The Lookout

President Obama related to country’s first enslaved man

The Lookout

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President Obama

A study from Ancestry.com has determined that President Obama is related to John Punch, the first black African enslaved for life in America--which would make Punch the 11th great-grandfather of Obama.

The connection is made through Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunhan. The website's records say she had ancestors who were white landowners in Colonial Virginia who descended from an African man, Punch.

According to the site's press release, Punch tried to escape indentured servitude in colonial Virginia in 1640 and was punished by becoming enslaved for life. The records show that Punch had children with a white woman, and her status as free was passed on to her offspring. Punch's descendents became successful landowners in the slave-owning state of Virginia.

This would mean that the first documented slave and the first African American president have a shared lineage, claim researchers. Said Ancestry.com's genealogist Joseph Shumway, "John Punch was more than likely the genesis of legalized slavery in America. But after centuries of suffering, the Civil War, and decades of civil rights efforts, his 11th great-grandson became the leader of the free world and the ultimate realization of the American Dream."

Genealogists seem to be fascinated with the current president's family tree: The site has also traced an Irish branch of Obama's family. And researchers at the New England Historic Genealogical Society claim he is the distant cousin of movie star Brad Pitt and six past presidents, including George W. Bush.

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