Place of migration
Migrated to/Born in USA

James Finnegan (1840-1894) was the maternal great-grandfather of Joe Biden (46th President of the USA). 

He was born in Co. Louth, Ireland in 1840, to Eugene aka Owen Finnegan and Jane Boyle aka Bail. 

EMIGRATION According to extensive research by Megan Smolenyak... 
  • In 1849, James' father Owen Finegan made the decision to emigrate to America in search of a better life. He went ahead of the family, departing from the port of Newry. 

  • In 1850, his wife Jane and children followed and finally settled in the town of Ovid, New York.

  • As James was vision-impaired, he was not conscripted to the American Civil War (where his brother Michael was killed, and Stephen wounded.)

James Finnegan became a fiddler by trade.  In 1866 he married Catherine Roche and lived in Rochester, NY before moving to Pennsylvania. 
  • Their youngest son, Ambrose Finnegan (the grandfather of Joe Biden) was born in Olyphant (near Scranton) in 1884.

In 1909, Ambrose Joseph Finnegan (1884-1957) married Geraldine Blewitt of Scranton, Pennsylvania and gave birth to Joe Biden's mother – Jean Finnegan. In 1941, she married Joseph Robinette Biden Sr.


Got a Finnegan in your family tree?

We'd love if you added them to our Ancestors roll-call here:

Additional Information
Date of Birth 1st Jan 1840
Date of Death 1st Jan 1894


  • This is so cool! I am a Finnegan descendant whose ancestors were from County Monaghan, however, settled also in upstate New York, Livingston County, not far from Seneca County where Ovid is. When my grandmother married, she found her way to Rochester, NY, where Joe Biden's great grandfather also lived! I would love to do more research to see if there are any connections! My Finnegan family bible is almost identical the the one President Bible used to put his hand on to take the oath of office! What a proud day for Finnegans! 


    Lisa Luchsinger Swovick

    Researching: Finnegan, Burke, Short, Luchsinger, Pfeiffenberger (Pifer), Schneider, Gendreau

    Lisa in New York

    Saturday 23rd January 2021 10:03PM
  • My 2nd great grandparents Peter Toner and Mary Cassidy both immigrated from County Louth (Carlingford South parish) to Seneca County, New York, in the late 1850s. So many families settled there! The Holy Cross Catholic parish there has church records online through the LSDS centers. Most of their siblings immigrated as well. Does anyone know about The Catherine Roche in Biden’s family tree? I am curious because my great grandfather John Roach immigrated there (Geneva, NY) from County Mayo and might be related. He and many of my Toner relatives worked at Willard State Hospital. John Roach moved to Denver and worked for the railroad with five of his sons! His mother in Mayo was a Malley.



    Peg McCarthy

    Saturday 23rd January 2021 10:23PM
  • I'm double blessed. According to Ancestry DNA matches I am related to both the Finnegans in Louth and Blewitt of Mayo! The closer relationship is with the Blewitts in Mayo.


    Saturday 23rd January 2021 10:55PM
  • I am also a descendant of Finnegans from County Louth.  My gr grandfather, George Finnegan, was born in Seatown, Louth, around 1840.  There is evidence his father was Patrick Finnegan, also from Seatown, County Louth.  


    Bonnie MacDougall


    Saturday 23rd January 2021 11:07PM

    I would also like any information on Catherine Roche. My ancestor is Michael Roche from Doneraile,County Cork. His sons Michael and Richard came to Ellis Island in 1847 and settled in Weehawken,NJ.

    Robert R. Roche




    Saturday 23rd January 2021 11:09PM
  • Are any of the Finnegans related to Mulligans in Loughgilly and Crossmaglen Ireland and surrounds. Also is the name Mallon (various spellings) connected?  if so I will elaborate on my question and the reason for asking.

     Margaret Jones


    Sunday 24th January 2021 02:28AM
  • My 2X Great Grandfater George Finnegan was from Templeton, Cooley Penninsula, County Louth. He was married to Rose Murphey. He was a shoemaker and was in buisness with Own Finnegan (Joe Biden's 2X Grand Father) during the American Civil War. George and family eventually settled in Seneca Falls as well as a brother, Richard Finnegan. George & Rose had 7 children, all born in the USA. Three of the children died before they were 19. The others went on to marry into the Smith, Oaks and Johnson families in Seneca Falls. We have ties to County Tyrone via the Johnson Family and the Boyle Family (Not exactly sure from what County).

    In the USA we have interest in the Finnegan, Smith, Oaks and Johnson Families from Seneca Falls.

