The Kennedy family is an American family of Irish descent who are prominent in American politics, government, and business. The first Kennedys to reside in America were farmer Patrick Kennedy (1823–1858) and his wife Bridget Murphy (c. 1824–1888), who sailed from Ireland to America in 1849. Their son P.J. (1858–1929) went into politics and business. P.J. and his wife Mary Hickey (1857–1923) were the parents of businessman/politician Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (1888–1969). The four sons of Joe Sr. and his wife philanthropist/socialite Rose Fitzgerald (1890–1995) were Joseph, Jr. (1915–1944), John F. (1917–1963), Robert F. (1925–1968), and Ted Kennedy (1932–2009). John served as president from January 1961 to his assassination in November 1963 while Robert and Ted both became prominent senators, Robert being assassinated in June 1968 while running for the Democratic nomination for president. The Kennedys' political involvement has revolved around the Democratic Party. Harvard University educations have been common among them, and they have contributed heavily to that university's John F. Kennedy School of Government. The wealth and glamor of the family members, as well as their extensive and continuing involvement in public service, has elevated them to iconic status over the past half-century, with the Kennedys sometimes referred to as "America's Royal Family".
Joseph Sr. originally pinned his hopes on eldest son, Joseph Jr., to enter politics and be elected president. After Joseph Jr. was killed in World War II, those hopes then fell on his second eldest son, John, to become president. Soon after John was elected in November 1960, he, Robert, and Ted all held prominent positions in the federal government. They received intense publicity, often emphasizing their relative youth, allure, education, and future in politics. From 1947, when John became a member of Congress, to 2011, when Ted's younger son Patrick (born 1967) departed Congress, there were 64 years with a Kennedy in elective office in Washington (excluding a short gap of less than a month when John resigned his Senate seat prior to his inauguration as president). This spans more than a quarter of the nation's existence.
The family has been at the center of numerous tragedies, contributing to the idea of the "Kennedy curse". Joe Sr. and Rose's eldest daughter, Rosemary (1918–2005), was forced to undergo a lobotomy which crippled her for life. John and Robert were both assassinated in the 1960s. Ted was involved in the Chappaquiddick incident in which he caused the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Joe Jr., Kathleen (1920–1948), and John F., Jr. (1960–1999) were killed in plane crashes. Ted was also involved in a plane crash, but survived. Most recently, Robert F., Jr.'s (born 1954) second wife, Mary Richardson (1959–2012), committed suicide on May 16, 2012.
The Grant of Arms granting this Arms to all descendants of Patrick Kennedy was presented to John Fitzgerald Kennedy Sr. from the Chief Herald of Ireland on 17 March 1961, St. Patrick's Day.
17 March 1961
Between two olive branches a cubit sinister arm in armour erect, the hand holding a sheaf of four arrows, points upwards, all proper
Sable three helmets in profile Or within a bordure per saltaire Gules and Ermine
The 3 helmets on black alludes to the Arms of the O'Kennedys of Ormonde, and the red and Ermine allude the Arms of the FitzGeralds of Desmond. The olive branches and arrows symbolise America, because the olive branches and the arrows that appear in the Arms also appear in the talons of the American Eagle in the Great Seal of the United States of America.