Eneclann Researchers Reveal Obama’s Closest Irish Relatives

  • President Obama’s closest Irish relatives hail from Ballygurteen, Co. Tipperary
  • They have been invited to meet the President in Moneygall next week
  • Dublin-based researchers, Eneclann, conducted the research
  • The story of the Benn family will be told on Nationwide, RTE 1 on Friday and available on the internet thereafter

Genealogists from Irish historical research company, Eneclann, have identified President Obama’s closest living Irish relatives in Ballygurteen, Co. Tipperary.

Eneclann researchers Fiona Fitzsimons and Helen Moss first started tracing President Obama’s Irish roots over four years ago, building on the work of US genealogist Megan Smolenyak to trace the President’s Kearney ancestors back to his 7th great-grandfather, Joseph Kearney born circa 1698.

During a radio interview with the late Gerry Ryan last year, Fiona Fitzsimons mentioned the names of some individuals on the Kearney family tree and Co. Tipperary farmer Dick Benn was amazed to recognise the names of some of his own ancestors.

Fiona subsequently met Dick and other members of the family and, with their help in identifying the most recent generations, painstakingly pieced together a nine-generation family tree of the Benn family. The tree shows how the Benn family and their relatives, the Donovans, (both of whom have farmed the same land in Co. Tipperary for 250 years) are directly related to the US president. Dick Benn of Ballygurteen, Co. Tipperary is President Obama’s fifth cousin once removed. Tom Donovan is third cousin three times removed.

The genealogists have also been able to show that Phoebe Donovan, President Obama’s 4th great-grandmother, was raised in Ballygurteen, and that the Donovan house is still standing.

Further research by Eneclann’s experts into records from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century has revealed that the Benn family may not have originated in Ireland, and that the family also has links with Limerick and Galway.

‘Our research shows that as late as the 1750s the family name was Behn’, explains Eneclann’s Research Director, Fiona Fitzsimons. ‘The name was anglicised to Benn in subsequent generations as the family assimilated into Irish society. Through our research we have built up a profile of the family, and we think that the Benns may originally have been Flemish, Dutch or even French Huguenot, who settled in Ireland in the late seventeenth century.’

As a result of the new findings, Dick Benn and Tom Donovan have been invited to meet the US President when he visits Moneygall next week.

The story of the research will be told in tonight’s (Friday) Nationwide programme on Irish TV channel RTE 1 at 7pm Irish time and will be available to view on the Eneclann website (www.eneclann.ie), along with more information about the research from 8pm.

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For further information please contact:
Rachel Murphy
Eneclann
086 826 5004

About Eneclann
Dublin-based Eneclann is the leading provider of Irish history and heritage services.

Established in 1998, the award-winning company’s offerings include historical and genealogical research, digitisation and digital publishing services, and archives and records management.

Eneclann’s customer base ranges from individuals to public institutions and private companies. Customers are located within Ireland and across the Irish Diaspora of 80 million people.

Eneclann’s genealogists have completed more than 15,000 research assignments and their work has featured in programmes such as Faces of America and Who Do You Think You Are?

In May 2011 Eneclann formed findmypast.ie, a joint venture with brightsolid, the online publishing and technology group.

For further information about the company please visit the company website: www.eneclann.ie


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