Fulmoth Kearney b. c. 1830

Fulmoth Kearney was Barack Obama’s 3x grandfather. This pedigree chart shows Fulmoth’s parents, Joseph and Phoebe Kearney, and his siblings.


Reviewing Griffith’s Valuation, Fiona Fitzsimons and Helen Moss found that in March 1851 Phoebe Kearney leased a house and outbuilding in Moneygall from the Rev. William Minchin.

They then examined the Valuation Office’s House Books, dated January 1851, and were curious to find a note that Phoebe Kearney ‘Has now given up all the Land & some other Houses that she had’. Up to this point they had thought that the Kearneys were village shoe-makers but this reference hinted at a greater prosperity.

Further research revealed that the Minchin landlords were declared bankrupt in 1851 and their entire estate, including the village of Moneygall, was sold under the Landed Estates Courts. The Landed Estates Court records (effectively sales brochures to show prospective buyers the commercial potential of bankrupt estates) revealed a reference to a lease ‘for lives’ taken out by the Kearney family 50 years earlier which defined the relationships between named family members, including Joseph Kearney.

Who was Timothy Kearney?
Timothy Kearney was described as the son of Joseph and Triphenia Kearney of Moneygall, hence the dotted line as we can not be sure this is the same couple. However, it’s almost certain that this child was born of the same parents Joseph Kearney and Phoebe (née Donovan).

There is is strong circumstantial evidence that this child baptised as ‘Timothy’, may in fact be President Obama’s ancestor ‘Falmouth’.

First, the Moneygall registers record Timothy’s father as Joseph Kearney, and his mother’s maiden name is given as Donovan. However, this is the only Joseph Kearney/Donovan baptismal record in the Moneygall registers where the mother’s christian name is ‘Triphenia’. Of course it’s possible that there was a second Kearney/Donovan marriage in Moneygall which produced children at the same time, however, there is no record of any such marriage nor are there baptismal records for any other children born to such a couple.

Second, if we consider how the clergyman may have mistakenly recorded Phoebe as Triphenia. Obviously there’s a phonetic resonance between the two names. The Christian name, ‘Triphenia’ is also extremely rare, especially in an Irish context. However further research shows that it occurs within Phoebe Donovan’s own family. Phoebe’s own cousin Triphenia Donovan married another cousin Thomas Benn in 1811 (Killaloe Marriage Licence Bonds). In fact all these christian names, Falmouth, Triphenia and Phoebe, originate with the extended Donovan, Benn and Kingsley family of Gurtgreen.

We should also point out that no baptismal record has been found for Fulmouth/ Falmouth Kearney in Moneygall or Shinrone. The baptism of this child Timothy falls within the correct time-frame when the  president’s ancestor was known to have been born. Of course this is an inference, not evidence, but when all these things are taken together, they’re all strong indicators that Timothy and Falmouth may in fact be the same person.

This of course begs the question of how complete the surviving Moneygall parish registers are.