, Derry, New Hampshire


February 28, 2013

Column on Kerry's Irish roots brought brief celebrity|Column:

Andy Warhol was the one who first said that we’ll all get 15 minutes of fame. It’s probably true. I got mine about 9 years ago because of the conjunction of the present U.S. Secretary of State and a Derry clergyman who died nearly 300 years ago.

Back in 2004, the presidential campaign was in full swing pitting President George W. Bush against Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry. A lot of people back then were surprised to discover that Kerry was not Irish but his family’s name was Kohn and was changed when his grandparents emigrated from Hungary. In June 2004, I got a call from my good buddy and fellow historian Andrew Bell in Californian. He’d just found a genealogical connection between Sen. Kerry and the Rev. James McGregor, the founder of old Nutfield. I thought that was pretty cool and when I checked Brother Bell’s sources I found the undeniable proof that Kerry indeed did have Irish roots! This was a scoop that ever the very smart Sen. Kerry didn’t know.

The records say that John Kerry, through his mother Rosemary Forbes, is the great, great, great, great, great, great grandson of the Rev. James McGregor (1677-1729) from Aghadowey, Northern Ireland. McGregor emigrated here in 1718 with his congregation of 16 families; together they settled the Nutfield grant in 1719. That grant is now the towns of Derry, Londonderry and Windham as well as parts of Salem, Hudson and Manchester. In 1720, they planted the first crop of potatoes in America.

It was a good story and I was glad when the Derry News printed it. The next day the editor told me The Eagle-Tribune was republishing the story on the front page. Wow! Great! Then I got word that it was being picked up by a national news service. In a couple days, the story — and my name — was in hundreds of newspapers from coast to coast.

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