It’s confirmed, US 44th President Barack Obama is the great-great-great-great-grandson of an Irish shoemaker. Joseph and Phoebe Kearney and their son Fulmuth Kearney emigrated from the village of Moneygall, situated on the border separating counties Tipperary and Offaly, to America in 1850.
Records unearthed by the Church of Ireland Rev.Canon Stephen O’Neill show beyond doubt that Mr Obama’s ancestors on his mother’s side lived, worked, married and had children in the area.
It was initially thought that President Obama’s third great-grandfather Fulmuth Kearney, who sailed from Ireland to New York aged 19, was the only member of the family to emigrate, however records now reveal that other Kearney family members had in fact been in America since the 1790s. Indeed Fulmuth’s paternal uncle Francis, had bequeathed land to his brother, Fulmuth’s father Joseph, with the condition that he emigrate in order to inherit. Joseph did so, along with his wife Phebe and four children, including Fulmuth, at various times in the mid-19th century following the Irish Potato Famine 1845-1849 in which at least 1.3 million people emigrated from the shores of Ireland to mainly America, England & Australia. Baptismal records show that Fulmuth Kearney was born to Joseph, occupation a shoemaker, then considered a wealthy and skilled trade.The family eventually resettled in Tipton County, Indiana.
However the family connections go further back than 1850. President Obama’s great granduncle Michael Kearney was a prominent Dublin business man in the 1700s. As a wig maker he would have transacted business with Dublin’s aristocracy on a daily basis. He used the profits of this business to buy and sell property throughout the country. He become a Freeman of Dublin in 1718 and was very active in the politics of his wig makers trade guild. However economic changes, brought about following the Act of Union in 1801 and the decline in the fashion of wig wearing, saw the Kearney family fortunes slide into rapid decline.
President Obama however still, possibly, has distant Irish relatives. In 1760, one Joseph Kearney of the parish of Moneygall married a Sarah Healy also of the parish. Local current resident John Healy can trace his family’s presence in Moneygall right back to Sarah’s Healy’s time. Marriage records exist in the parish that show that at least two members of the Kearney and Healy families married in 1760. A field still known as Kearney’s Gardens, where the sunken remains of the house of the shoemaker Joseph Kearney, Fulmuth’s father, lived and worked, still exists. Records from the area show that Fulmuth and his siblings, attended the school locally and that this school later became Templeharry chapel.