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Obama 'descendant of African slave'

A team of genealogists has found evidence that US President Barack Obama could descended from an African slave - through his white mother.

The most likely lineage route, Mr Obama's black father, had been had followed and exhausted by researchers.

Instead, the link, genealogists with Ancestry.com say, is in fact through an examination of his white mother's family history.

"We were surprised and excited to make that connection," said Joseph Shumway, a member of the Utah-based Ancestry.com team.

Mr Obama's father was from Kenya and his mother from Kansas. It had been generally assumed that the President had no slave ancestors because researchers could not find it through the lineage of his father. But no-one had yet performed any exhaustive research into the lineage of his white mother, who turns out to have a mixed-raced family history.

Ancestry.com now says the maternal line traces back to one of the first documented African slaves in the US.

The company said Mr Obama could be the 11th great-grandson of John Punch, an African slave in colonial Virginia. He is believed to have had children with a white woman, starting a family line that led generations later to Mr Obama's mother.

The White House declined to comment.

The Ancestry.com team used DNA analysis and marriage and property records to trace Mr Obama's maternal ancestry. The company says it cannot establish a definitive link because of gaps in family history. Researchers are missing a record connecting Punch to a presumed son who by his early 20s owned 450 acres and grew tobacco in Virginia.

The records pick up when a grandson of Punch petitioned a court to marry a white woman - and was turned down, presumably because the grandson appeared of mixed-raced heritage, said Elizabeth Mills, a former president of the American Society of Genealogists.

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