Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Postcards from Moneygall, Ancestral Home of Barack Obama

Barack Obama, President of the United States of America and his wife Michelle,  visited the village of Moneygall, Co. Offaly on a wild, windy day, 23 May 2011, retracing the steps of a relative from 6 generations before him, Fulmouth Kearney, a maternal g.g.g.grandfather, who left this tiny village in 1850 and  headed to U.S.A. Fulmouth Kearney’s father was a shoemaker in the area.  The small house is on the site where his relatives once lived. The President and Mrs  Obama sipped Guinness in Ollie Hayes Pub. I just love the image on the wall by the door of the pub (it’s not really George Bush standing there !)

Moneygall is a pretty little village carefully looked after by the residents – every house had window boxes and flowers in full bloom when I passed through  on Sunday on  my last stop for ‘Heritage Week. A few short years ago, thousands of vehicles passed through this  little village every day as it is situated on the busy main Limerick to Dublin road.  The village is now bypassed,allowing the villagers to reclaim their special place. Here you can stop and relax and enjoy a cup of coffee and catch up on the link with Barack Obama.  Papillion, the winner of the Aintree Grand National in 2000, was bred in this area, and was the most famous Moneygall personality before Barack Obama!

When Obama addressed the crowds in Dublin earlier in the visit,he used the Irish translation from his famous ‘Yes, we can! , which translates to ‘Is feidir linn’.  This can be seen on the  flower tubs in the village.   Well done, Moneygall!  Is feidir linn!

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Filed under Ancestry, Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Genealogy, Irish American, Irish Diaspora, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Irish_American

Obama in Ireland II: Ancestral Home

It is estimated that  there are about 40 million Americans who claim Irish descent. Hardly surprising then that 20 Presidents of the United States of America can claim to have Irish blood in their veins. President Obama’s Irishness is a relatively recent discovery and came as a surprise to many. There was no hint in his un-Irish surname nor was there any hint of a ruddy Irish complexion!

President John F Kennedy was the first President to come here to visit the home of his ancestors. His grandfather used to tell him stories of Ireland that he in turn had heard from his mother. In all, Kennedy had 8 great grandparents who left Ireland in the mid 1800s as famine gripped the country.

Migration has been a feature of Irish history more than almost any other country in the world. Long before the Famine – from 1600 – Irish people crossed the Atlantic,with considerable numbers leaving from 1720 onwards in a fairly steady stream. These early emigrants were mostly from the northern and eastern counties of Ireland. However, by far the largest numbers to emigrate did so around 1845 during and after the Famine, with huge numbers leaving from the south and west of the country.

Templeharry Church.Place of worship of Kearney Family,Co Offaly.Picture from Discover Ireland

The Kearney family, from who the 44th President Obama is descended, were a relatively prosperous family in Shinrone, and later in Moneygall, in County Offaly, or what used to be King’s County. Wigmakers by profession, the family was part of an extensive family business and later became shoemakers to their local community. There are records to show that the family were active in famine relief in the Moneygall area. A young Fulmuth Kearney left Ireland at the end of the Famine, arriving  in New York in March 1850.The 1870 census records him farming in Indiana, where he died in 1878.

Cullenwaine Churchyard where many of Obama's relatives rest in unmarked graves. Image from Discover Ireland

On St Patrick’s Day 2011 President Obama paid tribute to his ancestors and all people who left this country for a new life: ‘‘Like so many immigrants who came to call this country home, these men and women were guided by a deep faith and an unwavering belief that here in America a better life is available for anybody who’s willing to try. And even though they weren’t always welcomed in their new land, they persevered. They built and led and defended our country while still holding fast to their heritage. And in many ways, what it means to be Irish helped to define what it means to be American.”

On Monday May 23rd 2011, over 160 years after his ancestor left these shores, the most powerful man in the world will visit the tiny rural community where his ancestors lived out their lives. Beidh céad míle fáilte roimhe.

References

Kearney Family History as researched by Eneclann Ltd

Those family historians who are exasperated trying to trace Irish family records will be particularly interested in reading the family history for it shows the difficulties with Irish records and how we need to rely on other sources for information.

The Ancestral Home of Barack Obama blog Know Thy Place 

Discover Ireland Tourism

Ancestors of American Presidents (2009 Edition), Gary Boyd Roberts reviewed here by Sean Murphy 


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Obama in Ireland I:In the footsteps of Douglass

Air Force One will touch down in Dublin, Ireland on Monday morning next, May 23rd 2011, carrying the President of the United States of America. Not for the first time has a President of the United States landed on this island. Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and Bush have all paid us visits.

Barack Obama’s interest in Ireland was a political one long before we or even he, heard of his familial ties to this country.

Frederick Douglass c 1860. Library of Congress.

One of the people greatly admired by Mr.Obama and often quoted by him during his presidential campaign was the anti-slavery campaigner, statesman and orator, Frederick Douglass. Douglass was an African-American escaped slave who had written his autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and toured the lecture circuit in the northern states of America.  In fear of recapture, he went to Europe to gain support for the anti slavery cause and arrived in Ireland in 1845.  In September 1845 he met Daniel O’Connell.

Daniel O'Connell, Champion of Liberty. Library of Congress.

Daniel O’Connell, ‘The Liberator’ was a lawyer who fought for the rights of the Irish who had been oppressed and ruled by the British for hundreds of years. He was vehemently opposed to violence and was committed to change by democratic means. As a skillful orator he attracted huge crowds to rallies across Ireland. He was known for his commitment to and support for many disenfranchised groups, including the slaves in the United States of America as well as Jews who did not have a vote at that time. He said “My political creed is short and simple.  It consists in believing that all men are entitled to civil and religious liberty.”

The 70-year-old O’Connell and the 27-year-old Douglass became firm friends. Douglass was deeply impressed by the oratorical skills of Daniel O’Connell and wrote in ‘Life and Times’,(the third version of his autobiography),’Eloquence came down upon the vast assembly like a summer thunder shower on a dusty road”.

Douglass was inspired and influenced both by O’Connell and by his time in Ireland. While in Dublin he wrote a new preface to his original work that demonstrated a new self-confidence as well as a deepening of his interest in human rights,  and added further dimension to his arguments for social change in his own country.

The story of Daniel O ‘Connell (1775 – 1847) and Frederick Douglass is told in the exhibition ‘Daniel O’Connell, The Man Who Discovered Ireland’ at Glasnevin Museum, which runs until December 2011.

References

Clare County Library – Daniel O’Connell accessed here.

Ferreira Patricia J. 2001 Frederick Douglass in Ireland:the Dublin edition of his Narrative, New Hibernia Review, Vol 5, Number 1, Spring 2001. Project Muse Referenced here.

Daniel O’Connell’s influence on Frederick Douglass accessed at About.Com

Glasnevin Cemetery Museum

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Filed under Ireland, Irish American, Irish History, Social Change, Social Justice, Suffrage