With a number of areas around the country claiming a piece of the ancestry of incoming US President Joe Biden, those researching the family tree and coming up with connections could do worse than leaf through a book recently published in New Ross.

"Dunbrody, a Famine Odyssey: How JFK's Roots Helped Revive an Irish Town," was written by Seán Reidy, a former CEO of the JFK Trust in Co Wexford.

A number of projects were completed over the last couple of decades to highlight the connections with the Kennedy family.

Mr Biden has links to Co Mayo and Co Louth and has often spoken of his Irish-American roots.

He has visited the country on a number of occasions in the past few years, most recently in 2016 and 2017.

President John F Kennedy’s great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy grew up in Dunganstown, outside New Ross, and emigrated from the town’s quays during the famine.

It was that journey from the poverty-stricken Irish south-east coast to the east coast of America that inspired one of the main features of New Ross's transformation.

"JFK was a hero of mine as a young man," Sean Reidy remembers. "I was 14 years of age when he came to Ireland and he made a deep impression on me."

Patrick Grennan and Sean Reidy outside the Kennedy Homestead

After securing the job with the JFK Trust back in the 1990s, he outlined his vision.

He said: "I put forward the idea of building a replica of the type of ship that would have brought Kennedy to America.

"Because I felt that when he [JFK] came to Ireland in 1963, it was a really important moment in Irish history because he said on this quayside it’s taken 114 years, three generations 6,000 miles to make this journey."

The ship and adjacent visitor centre tell the story of the Kennedys and how they made an impact on America, as well as the story of Irish emigration.

One of the highlights of this connection in recent years came in 2013, the 50th anniversary of the late president’s visit, when a torch lit from the eternal flame at JFK’s grave in Arlington Cemetery in Washington made its way to New Ross.

It lit what is now the Emigrant Flame on New Ross’s quays.

It was officially lit seven years ago by the then-taoiseach Enda Kenny along with the late Jean Kennedy-Smith, former ambassador to Ireland, and John F Kennedy’s sister, and Caroline Kennedy, the president’s daughter.

"The 50th anniversary was a great timeframe on which we needed to deliver projects," Mr Reidy said.

Caroline Kennedy in Wexford in 2013

"When 2013 arrived this quayside was just about completed, the Kennedy homestead was almost completed and ready to go and 35 members of the Kennedy family came here."

That homestead, in Dunganstown, is now home to a visitor centre, as well as remaining the home of the eighth generation of the Kennedy family, represented by Patrick and Siobhan Grennan and their children.

"My grandmother Mary Kennedy-Ryan welcomed the president here in 1963, along with my mother Josie and my aunt Maryanne," Mr Grennan said.

"I still run the farm here and my grandmother farmed here. Patrick was the third brother in the family so two brothers stayed in Dunganstown when he went to Boston."

Back in the 1970s, he says, his grandmother was "trying to avoid" people calling to the homestead.

Apart from a photograph of the late president on the fireplace, there was little mention of the connection.

"People were always calling and looking for them to talk about it and I think Granny probably felt she had talked enough about it at that stage," Mr Grennan said.

As the years went on and the JFK Trust’s work got under way in earnest, he realised that they should make the best use of the homestead, which is how the visitor centre was realised.

Mr Grennan said: "There was a big push on for rural development and to diversify from farming and I took part in that, really, and tried to develop the project here and accommodate visitors, rather than them walking in and not being able to find the place and getting lost on the roads, and from there it all kicked off. It’s been fantastic."

Local businesses have felt the positive glow of the Kennedy connection in recent years.

As the proprietor of the award-winning In a Nutshell restaurant, Patsy Rogers, puts it: "We’ve been trading here in this lovely heritage town for the last 27 years, so we’ve seen the Dunbrody project grow and develop.

The Dunbrody Famine Ship (Pic: RollingNews.ie)

"It’s been a great journey for the town because the initial growth of the project was one of, no-one knew where it was going to go.

"Suddenly we had this ship berthed on the quayside and then we had visitors coming from far and wide, not just locally but internationally as well."

Long-time member of the Dunbrody project committee Carmel Delaney, has these words of advice for other areas hoping to capitalise on a Joe Biden connection: "You make the most of it, don’t you?

"If it brings people to Ireland that’s what it’s all about and the best of luck to them. We’ve done our bit with John F Kennedy and it’s transformed the town for us, the association there."