News Irish News

Saturday 23 September 2017

Friends and countrymen, lend me your (jug) ears ...

Fulmoth Kearney, Obama's Irish ancestor from Moneygall, has been memorialized and identified after 136 years. Photo by: Merlyn White / Megan Smolenyak
Fulmoth Kearney, Obama's Irish ancestor from Moneygall, has been memorialized and identified after 136 years. Photo by: Merlyn White / Megan Smolenyak

Claire McCormack

A Photograph of US President Barack Obama's great-great-great Irish grandfather has been found - after 136 years. And there is a distinct family resemblance.

The picture of Falmouth Kearney, from Moneygall, Co Offaly, was discovered by President Obama's third cousin once removed - Merlyn White - who just recently learned of her connection to the Obamas while visiting a distant relative in Scotland.

The exciting revelation caused her to rummage some old family photo albums that she inherited from a great aunt - aged 107 years.

Inside, she discovered the portraits of Falmouth and his wife Charlotte, which she then sent to genealogist Megan Smolenyak - who originally traced Barack Obama's roots to Falmouth in 2008, eventually leading to Barack Obama's visit to Ireland in May 2011.

Writing on her Huffington Post blog, Ms Smolenyak confirmed the connection.

"It was seven years ago when I identified Falmouth Kearney of Moneygall, Ireland as the most recent immigrant on the maternal side of Barack Obama's family tree."

, Falmouth's father, Joseph Kearney, left Ireland for the United States in 1849, after inheriting land from a brother in Ohio.

"Falmouth and his sister, Margaret, followed in 1850, and his mother and two younger siblings in 1851 - a classic, chain migration pattern found in countless families," she said, adding that Falmouth was known to his family as "Fully".

However, locating a photograph of "Fully" through the years has been incredibly difficult for Ms Smolenyak.

"He had done a masterful job of keeping his secrets to himself - until now," she said.

The historic photograph comes just weeks after President Obama's second cousin once removed - Dean Dillard - discovered the date of Falmuoth's death, March 21, 1878, and his final resting place at Labette County's Fairview Cemetery in Kansas.

"Given that Falmouth Kearney died back in 1878, the existence of this photo is very fortunate, and it's wonderful that family members have carefully shepherded it through the generations. I'm delighted with its discovery, and if you compare Falmouth side by side with his famous descendant, I think most would agree that President Obama's roots are claiming him," said genealogist Merlyn White

In the last couple of weeks, a tombstone has been erected at the site honouring Falmouth and his wife, Charlotte. It reads: "They were the great-great-great-grandparents of President Obama".

President Obama's surviving Irish relative - his eighth cousin Henry Healy from Moneygall, Co Offaly, this weekend joked the "curse" of big ears seems to be a legacy of the Kearney family that was passed down to the US President. Mr Healy said the president himself remarked on his own big ears when they first met.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News