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Irish Genealogy:  President Obama: A Case Study for Irish Research

Gravestone of President Obama’s 4th great grandmother in
Pickaway County, Ohio
http://www.aran-isles.com/obama-has-irish-kin-in-souther.php

There’s one way to get your Irish genealogy done quickly...run for President!  There was a great deal of excitement today in Ireland over President Obama’s trip to his ancestral home in Moneygall, County Offaly.   Until he ran for president,  he didn’t even know he had Irish ancestry!

The initial research on Obama’s family was conducted by Megan Smolenyak, Chief Historian at Ancestry.com.  Megan used all the typical research strategies we’ve talked about in earlier blogs, i.e., working the U.S. connections including passenger records, census, obituaries, tombstones, wills, land records, collateral family research, and expanding the search to include relatives, witnesses, and others who appear around your ancestor.  She also discusses the challenge of the various spellings of both the surname, Kearney, Carney, Kerney and the (unusual) given name, Fulmoth, Fulmouth, Falmouth, Fulmuth, Falmuth.  You can read Megan’s article about her research here.  

The townland information for this family appeared on a tombstone...how lucky is that!  Checking the Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns of Ireland we find that Moneygall is in the civil parish of Cullenwaine, the barony of Clonlisk and the poor law union of Roscrea in Kings (Offaly) county.  Megan was lucky enough to have Canon Stephen Neill from the Church of Ireland willing to search church records to find the Kearney family.  The rest of us might not be that lucky.  

To check for the availability of church records, I would go to Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History by James Ryan.  The civil parish of Cullenwaine is not listed as having a Church of Ireland parish.  So where is Cullenwaine? Next I pull out A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland  by Brian Mitchell.  Cullenwaine is at the southwest tip of Offaly, surrounded by the civil parishes of Borrisnafarney, Castletownely and Templeharry.  Borrisnafarney (records begin 1828) and Templeharry (1800)  both have CI parishes, with the records listed as in local custody and on film at the National Archives of Ireland.  A check of the Irish Family History Foundation (IFHF) site shows that the records for both of these parishes have been transcribed and are online.  (IFHF was not online when Ryan’s book was written so it’s a good idea to check.  Click on “List of Sources” at the very bottom of the page and select the county to see what records are available.)  If the records are not online, you will have to revert to the old fashioned way...write a letter to the parish.  If you do this, be as specific as possible on names and dates (and it’s a good idea to enclose a donation).  

I have to say that my quick check gave no hits on Carney/Kearney/Kerney with the given name Fulmoth (or anything close) about 1830±5, nor did I find a marriage for Joseph and Phoebe.

Working back from the research done by Megan, Enéclann picked up the trail of the Kearneys taking the family back to Obama’s 6th great grandfather born about 1698.  It turns out that the Kearneys were comfortable tradesmen in the wig making business.  You can read about Enéclann’s research here.  

Reading case studies can be very helpful, providing strategies and ideas to help further your own research. 

Happy Hunting!


© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2013