Did you know that there are 23 US Presidents that boast Irish heritage?
From Andrew Jackson (7th President) born only two years after his parents emigrated from Antrim to Joe Biden (46th President) who can trace his ancestry back to counties Louth and Mayo, the Irish diaspora punch well above their weight in terms of political clout across the Atlantic!
Andrew Jackson, 7th President (1829-37)
Parents from Antrim
Jackson was born in 1767 in the Waxhaws region the runs along the borders of North and South Carolina. His parents had left the village of Boneybefore in Antrim only two years previously. The village is now home to the Andrew Jackson Centre. The first Ulster-Scots president, he was known as ‘Old Hickory’ and was also a slave owner, general and lawyer.
James Knox Polk, 11th President (1845-49)
Great-Great Grandfather from Donegal, Great-Great-Great Grandparents from Derry/Londonderry
Descended from Ulster Presbyterians the Polks first arrived in Maryland in the late 17th century. They had previously held land and owned property around Coleraine in Derry and Lifford in Donegal. A proponent of the expansionist ‘Manifest Destiny’ policy, Polk was responsible for deciding the official border between British Canada and the United States and fought a war with Mexico to seize control of California, Texas and the rest of the modern day south-western US.
James Buchanan, 15th President (1857-1861)
Parents from Donegal and Tyrone
Buchanan’s parents arrived in Pennsylvania in 1783, four years before his birth. He is one of three US presidents who had at least one parent born in Ireland – along with Jackson and Arthur. To date, Buchanan is the only president to remain a lifelong bachelor. A career politician and former diplomat, he left office just before the outbreak of the American Civil War.
Andrew Johnson, 17th President (1865-69)
Grandfather from Antrim
President Johnson’s grandfather is believed to have left Mounthill in Antrim for Britain’s North American colonies around 1760. Johnson became president following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865 and led the government’s efforts to re-establish the Union following the conclusion of the Civil War. He also made history as the first US president to be impeached, though he was kept in office by the Senate.
Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President (1869-77)
Great-Grandfather from Tyrone
The celebrated Union army general was descended from John Simpson, a native of Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone who arrived in the USA in 1760. The 18th US president was also the first to visit Ireland, though it was after he had left office. He arrived in Ireland on 3rd January 1879 and would spend 5 days touring the island and was made an honorary citizen of Dublin and Derry. A noted war hero but a lacklustre politician his cabinet was rife with corruption and his administration was frequently ridden by scandal.
Chester A. Arthur, 21st President (1881-85)
Father from Antrim
Arthur’s father was born in ‘The Drean’ near Ballymena in Antrim and left for the United States 14 years before the birth of his son. Arthur ascended to the presidency following the assassination of President Garfield. Noted for rewarding his party loyalists with positions within the federal administration during his earlier career as Collector of the Port of New York he changed tack as president and sought to fill any vacancies through competitive exams.
Grover Cleveland, 22nd & 24th President (1885-89, 1893-97)
Grandfather from Antrim
Grover Cleveland is best remembered today as the only US president to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. His grandfather left Antrim toward the end of the 18th century and would go on to become a book publisher in Baltimore. President Cleveland was also the only Democrat to enter the Oval Office from 1861 – 1913.
Benjamin Harrison, 23rd President (1889-1893)
Great-Grandfather from Antrim
President Harrison was a devout Presbyterian and like many of his predecessors as president, his ancestors hailed from Antrim. After a career as a lawyer and brigadier-general in the Civil War he served as a US Senator for six years before becoming president. At 5 feet six inches tall he is possibly the shortest person ever to serve as president.
William McKinley, 25th President (1897-1901)
Grandfather from Antrim
James McKinley, the president’s grandfather, hailed from Ballymoney, Antrim and arrived in the US around 1743. President McKinley led the US to victory in the Spanish-American War and seized control of Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam. The 25th President was assassinated in 1901 while delivering a speech in Buffalo, New York.
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President (1901-1909)
Ancestors from Antrim
Roosevelt’s maternal ancestors are believed to have hailed from Larne, Co. Antrim. The 26th president was the youngest ever to take office when, at 43, he succeeded William McKinley following his assassination. A charismatic leader, he expan