All in the family: 28 Irish-Americans identified as Obama relatives
March 17th, 2011
04:42 PM ET
12 years ago

All in the family: 28 Irish-Americans identified as Obama relatives

Washington (CNN) – Of course, his family name is Obama.

Not O'bama.

But, perhaps by luck of the Irish, some four years after the president learned about an Irish ancestor who fled Irish famine and came to the U.S. - new information is emerging about 28 other Irish-Americans who share the same Irish ancestor with the president, and are still alive.

The information comes via a survey done by and provided to CNN on Thursday.

CNN spoke with three of these Obama relatives. They have mixed thoughts about their family ties to the president.

Dorma Lee Reese is 83-years-old and lives in Tucson, Arizona. She describes herself as not a fan of her third cousin.

"I appreciate the office. But I can't appreciate what he's done," Reese told CNN. "I just think that we're in a bigger mess than we've ever been in."

Another Obama relative is 63-year-old Vietnam Veteran Dean Dillard – a retired college instructor who lives in Chanute, Kansas.

"There's pride in family and being related to a president. And I recognize the historical significance of his election," Dillard said. "However, I do not agree with his political positions."

Dillard explained that he knew of his family ties to Obama before the election. Dillard's mother was a first cousin of the president's grandfather, Stanley Dunham.

Seventy-five-year-old Virginia Dunham feels differently.

The years-long secretary and art teacher is a Democrat and lives in Maumelle, Arizona. As half-sister to Stanley Dunham, she is Obama's great aunt.

"I'm proud of it," Dunham said about her ties to the president.

Dunham explained that she attended Obama's inauguration, where she briefly met him.

"I hadn't seen him since he was a little, bitty guy," Dunham said. "I just gave some things to his security…that I had carried to the inauguration."

Dunham explained that they were family photos of deceased relatives she shared with Obama.

The survey shows that President Obama and the 28 others are all descendants of an Irish immigrant named Falmouth Kearney. In 2007, then Senator Obama learned of his family ties to Kearney.

"This is part of a larger project," Lead Family Historian Anastasia Harman said. "As sort of a micro study of Irish immigrants' impact on America, we wanted to pick a ship full of Irish immigrants that came during the potato famine and see how they impacted America."

Kearney was one of those immigrants escaping the famine that killed approximately 1 million people between 1845 and 1852.

He traveled on the 903-ton ship Marmion, which arrived in New York harbor in March of 1850 along with 288 others. Kearney traveled with his sister and her husband, Margaret and William Cleary.

The White House did not respond to CNN specifically regarding the 28 relatives revealed in the new study. But on this St. Patrick's Day, the president did talk more broadly about his Irish roots.

It came as he welcomed Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to the Oval Office.

Amid talks about ties between the U.S. and Ireland, the president announced a bit of news.

"And finally, I wanted to say today that I intend to come to Ireland in May," the president said. "And I'm expecting to go not only to all the famous sites, but also to go to Moneygall, where my great-great-great-great-great grandfather hails from."

As for his Irish-American relatives, might they invite the president to the next family gathering?

"He's welcome to come to any family gatherings," Dean said. "I don't have anything against him personally. I think he's to be commended for the achievements of getting elected."

But Reese took a different tack.

"I don't think he would come if I did," she said.

–CNN White House Correspondent Dan Lothian and White House Producer Jamie Crawford contributed to this report

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Diana

    I want to see their birth certificates!

    March 17, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. once upon a horse

    wasn't it said that somewhere down the line that Sarah Palin and President Obama were cousins? Distant I know but want to talk about a YUK factor. I hope his Irish relatives can prove it and all have birth certificates otherwise the birthers might go after them as well.

    March 17, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |

    . . . .wonder how the birthers feel about this. LOLOLOLOL.

    March 17, 2011 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  4. huxley

    Waiting for Glen Beck to use this to announce Obama was actually born in Ireland and won't show us his birth certificate.

    March 17, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. T'sah from Virginia

    ["I appreciate the office. But I can't appreciate what he's done," Reese told CNN. "I just think that we're in a bigger mess than we've ever been in." ]

    OH PLEASE!!!! And it’s President Obama’s FAULT!!!! I bet this same PERSON will say something different when it’s ALL GOOD!!!! No one will want to hear from him at that time!!!

