Tuesday 17 September 2019

Claim to Biden ancestors challenged

Margaret Roddy

North Louth's claim to be the ancestral home of VicePresident-elect Senator Joe Biden is being challenged.

Following the historymaking victory of Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden, hopes were high that the Vice-President might visit the 'Wee County' in search of his ancestral roots.

American genealogist Megan Smolenyak claimed in September that she had traced the Delaware Senator's roots to Carlingford.

Her research led her to discover that Ambrose Finnegan was orphaned at a young age, with his mother Catherine dying when he was just an infant and his father James when he was 10. Both had been born in Ireland.

'James and Catherine married in Ovid in 1866 at Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic church.

'Before then, I find them living with their respective parents, Owen and Jane Finnegan and Thomas and Bridget Roche.'

Concentrating on the Finnegan family, she found out that Owen, Biden's great-great-grandfather, arrived in New York on May 31, 1849 on a ship called Brothers.

His wife Jane immigrated with their three children (including Biden's greatgrandfather, James) almost a year later on May 15, 1850.

Her next task was to find out where in Ireland they had left from.

' While I'm not 100% certain, I think I know,' she says.

'The ships the Finnegans came on all left from Newry, so that provided a clue.

'I knew from my research to this point that I was looking for a James Finnegan who was born around 1840 with parents named Owen Finnegan and Jane (Boyle) Finnegan, who would have probably married in the late 1830s. After a lot of digging, I came up with this:

• James Finegan baptised on December 18, 1840 in Lordship Parish in County Louth, parents Owen Finegan and 'Jean Bail' (likely a distortion of Boyle due to factors such as poor penmanship or transcription errors, as Griffith's Valuation shows no Bail families)

• Owen Finigan and Jane Boyle married on December 8, 1839 in Cooley Parish.

The records involved are all Roman Catholic and the parishes neighbour each other, suggesting an origin of Carlingford.

Now, however, it's also suggested that Biden's Finnegan roots may lie in Derry or even Mayo.