The Irish roots of Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis - born 28 July 1929, East Hampton, N.Y. - died 19 May 1994, New York
Sometime during the 1840s at the height of the Irish potato famine, James Lee and Mary Norton emigrated from Cork to the USA. James was appointed a schools inspector in New York, and while holding that job, studied and qualified as a medical doctor, and married Mary Norton. Dr James and Mary had a son, James Thomas Lee, in 1877. He was very wealthy, and reputedly had made and lost over two million dollars by the time he was thirty. He worked in the legal department of the Chase Manhattan Bank, and became a friend of President Herbert Hoover. He went on to make another fortune from architecture and real estate, and married Margaret A. Merritt. They had three daughters, one of whom was Janet Norton Lee, born in 1906. Big Jim T Lee died in January 1968, aged 90 years.
Janet married twice. She married John Vernou Bouvier III in East Hampton, New York, on 7th July 1928. John was called Black Jack Bouvier and he and Janet had two daughters, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on 28th July, 1929, and Caroline Lee Bouvier who was christened in New York on 29th July 1933. Caroline was usually called Lee, and she married twice. She married Michael Canfield in April, 1953 and she married Prince Stanislaus Radziwill in March, 1959.
Janet and Black Jack had a troubled marriage and they were divorced in 1940. In 1942 Janet became engaged to Hugh Dubley Auchincloss, they married in June the same year, and Jackie and Lee went to live with their mother and her new husband. The Auchinclosses had two more children, Janet, Jr., who was born in 1945, and Jamie, who was born in 1947.
Janet is credited with complicating the known history of her own origins, by publishing a story describing an invented link to the American Confederate Army General Robert E Lee, to cover up their embarrasing Catholic Irish roots. This incorrect version is discounted by the family, although widely accepted elsewhere.
Although the Lees were actually richer than the Bouviers, they lacked the old money and pedigree which was so desirable in the social circles the family now aspired to.
Jackie was a beautiful and elegant woman, and the story of her life is well known, particularly after the assassination on 22 November, 1963 of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. The image branded into the memory of everyone after that awful event is of Jackie as she appeared in her pink blood-stained suit, and later as the black-veiled widow who walked in the funeral entourage and prompted her young son John, to salute as his father's funeral cortege passed by. She repudely inherited many of the traits of her maternal grandfather Big Jim Lee, including his toughness she was described by White House staff as having "a whim of steel - and her interest in architecture, for which her grandfather had won acclaim and major awards.
Curious about her roots, she had visited Ireland in 1950, as a single 21-year-old, attending the Horse Show in Dublin, and visiting Blarney Castle and kissing the famous stone. After the assassination, she again visited Ireland with her children in 1967.
Early in 1994 Jackie announced that she had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and she succumbed to the disease on 19 May 1994, with her friend Maurice Tempelsman at her side.
She is buried next to John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetary.
Of their children, Caroline is a mother and lawyer, and John worked on his magazine George until his death when a plane which he was flying crashed into the sea in 1999. His wife, Caroline Bessette-Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, were also killed.
As We Remember Her - Carl Sferrazza Anthony, 1997, Harper Collins