independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

A second parish discovers proof of links to Obama

Rev Michael Johnston points out to pupils from Shinrone NS the entry of the marriage of Barack Obama's ancestor Joseph Kearney to Sarah Healy in the church registry book

A SECOND Irish village has discovered a parish register with records of the ancestors of US President Barack Obama.

Moneygall, Co Offaly, was catapulted into the limelight when Mr Obama's Irish connection to the tiny village was first discovered in 2007.

However, genealogists are also homing in on the nearby parish of Shinrone, Co Offaly, where a book contains details of more than 40 of Mr Obama's ancestors, the Kearneys.

Although Shinrone is not on Mr Obama's itinerary for his May 23 visit, a group of children there have written to the White House inviting the US president to visit their national school.

Earliest

The earliest record of Barack Obama's Irish ancestry has been traced back to a seventh great-grandfather, Joseph Kearney, who was born around 1698.

His death was recorded in Shinrone where he was buried on January 20, 1791. Joseph Kearney is Falmouth Kearney's great-great-grandfather.

Falmouth Kearney is perhaps the most famous of Mr Obama's Irish ancestors -- as he is the US president's third great-grandfather who emigrated from Moneygall to America in 1850 after his family had lost much of their wealth.

Fifth and sixth class pupils of Shinrone NS pupils have researched Mr Obama's links to their parish -- and they have even written to his children, Malia and Sasha.

Yesterday, the youngsters expressed excitement ahead of Mr Obama's visit as they peered over parish records.

School principal Joe Cleary said that at least 15 members of the Kearney family -- including eight children -- were buried in unmarked graves in the Shinrone Church of Ireland graveyard.

"Joseph and Cicely Kearney, the seventh great-grandparents of President Obama, had four sons, Thomas born 1725, Joseph born 1730, and John and Patrick, who were baptised in Shinrone in 1741. One of the sons, Joseph, married Sarah Healy from Moneygall in Shinrone Church."

A headstone was erected in the Church of Ireland graveyard in Shinrone earlier this month in memory of Mr Obama's ancestors.

Mr Cleary describes the Kearneys' roots in Shinrone in a commemorative booklet being put together by Moneygall residents ahead of the visit.

In it he writes about how Mr Obama's ancestors were Church of Ireland and lived in a place where Protestant and Catholic tensions existed.

"We must not forget the contribution that people like the Kearneys made to the parish of Shinrone," he writes.

"If there is a lesson to be learned it surely must be that things can and do improve.

"Today, despite our economic woes, we live in more prosperous times and Catholics and Protestants live in peace and harmony.

"This was, perhaps, best exemplified in 1978 when, during a period of renovation of the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland parishioners offered their Catholic neighbours the use of their church -- an offer which was gratefully accepted."

Irish Independent

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