Rooting back

12 July 2013

THE ramifications of our early ancestry can lead many of us to unexpected places, although most American Presidents seem to find a root or two in Ireland. President Obama is no exception, tracing a line back to Ireland and the Kearney family through his mother. His wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha, on a recent visit to Dublin, were shown registers recording the births and deaths of members of the Kearney family, from Moneygall, in County Offaly.

It seems that the President's great-great-great-grandfather, Fulmuth Kearney, born of a family of boot-makers, sailed for New York in 1850, and finished up in Ohio, where he was later joined by his parents, Joseph and Phoebe. The birth and baptism of "Fulmuth" seems to be missing from the records in Moneygall, although the Obama family were able to see the baptism of "Timothy son to Joseph and Triphenia Kearney of Moneygall" in 1829.

It has been argued that Timothy and Fulmuth were the same person, the officiating priest preferring to use a more orthodox name for the baptism. There was also the baptism of a daughter, Mary Anne, to Joseph and Phebe Karney in 1837. (Spellings were notoriously erratic in those days and depended much on the priest's phonetic spelling of what he heard.)

The Kearney family from Offaly were Protestants, and one John Kearney was Provost of Trinity College from 1799 to 1806, and then became the Church of Ireland Bishop of Ossory until his death in 1813, but it is not clear where he came in the family tree.

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