In what has amounted to an unquestionably historical and overall pretty neat discovery, President Barack Obama can trace his heritage all the way back to the very first documented African-American slave.
Ancestry.com headed the search, probing thousands of historical documents to discover that John Punch, the first African enslaved for life in America, was the 11th great-grandfather of President Barack Obama, through his mother. “We have two of the most significant Africans in our country’s history being directly related to each other,” Joseph Shumway, an Ancestry.com genealogist, told CNN.
The result of roughly 500 hours of research on the part of four Ancestry.com genealogists turned up the discovery, in an attempt to link Obama to other famous figures. According to the research, Punch was an indentured servant in Virginia who attempted to escape in 1640. The attempt was unsuccessful, and earned him a lifetime of slavery years before Virginia slavery laws came into effect, reports Newser.
Ancestry.com has been researching Obama’s lineage ever since he took office in 2008. Today’s discovery marks a watershed moment in that search, and in American history. “We felt this was an incredibly significant discovery,” Shumway said.
Of course it is. Regardless of your opinion on Obama’s performance as the POTUS, the fact that slavery is arguably America’s greatest “sin,” and that the descendant of the first documented American slave is now the most powerful man in the country ain’t exactly nothing. While it may not “solve” race relations in America, or take the sting of racism away, it brings the racial divide in America full-circle in a historically unprecedented way. As elections season heats up amid some of the most contentious issues in our nation’s history, all Americans should take pride in this discovery and what is suggests about our cultural evolution.
Now for the fun stuff. Who else can the president be linked to on his family tree? The Ancestry.com search has linked Obama to Brad Pitt, George Bush the elder (and younger), Sarah Palin, and even Rush Limbaugh. Palin and Limbaugh are actually 10th cousins of Barack Obama, though Limbaugh is once-removed, reports the Associated Press.
Sound off on Ancestry’s historic discovery below!