President Obama has confirmed that he will be coming to Moneygall in May to visit the village, from where his great, great, great grandfather Fulmuth Kearney emigrated in 1850.
However, Shinrone now wants a slice of the action too in light of research delving deeper into the president’s Offaly ancestry. The research, much of which has been collated by Canon Stephen Neill and the Eneclann genealogy firm, reveals that Fulmuth’s great, great grandfather, Joseph Kearney, was born in Shinrone around 1698 and died there in 1791.
Living beyond 90 was truly remarkable for people of that time, but Joe Cleary, principal of Shinrone National School, says this is just one of a whole book of stories to be told about Obama’s ancestors in the village.
Joseph Kearney, President Obama’s seventh-great grandfather and earliest known forebear, came from a family involved in the lucrative periwig (wig-making) trade in Dublin, where members of the family were actively involved in politics.
His family was Church of Ireland, though the Kearney name is Gaelic Irish in origin and Tipperary was its probable place of origin.
He had four sons, Thomas, Joseph, John and Patrick. This Joseph married a Healy from Moneygall, and it is from this line that the Obama’s maternal ancestry descends.
Later generations of the Kearney family became shoemakers but there is no evidence of themtransporting their wares to Dublin for sale.
They would have been shoemakers only for the rural district, where the nearest market town was Roscrea, though they did retain some property rights in Moneygall and Shinrone. Researchers believe the relinquishing of property rights in Moneygall in 1851 may have been to finance the family’s emigration to the US.
Interestingly, Mr Cleary notes that the first Joseph Kearney was buried on January 20, 1791, the very date Barack Obama was inaugurated 44th president of the USA in 2009.
Mr Cleary says a committee has been set up in Shinrone which wants to see President Obama’s ties to the village recognised. The committee would like the president to come to Shinrone as well and maybe lay a wreath at a memorial to his ancestors.
Mr Cleary said the committee has already been in touch with the US embassy here about the possibility of organising such a visit.
Pupils at Shinrone National School have also written to President Obama inviting him to visit the local Church of Ireland graveyard.