    I would be proud if ANY president was a relative of mine – even if they are a DIRECT DESCENDANT of SLAVE-OWNERS!!! Take Barbour, for instance, I will walk with a sign parading up and down the street letting everyone know he's an ancestor of mine – I bet he would shun that!! So who cares what the relatives think about President Obama – I am sure there are many out there who wish they were part of his family!!!

    March 17, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. Sue

    Hahahahahahaa......Someone posted this on another site......"Oh give me a break. It's campaign season. This guy would claim to be a Norwegian on Pickled Fish Day for votes".--Next, Obama will be showing up at synagogues, claiming that he is Jewish.

    March 17, 2011 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  7. S.positive

    Well Well Well. This will mess up the birther's arguement.

    March 17, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  8. S. In California

    We ALL have some kind of a history. Some good and some bad. We can't choose our relatives that's for sure.

    March 17, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  9. Ken in NC

    Family squabbles LOL. Some like him and some don't. Oh well what else is new? Some Americans like him and some don't. Regardless to the job he has done or not done, anyone should be proud to be able to say they are related to a President. Since he is half Black, at least I can say he is my half brother LOL. People are just to dang touchy today. They need to get a life. Maybe go fishing are scuba diving or maybe go listen to a Sarah Palin speech. hehehehehe.

    March 17, 2011 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  10. News Hound

    I appreciate and admire Obama's intelligence and kind heartedness, and I would be most honored to learn of any blood-related connection to him, if I had one. I'm white and live in northeastern Kansas. I'm proud that his mother was a Kansas girl and that his grandparents lived in southern Kansas before moving to Hawaii. Skin color - the amount of melanin in anyone's skin - doesn't matter one bit. But intelligence and kindness count for a lot.

    March 17, 2011 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  11. chan


    Is it fine if the birth was anounced in Irish paper. (OR) you want to see the paper certificate from 1800s. Will you accept if the president of ireland declare that they are Irish?

    March 17, 2011 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  12. andy

    I doubt the veracity of that allegation of ancestry, but if it is true, i think its about time all irish families in america look for their relations within the black community and share their riches

    March 17, 2011 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  13. Miss J

    I wish I was related to him! I'd be proud to claim him any day!

    March 17, 2011 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  14. lenvus

    I would be HONORED to be related to President Obama. Even though I agree with the President more often than not, it is a sad statement of character that those in familial relation to him are unable to separate their distaste for his politics - if that is their "true" explanation, after all - from their consanguinity. What an interesting revelation, after all!

    As a side note, there is not a town named Maumelle in Arizona. Maumelle is located in Arkansas.

    March 17, 2011 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  15. LacrosseMom(real one)

    Oh boy!! I can just imagine what the idiot "birthers" will say about this!!!

    Happy St. Patrick's Day President & Mrs. O'Bama ; ) and everyone as well!

    March 17, 2011 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  16. normajean

    We are Irish for many generations back....we welcome him with open arms and open hearts.

    March 17, 2011 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  17. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    Same with most families. I would be honored to have him as a relative. From a white 52 year old southern woman

    March 17, 2011 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  18. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Everybody in this World has blood ties to people we would never expect regardless of the race, etc. The so-called Birthers need to trace their geneology and then run and hide.

    March 17, 2011 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  19. joe

    Well,he does look Irish ...

    March 17, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Im irish and would be ashamed of him he has ruined america open your eyes he has lied to you about everything he has ever said.

    March 17, 2011 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  21. Cham

    Can't wait to hear Sarah and the Birthers have to say about this one.

    March 17, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  22. orangebluebear

    I wonder how the 83 year old distant relative of Obama (Dora Reese) feels about being related to someone that does not exactly have the same complexion as she does. Since she said she would not go to a family get together if he attended, one has to wonder.

    March 17, 2011 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  23. Cham

    Can't wait to hear what Sarah and the Birthers have to say about this.

    March 17, 2011 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  24. Itsa

    We have a relative, a red-state far right conservative to the bone, who has done genealogy all his adult life – 40+ years. He has given the entire family where he traced our family to Obama's. We are of Irish descent too. Hey, if he was willing to accept it, and proud of it, there might just be something to it.

    March 17, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  25. Robert Waddell

    Talk about the luck of the irish, ha !

    March 17, 2011 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |