The curse on the Kennedy family originated in New Ross Ireland during the Great Potato Famine. The time was 1849 and whole families in Ireland were starving. People were doing whatever they could to escape to America.
The biggest problem was that most Irish did not even have enough money to pay for a ticket to America. The Irish came up with an ingenious solution. The people of a particular town or village would put in all their money and give it to one family to go to America. There would be enough money for that family to buy tickets and find lodging in the United States.
In return for this initial gift, that first family had to make a binding pledge. The pledge was that when the family was settled in America, it would send back to Ireland 1/2 of its earnings each month forever.
The wages the first family sent back to Ireland would then be used to buy tickets to America for a second family. Then there would be two families sending money back to Ireland each month. Then three, then four, and so on.
This scheme actually worked throughout many parts of Ireland. Sometimes whole villages, and even small towns were able to eventually get 100% of their population to America. Over the course of 10 years almost 2 million Irish came to America. Of course, the success of any one town all depends on the success and the honesty of that first family. If that first family did not send any money back there would be no funds left to send a second family.
In 1849, the people of New Ross selected Patrick Kennedy and his wife Bridget Murphy Kennedy to be the lucky ones to make the trip to the United States. Patrick Kennedy was a skilled cooper (barrel maker), a craft that was in demand in America.
The Kennedy family sailed to Boston, where Patrick did find work and the Kennedy family thrived. Of course, everyone knows that the descendants of Patrick and Bridget went on to become the most famous political family in American history. What is lesser known is that Patrick and Bridget Kennedy broke their pledge to the people of New Ross Ireland. The Kennedys never sent one penny back to Ireland. Days, weeks and finally years went by and the people of New Ross never got the money they were promised.
The people of New Ross did not forgive or forget. A group of people of New Ross held a secret ceremony, with rituals that dated back hundreds of years before Christianity had come to Ireland. They put a curse on Patrick and Bridget Kennedy and all their decedents for all time.
Is this legend real? The Kennedys themselves certainly believe in a family curse. In a televised speech about Chappaquiddick, Senator Ted Kennedy questioned, “whether some terrible curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys”.
Even when members of the Kennedy family mention the curse, they never speak about why there is a curse. Somehow that has been lost to history or purposely buried in family stories passed down through the generations.
In modern times we no longer believe in zombies or witches or ancient family curses. But then again, none of us can truly imaging the pure hatred of the cold and starving people of New Ross Ireland 170 years ago.