Could President Barack Obama, the first African America president of the United States of America, be related to the first documented African slave in America? Genealogists at Ancestry.com say it’s likely.
Their research from Virginia records and DNA analysis shows that Obama could be the 11th great-grandson of John Punch, an indentured servant in Colonial Virginia. Punch was enslaved for life in 1640 after an escape attempt.
This connection isn’t the only news to come out. The connection to Punch isn’t through Obama’s African father, but through his white mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.
Ancestry.com said in a press release that they determined using DNA analysis that Punch fathered children with a white woman, passing her free status to them.
“Punch’s descendants went on to be free, successful land owners in a Virginia entrenched in slavery,” the release states.
While genealogical research is rarely conclusive, as Elizabeth Warren discovered in her journey to figure out if her family stories of Cherokee ancestry were true, Elizabeth Shown Mills, an expert in southern research and past president of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, feels Ancestry.com’s findings are sound.
“A careful consideration of the evidence convinces me that the Y-DNA evidence of African origin is indisputable, and the surviving paper trail points solely to John Punch as the logical candidate,” Mills said in the release.
“Two of the most historically significant African Americans in the history of our country are amazingly directly related,” said Ancestry.com genealogist Joseph Shumway in the release. “John Punch was more than likely the genesis of legalized slavery in America. But after centuries of suffering, the Civil War, and decades of civil rights efforts, his 11th great-grandson became the leader of the free world and the ultimate realization of the American Dream.”