scanlon and his wife (née Sullivan), was married in 1900 in Indianapolis to Peter Delaney, as per here.

Given that Anthony Scanlon I was a coast guard, it is to be noted that John Philip Holland, the inventor of the submarine, was the son of John Holland (1795-1845), a member of the Royal Coastguard Service, and his second wife, the Irish-speaking Máire Ní Scannláin (aka Mary Scanlan), daughter of John and Ann Scanlan, from Liscannor, County Clare. Mary was just 16 years old when she married John, 25 years her senior, in circa 1835. (Mary Scanlan’s page on Ancestry suggests she was born in Duagh, near Listowel, County Kerry, in 1821, but the Duagh Development Association dismissed this in November 2020). Long after she was widowed in 1845, Máire / Mary also moved to the US, as did John Philip and her other children, and it is notable that her record on the US Census of 1880 has her alongside many Scanlons, such as John, Sarah, Emma, Anna and Edward. Máire / Mary was buried in March 1884 in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, East Orange, Essex County, New Jersey. (See here)  And Essex County is precisely where Patrick Blewitt was naturalised in 1852 / 1856 so is this all mere coincidence!?

Also note Maurice Scanlan of Belderig, County Mayo, who was listed as the recipient of a silver medal from the Royal National Life-Boat Institution, For the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck in May 1894 (Volume: 15, Issue: 172, p. 626).

I add the following about Holland from The Shanachie, the magazine of the Connecticut Irish-American Historical Society, 2008, Vol. Xx, No.2, p. 3:

The Hollands had a touch of rebel blood in them. John’s older brother Alfred edited a nationalist weekly newspaper in Dublin, and his younger brother Michael espoused rebellion openly and eventually settled in Boston. Alfred and Maire joined him there in 1872. John, having withdrawn from the Christian Brothers, followed just a year later. The fact that his entire family had now settled in America certainly was an important consideration. Then, too, his mind was filled with thoughts of the opportunities he might find for shipbuilding in America, and of the struggle which other immigrants to the United States were carrying on for Irish independence.’

It may be relevant that a Nora Scanlon is buried near John Philip Holland at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, Passaic County, New Jersey. Her dates are unknown but could she have been his kin?

Was she Nora Scanlon, daughter of Mary Madden and Patrick Scanlon? Nora’s wedding certificate lists Miss Julia Blewitt as her maid of honor and, when her nephew Anthony J Scanlon died, E.F. Blewitt was a pallbearer. The obituary of Mrs Catherine Scanlon Blewitt mentions a Downey and Mathew Scanlon (Anthony J Uncle?), as well as a John Kelly who was married to Nora’s sister Julia. Nora Scanlon Clearey is buried in Dunmore Pa. St. Mary of Mount Carmel church. She had three daughters Alice, Mae and Grace and a son Eugene; two of the children died during an influenza outbreak. Nora was a midwife and brought her own granddaughter Grace Gibbons Gillern (daughter of Alice) into this world! The original family lived in Sand Banks on Mineral Ave then moved to Dunmore Pa. (Thanks to Marigrace Gillern Loftus). 

Also, the family of Irish author Patricia Scanlan were involved in coastguard and lighthouse duty on the west coast of Ireland, around Rosses Point, County Sligo. A number of Scanlon / Scanlens appear on a list of British Coastguards personnel 1841 – 1901. (NB: Orla Ryan researching Scanlans of Killaloe and East Clare here.)

The answers to who all these Scanlon coastguards might be is probably to be found in the UK National Archives here.

Honora Scanlon, born 1819, arrived in New York on the Hampshire in 1848, as per here.

Kate Scanlon (née Stanton) died at home in May 1900 and buried in the cemetery of St Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton, with her sons John, Joseph, Edward and James as pall-bearers. Her husband Anthony Scanlon II appeared on the 1900 US Census. He died as a result of a street car accident on 4 July 1904, having notably abstained from politics when it became too corrupt. Anthony’s photo and obituary from the Elmira Telegraph of 18 December 1904 is here.

The marriage between Patrick Blewitt and Kate Scanlon was conducted by Dublin-born Moses Whitty, the rector of Scranton. The Rev Whitty appears to have been born in 1820 and may well have been a son of Moses Whitty, soap and candle maker, of 33 Bolton Street, Dublin, who died in the Irish capital on May 29, 1863. Tom La Porte has researched this line and says “there are extremely few references for Moses Whittys anywhere in Ireland other than this one in Dublin and several in Ballycarney, co. Wexford.  (See here) Moses who died in 1863 is mentioned in the will of a James Jordan of Ballycarney who states that he had inherited from his first cousin Moses Whitty of Bolton Street Dublin.  James Jordan’s heir was his eldest son Moses Jordan and the witnesses to his Will were Philip Whitty and Martin Whitty both of Tomgarron (by Ballycarney).  So it could be said that the Rev Moses Whitty was from Dublin of a Ballycarney, Co. Wexford family.’
In any event, Moses emigrated from Liverpool to Pennsylvania in 1847 on the London (Bath), giving his age as 26 and his occupation as student, suggesting he had started seminary in Ireland.  He went to the Philadelphia Theological Seminary of St Charles Borromo, where his classmates included Matthew McGrane, Vicar of Wilmington, Delaware. Ordained on 11 June 1852, he became rector of Scranton’s considerable Catholic population in 1854, succeeding Father James Cullen, for whom he completed the building of a church at Franklin Avenue and Spruce Street. He also built ‘frame building’ mission churches at Dunmore in 1856 and Providence in 1858. In 1871 he was transferred to Providence, where he erected a large brick temple of worship, the Church of the Holy Rosary. He went on to become Vicar General of Scranton and died sometime before 1887.

[11] See here for more on this era.

[12] I think Patrick and Kate are the same as the family with the surname ‘Bluoett’ in Scranton in the 1870 US Census here. Kate Blewitt (née Scanlon) died aged 61 at 316 Phelps street, Scranton, on 10 February 1901, and was buried in the Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton. See her obituary here … she should not be confused with Catherine Plewitt of Scranton. Among Patrick and Kate Blewitt’s children was William Blewitt, a salesman who was born in Scranton but died in Manhattan, aged 44, in December 1918, perhaps of the Spanish Flu.

[13] Patrick was listed on the 1910 US Census, living with his 43-year-old daughter Julia. A complete account of Patrick Blewett’s life can be found in his obituary in The Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania), 27 Nov 1911, p. 7. See also his obituary from The Black Diamond. V47, July-Dec 1911 as follows:

Noted Mining Engineer Dies.
SCRANTON, PA., November 30—Patrick F. Blewitt, veteran mining and civil engineer of Scranton, died on Sunday at his home, having reached the age of seventy-eight. He was a resident of Scranton for sixty years but was one of the best known engineers throughout the United States and in South America. Born in Ballina, Parish of Ardaugh, County Mayo, Ireland, in 1833, he started his career by going to sea and after serving a time as cabin boy landed in Chili, where he lived for a time. His father immigrated to America and was among the settlers who laid out the city of Scranton and being an engineer was early active in coal affairs. Patrick F. Blewitt joined his father here and worked for the D. & H., and later the D. L. & W., then in process of construction, as a draughtsman. From minor positions on surveying crews he advanced to surveyor and engineer for various coal and railroading enterprises. Late in the fifties he went to Iowa and opened up the first coal mine in that state at Mt. Pleasant, to man which operation he imported many miners from the anthracite regions and scored the first success in Iowa mining annals. Next moving to New Orleans, he followed engineering there till the war broke out when he went to Brazil for a time, and returned to Scranton, going with the D. & H., later to become mine inspector of Lackawanna county and part of Luzerne county. In later years he has frequently been consulted as an authority on coal matters and his original maps of the anthracite regions are among the most accurate in existence. He was chief witness for the county when an effort was made some time ago to estimate the amount of coal under various properties for the purpose of taxation. He was the father of thirteen children, eight of whom survive him, including Former State Senator Edward F. Blewitt and Wm. Blewitt of London. The funeral was held Wednesday and largely attended by local coal men.

