RESEARCH is strongly suggesting that recently-elected US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has West Cork ancestry.
The California native has spoken of his Irish ancestry in the past, and about how his great-grandfather, Jeremiah McCarthy, came to California from Cork in the 1800s.
But now well-known genealogist Margaret Murphy of Skibbereen Heritage Centre has uncovered two possible locations for the birthplace of the US politician’s ancestor – one of which is in West Cork.
The genealogist, who has previously unearthed the West Cork ancestry of acclaimed author John Le Carré, says that there is a ‘strong possibility’ that Kevin McCarthy has roots here. A 1914 book by Wallace M Morgan, entitled History of Kern County California, details that Jeremiah McCarthy was ‘born on a farm in county Cork, Ireland, April 13, 1843,’ and settled in Kern County, California, where Kevin McCarthy was later born.
Having moved to California, Jeremiah met and married his second wife, Kevin McCarthy’s great-grandmother, Mary Heskin Davorn, who was born near Ballinrobe in Mayo in 1871.
US census records show Jeremiah and Mary having three children: Jeremiah, Thomas Patrick, and Eugene McCarthy.
Eugene, otherwise known as Owen Eugene McCarthy, was born in 1908 and was Kevin McCarthy’s grandfather.
His youngest son, also Owen, is Kevin McCarthy’s father.
Tracing the family’s ancestry before they emigrated to the United States is more difficult, but a search of Irish church records shows that there was a Jeremiah McCarthy from the Lislee parish near Clonakilty baptised on April 15th, 1843.
This date lines up with the birthdate given by Morgan and visible on McCarthy’s headstone in California.
Margaret says that these kinds of coincidences with dates are generally unlikely to occur, especially in this particular time period and across two countries.
It means that the McCarthy family line could originate from that parish in West Cork.
However, another possibility comes in the form of a Jeremiah McCarthy who was baptised in the Youghal parish on April 23rd, 1844.
While there is a gap of over a year between each baptism, either is possible due to a combination of problems with records kept during the famine and the fact that many Irish people emigrating to America in the 1800s couldn’t be sure of the year of their birth when asked on arrival.
It means that we cannot be fully sure of the exact location of Jeremiah McCarthy’s birth without confirmation from his family of where in Cork he was from, or a DNA test.
These two baptismal entries narrow the possibilities considerably but going down the DNA route would determine if either one of these Jeremiahs was Kevin McCarthy’s ancestor.
McCarthy has been a longtime supporter and ally of former President Donald Trump, and has been criticised in the past for his views on abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, Covid-19, the environment, immigration and more.
His family are no strangers to questions relating to their ancestry — his brother-in-law has come under scrutiny for an alleged dubious claim of Native American ancestry which helped him win more than $7m in federal contracts through a US programme designed to help disadvantaged minorities.
To avoid any doubt about their origins, Margaret says the McCarthy family should seek a DNA test, or confirm which part of Cork their great-grandfather came from.