Belfast Telegraph

America's first daughters trace the Obama family's roots in Ireland

By Lyndsey Telford and Ed Carty

Even the President's daughters want to brag about their Irish roots.

Malia and Sasha Obama said they were looking forward to telling their friends about their visit to Dublin, where they and their mother Michelle were treated to a lesson about their family's ancestry.

The pair met their father's distant Irish cousin Henry Healy as they took a tour of Ireland's oldest university, Trinity College, where the Moneygall man presented them with certificates of Irish heritage.

"Both of them were pretty amazed with the certificates," Mr Healy said.

"And competing with their friends, they said now they can prove they're more Irish than them."

Certificates of the Obama family genealogy shows President Barack Obama's ancestry from Falmouth Kearney, his second great-grandfather to his seventh great-grandfather, Joseph Kearney.

It identified John Kearney, whom college researchers described as a distant cousin of the US president, who went on to become the provost of Trinity, and later Church of Ireland Bishop of Ossory, a diocese in Kilkenny, Laois and Offaly.

The family were also shown an original 19th century map held by the National Library of Ireland which shows lands of Gorthgreen from where some of the family originated.

Mr Healy - who Barack Obama jokes is known as Henry VIII because of their family ties - said Malia, 14, and Sasha, 12 were "very down to earth" and excited about their trip.

And they were particularly impressed when they heard of plans for an Obama Park in Co Offaly when Mr Healy presented the First Lady with drawings of what it might look like.

"They said, 'Oh my God mum, I can't believe they're going to build a statue of you'," Mr Healy said.

"And Michelle assured me she and the president would come back to Moneygall."

Several hundreds onlookers crammed the railings at the front of the university around College Green where President Obama delivered a rousing speech to tens of thousands just over two years ago.

The Obamas appeared at ease and interested throughout the educational leg of the Irish trip.

The teenagers smiled and chatted as they studied artefacts in Trinity's Old Library, including the birth registry of their Co Offaly ancestors and old maps detailing the family's homestead.

They were most impressed by the Long Room in the famous library, which they were told had appeared in countless movies including one of the Star Wars films where it was depicted as home of the Jedi archives.

The First Lady flicked through the pages of a booklet compiled by Trinity's genealogists and was particularly interested in the conservation of some of the ancient books.

Anne-Marie Diffley, visitors services manager at the university, said all three seemed to have a great time.

Ms Diffley, who led the mother and daughters through the tour, which included a viewing of the ninth century monastic Book of Kells, said they seemed like an ordinary family on holiday.

Their relaxed attitude exuded through their casual and brightly-coloured clothes.

Malia wore a khaki jacket, black cut-off trousers and bright pink pumps, while a younger and quieter Sasha donned a bright blue slouchy raincoat, pink jumper and red trousers.

Michelle was glamorous but dressed down in flats and rusty-brown trousers, a top and waistcoat for the changeable Irish weather. She engaged with university staff with both poise and warmth.

All three nodded, smiled and chatted during the tour - oblivious to the onlooking press pack and photographers.

"They seemed to really enjoy it and were genuinely interested in their roots and other parts of the library," Ms Diffley said.

"Michelle even gave me a little hug. It was a kind of 'you did good' hug."

Trinity provost Dr Patrick Prendergast, was also on hand to show the Obamas through the Old Library.

The college chief told the First Lady their visit was particularly poignant because of the Kearney connections.

"As a country, America has welcomed many of our graduates over the years where a large number of our alumni are living. Our graduates who play a critical role in shaping the knowledge economy are our diaspora," he added.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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