The President's ancestry can be traced back to the Emerald Isle
President Barack Obama found out years ago he had an Irish ancestor who fled the potato famine in Ireland in 1850. He can now claim 28 living relatives who also descended from that Irishman, including a Vietnam veteran, a school nurse and a displeased Arizona Republican.
The president’s newly identified relatives are revealed in a study released to The Associated Press by Ancestry.com, a family history website whose genealogists also traced descendants of 23 other Irish passengers on the ship that brought Falmouth Kearney to the United States when he was 19.
The survey allowed genealogists to further trace branches in Obama’s family tree and others who arrived on the ship, known as the Marmion, on March 20, 1850.
According to the survey, the passengers’ descendants live in Canada, Syria and throughout the United States. Among Obama’s newly identified relatives is 83-year-old Dorma Lee Reese, of Tucson, Ariz.
“I’m not a Democrat, so I can’t say I clapped,” said Reese, a retired brain-imaging technologist. “I don’t appreciate what he’s done by any means, but I do appreciate that he holds that office.”
Kearney arrived with his brother-in-law William and his wife, Margaret Cleary. They were destined for Ohio, where Kearney’s relative had left property in his name. Kearney married, had 10 children and later settled in Indiana, where he worked as a farmer.
Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, was a descendant of one of Kearney’s daughters, Mary Ann Kearney, and Jacob William Dunham. The White House didn’t immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment on the president’s Irish heritage.
When the 903-ton Marmion arrived after a 3,000-mile voyage to New York Harbor from Liverpool, England, carrying 289 passengers, it was following a well-worn route used by masses of Irish immigrants.
Among the carpenters, bricklayers and shoemakers arriving that day was Kearney, listed in records only as a laborer.
Like many of the passengers, he was fleeing a country ravaged by a potato blight that destroyed families and livelihoods and left the country starving. From the 1840s to the end of the 1850s, about 1.7 million Irish immigrants came to the United States.
On the day of the Marmion’s arrival, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that the St. Patrick’s Society in Brooklyn had held its first annual banquet; a toast was made to the passengers’ homeland, referring to it by its ages-old nickname: “Though gloomy shadows hang o’er thee now … as darkness is densest, even just before day, So thy gloom, truest Erin, may soon pass away.”
By 1860, the city had the largest Irish population in the world outside Ireland. Nearly 37 million Americans claimed Irish ancestry in 2009, according to census estimates.
Ancestry.com revealed Obama’s Irish roots and his connection to Kearney in 2007, but it is uncovering its new findings this week following months of work as part of a larger project on Irish heritage.
“We had this idea of trying to look at a micro-study of how Irish immigrants have impacted the United States,” said Anastasia Harman, the lead family historian for Ancestry.com.
Other distant Obama relatives include Roma Joy Palmer, 66, of Mulvane, Kan., who is retired from the insurance business, and Daniel Dillard, 63, a Vietnam War veteran and retired community college professor.
“I really don’t like to claim a relationship to Obama. He is not my favorite president,” said Palmer, a Republican. “I don’t have anything against him personally. But I don’t think we have the same agenda.”
Dillard, though, said he took pride in his family “being related to a president of the United States,” even though he is a registered Republican, did not vote for Obama and opposes his politics.
Sandra West, 65, of Hereford, Ariz., also was identified by Ancestry.com but had already discovered years ago that she was distantly related to Obama when she investigated the Dunhams of Kansas.
“I figured there had to be a connection somewhere,” she said.
West, who works as a nurse at Palominas Elementary School, said that it had become a running joke and that the principal had suggested requesting a tour of the White House. But West figured the president already had enough going on.
“I don’t think he would want to pay much attention to me,” she said. “I’m sort of a peon down the road. I’m nobody special.”
More Related Stories
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- 2 more arrested in London attacks
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11