Eneclann guides Obamas through their Irish family history

At lunchtime yesterday (17th June 2013) Michelle Obama and her two daughters, Malia Ann and Sasha, took part in a private genealogy event about the President’s Irish ancestors at a special exhibit at the Long Room in the Old Library in Trinity College Dublin.

This very personal event was co-ordinated and presented by Fiona Fitzsimons with Helen Moss of Eneclann. Fiona, Research Director at Eneclann, gave an overview of the history of their family, which is better documented than that of other Irish-American presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or even JFK. The Obamas’ story includes wig and shoemakers, merchants, farmers and (no surprise) politicians. While their deep ancestry (Kearneys, Donovans, etc.) are of Irish origin, an important line, the Benns (or Behn) were continental religious refugees who settled in Limerick before 1700.

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Fiona explained how the surviving paper trail enabled her and the Eneclann team to trace the family back to the 1600s. The exhibition contained a display of important documents from their Irish family history, including the parish register for Templeharry church in Moneygall kindly lent by the Representative Church Body Library, maps from the National Library, and records from Trinity College Library. Other records are detailed in the Eneclann online exhibition.

This includes the Landed Estates Court rentals, which Fiona described as “The document that gave us the breakthrough that allowed us to bridge the generational gap in the parish registers, and trace the family back another four generations”. This important resource is now available exclusively at www.findmypast.ie

The detailed research carried out by Fiona, the Eneclann team and colleagues is available to view online for free. Alternatively, take a look at some images from the event. After the event, Fiona commented “It was very exciting to meet Michelle Obama and her two daughters at Trinity on Monday 17th June. It’s a real privilege to be given the position of trust, to present the first family with the narrative of their Irish family history. They listened intently, and were interested and amused by the stories of their Irish ancestry.”

 


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