[14] Edward Blewitt recorded that he was born on 2 January 1859 in New Orleans, Louisiana when he travelled aboard the S.S. Voltaire from Halifax, Nova-Scotia to Philadelphia in July 1924.  A US census taken on 9th July 1860 states that Edward was born in Louisiana.

There are pictures of both Edward and Patrick Blewitt here.

[15] A letter of 8 December 1906 from C. C. Donovan to “O’Neill” regarding Michael J. Ryan’s lecture, entitled “Ireland: A Nation”, given under the auspices of the AOH, and portraying E. F. Blewitt in a bad light, is in the Joseph McGarrity papers here.

[16] An 1880 record shows Edward and Mary Ellen Blewitt in Scranton, as does another record from 1883. Edward Bluit [sic] appears in the household of Patrick Scanlon in the 1870 census as a 15-year-old, suggesting he was born in 1855 (rather than 1859!) It seems he was the Edward Blewitt who, in 1903, founded the Edward F. Gold Mining Company, a silver and gold mining operation in Montana. (The charter was no longer in force in 1909, according to this New Jersey page.) According to the 1900 US Census, this Edward was born in Pennsylvania in December 1854, to Irish parents. He shows up in Montana on the 1920 US census and in Broadwater, Montana on the 1910 US census where it says he was a 46-year-old quartz miner, suggesting he was born circa 1864. Was he working for or related to Edward Francis Blewitt (1859–1926)? And yet what of the Edward Blewitt who showed up as a lodger in Butte, Montana, on the 1930 US Census, aged 75, and recorded that his father was from the Irish Free State but that his mother was born in England. I don’t think Mary Ellen was born in England?

[17] At the time of the 1910 US census, Ambrose Finegan [sic] (25 years old), Geraldine (23) and their baby Gerard were living with her 49-year-old father, Edward Blewitt, in Dunmore Ward 6, Lackawanna. Also there Geraldine’s sister Gertrude (27), her brothers  Patrick R Blewitt (26) and Arthur J Blewitt (24). The 1920 census has Ambrose and Geraldine at Scranton Ward 1, Lackawanna, with 9-year-old Gerard, 61-year-old Edward and Gertrude, as well as younger children Edward (7), Ambrose (5) and Eugenia (2).

One wonders also about Michael D Blewitt, the wealthy owner of the Nickelet cinema in Scranton, Pennsylvania, son of Mary Blewitt, father of Harold Blewitt, who died in Corning, New York, in 1911. See here for more on Michael D Blewitt.

[18] PeeJay Mulgrew suggests the Finnegan home was what is now Lily Finnegan’s pub on the Whitestown shore.  Joe Biden is also a cousin of rugby players Rob and Dave Kearney.

[19] There is also an oak tree planted in Beau Biden’s memory at Lisnavagh, County Calrow, by a friend from Wilmington, Delaware. This is a part of the letter Joe Biden wrote before he traveled to Ireland in 2016:

‘Over the course of my life, I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve traveled all around the world – more than a million miles on Air Force Two alone. I’ve been honored to have held a lot of titles. But I have always been and will always be the son of Kitty Finnegan. The grandson of Geraldine Finnegan from St. Paul’s Parish in Scranton; a proud descendant of the Finnegans of Ireland’s County Louth. The great-grandson of a man named Edward Francis Blewitt, whose roots stem from Ballina, a small town in Ireland’s County Mayo – sister city to my hometown in Scranton, Pennsylvania. An engineer with a poet’s heart. Months after my mother passed away, I found an old box of his poems in my attic. In his poetry, my great-grandfather spoke of both continents, and how his heart and his soul drew from the old and the new. And most of all, he was proud. He was proud of his ancestors. He was proud of his blood. He was proud of his city. He was proud of his state, his country. But most of all – he was proud of his family. And that is America: This notion that home is where your character is etched. 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.

[20] He also closed his speech with this poem at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia in March 2020.