Press Releases

< All 2007 Articles Uncovers Irish Roots Of Barack 'O'Bama'

Senator's 3rd Great-Grandfather Born in Ireland, Immigrated to U.S. in 1850; Historical Documents on Reveal Light-Hearted Side of America's Irish Heritage

PROVO, Utah, March 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --, the world's largest online resource for family history which recently discovered Al Sharpton's shocking connection to Strom Thurmond, revealed today that presidential hopeful Barack Obama has Irish branches in his family tree. More than a century and a half ago, 19-year-old Falmouth Kearney, Obama's third great-grandfather, sailed from Ireland, landing in New York harbor on March 20, 1850.

Settling initially in Ohio among Irish relatives, Falmouth married, had eight children, and eventually moved to Indiana. Three of Falmouth's daughters married three brothers with the last name Dunham. Obama's mother is descended from one of these couples -- her birth name was Dunham.

Falmouth was among the thousands of Irish immigrating to America to escape the late 1840s potato famine in Ireland. By 1860, New York City had the largest Irish population in the world -- a quarter of its residents had been born in Ireland.

"If Barack Obama and Al Sharpton's family histories have taught us anything, it's shown that our roots illustrate the diverse fabric of America's history," says Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for "Our family heritage is often a tangle of roots that defines our existence within the events that shaped this country. There's no such thing as a boring family tree and as you discover your own history, the journey reveals the real stories of America."

If Obama succeeds in his presidential aspirations, he won't be the first Commander in Chief with ties to Ireland. Ronald Reagan's great-grandfather, Michael O'Regan, was born in Ireland in the 1820s, as was John F. Kennedy's great-grandfather, Patrick Kennedy. In fact, JFK's home state of Massachusetts boasts the highest per capita Irish population with 24 percent of its residents claiming Irish heritage. Interestingly, the White House was also designed by Irishman James Hoban.

Irish Contributions to Modern Life

Beyond the Oval Office, the legacy of Irish immigration lives on as some 34.7 million Americans claim Irish ancestry -- that's almost nine times the current population of Ireland (U.S. Census Bureau).

-  Phillip John Holland invented the first submarine in 1899
  -  James Martin devised the aircraft ejector seat
  -  Irish scientist John Tyndall was the first to explain, through his work
     on light refraction, why the sky is blue
  -  The engineer, geologist and physicist John Joly invented the first
     practical system of color photography in 1894
  -  Ernest Henry Shackleton broke records when he led the British Antarctic
     Expedition in 1907-08
  -  Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, punk rock's two most famous sons, both
     sport Irish origins

  Fun Facts on America's Irish Heritage
  -  March is the most popular birth month for people named Patrick,
     according to Social Security death records. There are even a couple of
     St. Patricks born on March 17.
  -  Names reminiscent of the Emerald Isle are found in's U.S.
     Federal Census Collection, 1790-1930: Patrick Day from Boston, Mass.;
     Wear Green in Maine; next-door neighbors Emma Lucky and Lottie Lucky
     from Alabama; and how about Fairy Shoemaker, Iva Rainbow, Pinch
     Blessing, Blarney Hunter and Lucky Stone
  -  Or consider these occupations in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census: Clover
     Gatherer, Luck Pointer, Gold Chaser and Irish Jig Dancer
  -  There's even a Shamrock King found in the England Census and Nott Lucky
     up in Canada

To celebrate Irish Heritage Month, is offering three days free to its entire collection of historical records.


With more than 5 billion names and 23,000 searchable databases and titles, is the No. 1 online source for family history information. Since its launch in 1997, has been the premier resource for family history, simplifying genealogical research for millions of people by providing them with many easy-to-use tools and resources to build their own unique family trees. is part of The Generations Network, Inc, a leading network of family-focused interactive properties which together receive 8.5 million unique visitors worldwide and over 400 million page views a month (comScore Media Metrix, January, 2007).

Photo: NewsCom:
AP Archive:
AP PhotoExpress Network: PRN6-PRN7
PRN Photo Desk,


Contact: Public Relations
media (at)
Web site:


Get all the latest news from Ancestry


Public Relations

Customer Service

Door Prize Requests

Donation Requests

Request for a Speaker