Obama's Irish Roots: From Old Sod to South Side for First Daughters
By Kiratiana Freelon on June 17, 2013 9:06pm |
CHICAGO — The daughters of President Barack Obama, visiting Ireland with their parents, were schooled Monday on their family's Irish roots.
Following a visit to the library of Dublin's Trinity College — which the Obama daughters, Sasha, 12, and Malia, 14, likened to the school Hogwarts attended by Harry Potter — first lady Michelle Obama said the two youngsters learned much about their link to Ireland.
"The girls had a chance to explore those shelves and trace their Irish lineage, which was a very powerful thing to find out that these girls that were born on the South Side of Chicago can trace their roots back here to Ireland, way back to the 1600s," Obama said.
"That was very powerful for me, as their mother, and hopefully it will be something that they cherish for the rest of their lives," she said.
Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather on his mother Anne Dunham's side was born in the village of Moneygall and immigrated to New York in 1850. Falmouth Kearney has been described as working as a shoemaker or wigmaker.
According to one respected account, Michelle Obama's great-great-great-grandmother, a slave named Melvinia, was made pregnant in 1859 by Charles Shields, a descendant of a protestant Irish immigrant who fought in the American Revolutionary War.
Headline writers have dubbed the president, in Ireland to meet with other world leaders at a G-8 summit, "O'Bama."
Some of the president's distant relatives still live in Ireland, including his eighth cousin, Henry Healy.
“We knew he was my cousin because his ears flapped out just like mine,” Obama said jokingly during a speech in Northern Ireland.
Healy, a plumber, told the Irish media that he presented the Obama girls certificates of their Irish ancestry.
"Both of them were pretty amazed," Healy said. "And competing with their friends, they said now they can prove they're more Irish than them."
The president's ancestor, Falmouth Kearney, was one of 1.7 million Irish who immigrated to the U.S. between 1840 and the late 1850s to escape the Irish Potato Famine caused by a potato blight that had left the nation starving.
The London Telegraph traced Obama's ancestor, after arriving in New York, to Indiana as a farmer with 10 children.
Michelle Obama has not commented on her reputed Irish ancestory but she did call Ireland "home" in remarks made Monday.
Before being elected president, Obama and his family lived in Kenwood. Michelle Obama grew up in South Shore.