Ancestry.com Uncovers Irish Roots Of Barack “O’Bama”

1860 Census, Barack Obama ancestor, Falmouth KearneySenator’s 3rd Great-Grandfather Born in Ireland, Immigrated to U.S. in 1850; Historical Documents on Ancestry.com Reveal Light-Hearted Side of America’s Irish Heritage

PROVO, Utah, March 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online resource for family history which recently discovered Al Sharpton’s shocking connection to Strom Thurmond, revealed today that presidential hopeful Barack Obama has Irish branches in his family tree. More than a century and a half ago, 19-year-old Falmouth Kearney, Obama’s third great-grandfather, sailed from Ireland, landing in New York harbor on March 20, 1850. 

Settling initially in Ohio among Irish relatives [click on the image to enlarge his 1860 census enumeration], Falmouth married, had eight children, and eventually moved to Indiana. Three of Falmouth’s daughters married three brothers with the last name Dunham. Obama’s mother is descended from one of these couples — her birth name was Dunham. 

Falmouth was among the thousands of Irish immigrating to America to escape the late 1840s potato famine in Ireland. By 1860, New York City had the largest Irish population in the world — a quarter of its residents had been born in Ireland.

“If Barack Obama and Al Sharpton’s family histories have taught us anything, it’s shown that our roots illustrate the diverse fabric of America’s history,” says Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for Ancestry.com. “Our family heritage is often a tangle of roots that defines our existence within the events that shaped this country. There’s no such thing as a boring family tree and as you discover your own history, the journey reveals the real stories of America.”

If Obama succeeds in his presidential aspirations, he won’t be the first Commander in Chief with ties to Ireland. Ronald Reagan’s great-grandfather, Michael O’Regan, was born in Ireland in the 1820s, as was John F. Kennedy’s great-grandfather, Patrick Kennedy. In fact, JFK’s home state of Massachusetts boasts the highest per capita Irish population with 24 percent of its residents claiming Irish heritage. Interestingly, the White House was also designed by Irishman James Hoban.

Irish Contributions to Modern Life
Beyond the Oval Office, the legacy of Irish immigration lives on as some 34.7 million Americans claim Irish ancestry — that’s almost nine times the current population of Ireland (U.S. Census Bureau).

  • Phillip John Holland invented the first submarine in 1899.
  • James Martin devised the aircraft ejector seat.
  • Irish scientist John Tyndall was the first to explain, through his work on light refraction, why the sky is blue.
  • The engineer, geologist and physicist John Joly invented the first practical system of color photography in 1894.
  • Ernest Henry Shackleton broke records when he led the British Antarctic Expedition in 1907-08.
  • Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, punk rock’s two most famous sons, both sport Irish origins.

Fun Facts on America’s Irish Heritage

  • March is the most popular birth month for people named Patrick, according to Social Security death records. There are even a couple of St. Patricks born on March 17. 
  • Names reminiscent of the Emerald Isle are found in Ancestry.com’s U.S. Federal Census Collection, 1790-1930: Patrick Day from Boston, Mass. Wear Green in Maine; next-door neighbors Emma Lucky and Lottie Lucky from Alabama; and how about Fairy Shoemaker, Iva Rainbow, Pinch Blessing, Blarney Hunter and Lucky Stone. Or consider these occupations in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census:
  • Clover Gatherer, Luck Pointer, Gold Chaser and Irish Jig Dancer.
  • There’s even a Shamrock King found in the England Census and Nott Lucky up in Canada.

To celebrate Irish Heritage Month, Ancestry.com is offering three days free to its entire collection of historical records.

About Ancestry.com
With more than 5 billion names and 23,000 searchable databases and titles, Ancestry.com is the No. 1 online source for family history information. Since its launch in 1997, Ancestry.com has been the premier resource for family history, simplifying genealogical research for millions of people by providing them with many easy-to-use tools and resources to
build their own unique family trees. Ancestry.com is part of The Generations Network, Inc, a leading network of family-focused interactive properties which together receive 8.5 million unique visitors worldwide and over 400 million page views a month (comScore Media Metrix, January, 2007).

11 thoughts on “Ancestry.com Uncovers Irish Roots Of Barack “O’Bama”

  1. Now here’s a candidate we can all vote for-if only he had a little more experience in government! And I’m all for making March Irish Heritage Month as a national event. It’s about time we got our own History Month and show America what the Irish have done here.

  2. I recall a few years back (maybe about 4 years) the New York Times ran an article on St. Patrick’s Day titled “How Green Is my Surname?” The article discussed the historical close connection between African-Americans and Irish immigrants, and mentioned the Irish heritage of notable African-Americans such as Carl McCall (then the comptroller of NY state), Colin Powell and Eddie Murphy.
    Does anyone remember that article?

    p.s.- it’s all American History and the teaching of American history in our schools should include the achievements of every group and our connections to each other.

  3. I find it interesting that so many claim the Jordan name to be of Irish ancestry, but in my research, all of my Jordan members seem to have originated in England, not Ireland. Any answers? Grateful.

  4. Interesting article….you all do a good job..keep it up.

    Jerry Byrne, Doogan, Owens, Cahill

  5. Pingback: 24-7 Family History Circle » Barack Obama’s Irish Family Roots Confirmed in Offaly County

  6. Many Irish people have English surnames. This is due to the early plantations (colonisation) before the reformation by English Catholics. This intermarried with the Irish and so the population of Southern Ireland is mixed. Many protestant refugees from religious persecution were also settled in Ireland Germans from the Rhine Palatinate and French Hugenots to name a few. Their descendants ofter emigated to America at a later date. To complicate matters even further the British government “translated” the gaelic names into something easier to pronounce or less Gaelic. MacGowen (son of the blacksmith) became Smith!

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