    The Brennan's (originally O'Brannen or Brannen) and Roulan familes of County Mayo who settled in Geneva, NY

    I have a library of pictures from Holy Cross Cemetery in Ovid, NY and St. Columbkille in Seneca Falls, NY. I think there is a strong connection between the Cooley Pennisula and the land between Seneca and Cayuga Lake in central New York. 

    Tom Brennan








    Sunday 24th January 2021 11:05AM
  • Hi Tom, I have found baptism details of your 2x Great Grandfather George if you are interested. I am from Cooley Co Louth and live beside Templetown where Owen Finnegan was born.

    Dympna, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘︎

    Sunday 24th January 2021 11:51AM
  • Hi Tom, I have found baptism details of your 2x Great Grandfather George if you are interested. I am from Cooley Co Louth and live beside Templetown where Owen Finnegan was born.

    Dympna, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘︎

    Sunday 24th January 2021 11:52AM
  • Hello D. Yes, I would be interested. My siblings and me are interested in all things Cooley Peninsula. I visited your area in 2017 and hope to return soon. Perhaps have lunch at Lily Finnegan's!


    Sunday 24th January 2021 11:56AM
  • Hello D. Most of what we know about the Finnegan's came from the research done by Mary McConnon of MC Reserch. I believe Mary is out of Dundalk. In her research about Joe Biden, she lists many of the Finnegan's from the Cooley Peninsula. James and Mary White being two of them and George is listed as one of thier children. We think George was born around 1820.


    Sunday 24th January 2021 12:08PM
  • Soem of the research that I have come accross on this has not been accurate.  George was baptised on 23 Mar 1817 so was probably born a day or two before. He had 6 siblings that are recorded, though one has not been named possibly due to damaged records.

    Dympna, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘︎

    Sunday 24th January 2021 12:12PM
  • Ah yes, I have seen that 1817 date. His head stone in Seneca Falls. NY indicated 1820. I agree, the lack of accurate dates and spelling of names can be frustrating.


    Sunday 24th January 2021 12:16PM
  • Hi my father was Patrick Finnegan  from co limerich  not sure where his ancestors came from  maybe Cavan 


    Sunday 24th January 2021 04:10PM
  • Hi Tom 

    I don't have any Finnegan's in my family tree. Interestingly, my ancestor Richard Roche married an Ellen Brennan 0n Feb 24,1854 in Weehawken NJ. She was born in 1837 in Ireland.

    On the marriage certificate her parents were listed as Lewis Brennan and Catherine Claniss. There is no other information on where in Ireland they were from. I have searched Roots Ireland and there is no Lewis Brennan listed,

    and only one Claniss family listed in all of Ireland.  By any chance did you have a Lewis Brennan in your family tree?                                                                                                                                          

    Thank you,

    Bob Roche


    Sunday 24th January 2021 04:57PM
  • Hello Bob. No Lewis Brennan's. My family came from County Mayo. We "think" near to Castlebar. My 2x Grand Father spelled his name Brannen. We think he may have had a O' in Ireland but dropped when he arrived in the USA. And then there is the Irish spelling of Brennan. Yikes. We know very little about the Brennan's in Ireland and records are scarce.


    Sunday 24th January 2021 05:41PM
  • Two of my great-great-grandparents, Anne Malone and Matthew Carroll, one or both of whom was a resident of Lower Rathcor, were married at the Grange on the Cooley Peninsula in February of 1847. Not long after that they left for the United States. In March of 1848 their first child was born in Ovid, NY, and they remained there until their deaths in the 1880s. I have no idea how they went directly to this tiny- then as now- rural village. It seems too coincidental for the Finnegans to arrive the following year.

    Both Anne and Matthew gave odd ages in all the US and NY Census records. For instance, in 1850 Matthew was 35, but in 1860 he was 40, in 1870 he was 53, and in 1880 he was 65.In one they were listed as illiterate.

    The one Cooley Parish baptism record that makes sense shows Matthew was very likely born in January of 1819 to James Carroll and Mary Boyle Carroll. Was this Mary Boyle the sister of Jane Boyle Finnegan?

    Any help appreciated!


    Sunday 18th September 2022 08:50PM
  • Hi Maryal, 

    Matthew is likely to have been the son of James Carroll and Mary/Molly Boyle of Castletowncooley. Ann would appear to have been the daughter of Pat Malone and Shibby McGrath of Rathcor, born in 1816. However, it would be very difficult to establish for certain that Jane and Mary Boyle were sisters as there are no records for that time available. Also people born in the Rathcor area would sometimes be baptised and/or married in a neighbouring parish whose records only start around 1835/40

    Dympna, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘︎

    Monday 19th September 2022 12:23PM

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