US presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s ancestry has been traced back to a shoemaker in a small Irish village.
Records unearthed in the home of an elderly parishioner who died recently have shed new light on the prominent Illinois senator’s roots.
A Church of Ireland rector who has scoured historical church files dating back to the late 1700s confirmed Mr Obama descended from Moneygall, Co Offaly.
The village today holds little more than a couple of pubs, a few shops, a Roman Catholic church and a sports pitch used by the local Gaelic Athletic Association club.
The main activity is the passing traffic on the N7 national road between Dublin and Limerick that has bisected the settlement.
Canon Stephen Neill, from the nearby town of Cloughjordan, began delving into the senior Democrat’s past after a genealogist in Salt Lake City, Utah, told him about the possible connection with his parish.
“I would be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that this is categorical evidence of Mr Obama’s link to this part of the world,” said the rector.
It was initially believed the would-be president’s third great grandfather Fulmuth Kearney was the only one of his family to have sailed from Ireland to New York aged 19 in 1850.
But the newly-uncovered records show other family members had in fact emigrated to America since the 1790s.
They also reveal that Fulmuth’s father, Joseph, was a shoemaker – a wealthy skilled trade at the time.
“They would have been among the upper echelons of society back then. They would have been comfortable,” said Canon Neill.
The rector only came across the records after retrieving them from the home of a parishioner who died recently.
“There were summary documents going back to the early 1800s and even the late 1700s. The leg work wasn’t huge to be honest. I found a lot of these Kearney entries,” he said.
“While I didn’t find an entry for Fulmuth I did find the records of his parents, Joseph and Phebe, and his three siblings.”
“It may be the case that Fulmuth’s baptism took place in the neighbouring parish of Shinrone. We are still researching there.”
Canon Neill insisted it was normal for there to be omissions in records of that age but the proof of the parent’s identity confirmed the link.
He believes the name Fulmuth – highly unusual for an Irish man – was most likely a surname that was taken as a Christian name.
The records show Fulmuth’s paternal uncle Francis bequeathed land to his brother, Fulmuth’s father Joseph, with the condition that he emigrate to inherit it.
He did so along with his wife and their four children although at various times during the mid-19th Century.
The original Anglican church that Senator Obama’s ancestors would have worshipped at still stands, although now as a private home, having been converted about 30 years ago.
A former civil rights attorney Mr Obama is being tipped as the first black presidential hopeful with a chance of taking the top office in Washington.
The 45-year-old is hoping to see off Hillary Clinton to be the Democrat’s official candidate for the White Office polls next year.
While much has been written about his Kenyan ancestry, his European origins have until now been mostly overlooked, according to Ancestry.co.uk, who facilitated the research.
“This research will once and for all put to rest any perceptions that Barack Obama is a first generation American,” said Megan Smolenyak, of the online resource company.
“Like most of us he has an interesting mix of ancestry, including some impressively early all-American roots.”
Mr Obama, a married father of two daughters, was born in Hawaii in 1961, to Kenyan Barack Obama Senior and Ann Dunham, a white woman from Kansas.
He graduated from Columbia University in 1983, and moved to Chicago in 1985 before studying at Harvard Law School where he was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review.