In York, Pa., he speaks of his father living at the local YMCA. In front of Toledo autoworkers, he calls himself the “son of an automobile man.” In Media, Pa., he is the “grandson of Ambrose Finnegan,” a Scranton ad man turned gas company worker. But he is also the great-grandson, on his mother’s side, of Edward F. Blewitt, a member of the Pennsylvania state Senate. On his paternal side, he is connected to Maryland through a great-great grandfather who sold produce and a grandfather whose transition from Baltimore kerosene salesman to Wilmington oil executive earned the family a temporary taste of wealth. His family was rich in Boston, comfortable in Long Island and broke in Scranton. One relative died in World War II, and another, “Old Man Sheen,” ran shipyards in Virginia.
Vice President Biden, the Obama administration’s traveling everyman, seems to have roots all over. He learned about some of his ancestral connections from stories told at the family dining table, but many details came to him from an unlikely source — a genealogist who burrowed into the cabinets of microfiche and stacks of bound registries at the Mormon church’s vast Family History Library in Salt Lake City.