Entries in Ancestry (5)


Obama, Romney Family Trees Hold Slaves, British Country Folk

Joe Raedle/Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The United States' first African-American president is likely a descendent of the first documented enslaved African in colonial America, researchers at said Monday.

"I don't even know the words to describe it," Anastasia Harman, the lead family historian for Provo, Utah-based, said. "It's amazing. It's seemingly unbelievable, but the research strongly suggests that this is the only possibility."

President Obama is the 11th great-grandson of John Punch, a black man who came to America in the 1600s as an indentured servant and was enslaved for life in 1640 after trying to escape his servitude, according to a two-year study of thousands of records from colonial Virginia.

Although Obama's father was a black man from Kenya, his ties to slavery stem instead from his white mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, Harman said. The enslaved, black Punch had children with a free white woman. Because their mother was free, Punch's mixed-race kids were born free and went on to become "prominent" land owners in Virginia, Harman said.

The historian said Obama's family tree is one of the "most fascinating" on which she has ever worked because it is "dynamic" and stretches across at least three continents.

While few records remain about Obama's father's side of the family, his mother's side ranges, "from prominent land owners to people fleeing the Irish potato famine to indentured servants," Harman said.

Obama's Republican rival Mitt Romney, on the other hand, can trace the majority of his family tree to one country: England. His great-great grandfather, Miles Romney, was a carpenter from Preston, England, where he and his wife, Elizabeth, were converted by Mormon missionaries and then came to the United States in the early 1800s.

Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, can also trace her family tree back to the United Kingdom. Her grandfather was a coal miner from Wales.

In an interview last week in London, CNN's Piers Morgan asked Romney whether his U.K. ancestry made him "feel partly English?"

"Well, I'm married to a girl from Wales," Romney said. "And I'm a guy from Great Britain so I'm -- I feel like this is home, too, I guess."

After his family line hopped the pond to America, Romney's great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, became the first of Romney's ancestors to practice polygamy, having four wives and 30 children.

Obama also has polygamy in his family history. His dad, Barack Obama Sr., descended from the Luo tribe in Kenya where polygamy was common. Obama's grandfather had at least four wives and his great-grandfather had five, the Washington Post's David Maraniss reported.

But while polygamy persists in both presidential contenders' pasts, Harman said, only Obama's ancestors have yet been traced back to slavery. Besides his tie to the enslaved Punch, Obama's family tree included slave owners, as well.

Obama's great-great-great-great grandfather George Washington Overall owned two slaves, a Baltimore Sun study found, based on 1850 census records.

First lady Michelle Obama also has slaves in her ancestry. Her great-great-great-grandmother Melvinia was a slave on a 200-acre farm in South Carolina that grew wheat, cotton and corn, according to a study first published by the New York Times.

Melvinia had a son with a white man in Georgia after being sold to his farm. That son grew up free and was Michelle Obama's great-great grandfather.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


GOP Gifts Elizabeth Warren with Account

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren turns 63 today, and among her birthday gifts is one she probably won’t appreciate very much. She’s in a tight race against the GOP incumbent, Scott Brown.  The state’s Republican party announced this morning that it is gifting Warren, a Harvard Law professor, with an account at

“Since Professor Warren has failed to come up with any evidence supporting her claims to Native American ancestry, we thought this account would make the perfect birthday gift,” said Massachusetts Republican Party executive director Nate Little in a statement.

Warren has come under fire in recent months for identifying herself as Native American in law school directories based on a blood line that she said goes far back, though there has not yet been primary documentation to back up her claim.

The Warren campaign did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Article Cites Elizabeth Warren As First Woman of Color Hired by Harvard Law School

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A 1997 piece from the Fordham Law Review lists Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren as the “first woman of color” hired by Harvard Law School, according to reports.

The article, which was unearthed by Politico, was titled "Intersectionality and Positionality: Situating Women of Color in the Affirmative Action Dialogue.” The author, Laura Padilla, who now serves as the associate dean of California Western Law School in San Diego, CA., reportedly based her description on a phone conversation with then-Harvard Law spokesman Mike Chmura.

There is no evidence that Warren was aware of the article -- or that she necessarily ever read it.

Chmura is also the Harvard spokesman who described Warren as Native American in a 1996 Crimson article. Questions about Warren's ancestry and whether her career benefited from it have sidetracked the Massachusetts Senate race for weeks.

Hard evidence of Warren’s Native American ancestry has so far not turned up. The New England Historic Genealogical Society found secondary sources tracing Warren’s heritage to her great-great-great-grandmother, who was listed as Cherokee on an 1894 marriage license application, but that document has yet to be located, the society told ABC News in an email.

Warren’s campaign issued a statement through spokeswoman Alethea Harney: “There is nothing new in this report.  Elizabeth has been clear that she is proud of her Native American heritage and everyone who hired Elizabeth has been clear that she was hired because she was a great teacher, not because of that heritage.

“It’s time to return to issues -- like rising student loan debt, job creation, and Wall Street regulation -- that will have a real impact on middle class families. It’s also time for Scott Brown to answer serious questions about his votes to let interest rates on student loans double so our kids pay more while he votes to give oil companies -- some of the most profitable companies in the world -- tax breaks worth billions. There are plenty more, like his votes against jobs bills because they’d make billionaires pay their fair share, or his votes to water down rules to hold Wall Street accountable that have brought him millions in campaign contributions. Scott Brown’s explanation for these votes against Massachusetts families is long overdue.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Documents Raise More Questions About Elizabeth Warren’s Ancestry

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- The ongoing debate over whether or not Elizabeth Warren used her Native American ancestry as a way to advance her career got more confusing Thursday when a minority equity report from the University of Pennsylvania was unearthed, showing that the school also listed Warren as a minority faculty member.

One of the pages in the report lists professors who were awarded the Lindback Award for distinguished teaching. In the report, names of minority faculty members who won the award are displayed in a bold, italicized font. Warren received the award in 1994, and her name appears bold and italicized, indicating that the school listed Warren as a minority faculty member at some point.

Warren is 1/32 Native American, according to documents unearthed by genealogists at the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

There had been no reports indicating that Warren was listed as a minority by any of her employers besides Harvard prior to this one. It was known that Warren was listed as a minority in law school directories from 1986 to 1995.

The document begs the question: On what was the university basing its report? Was it the aforementioned law school directories or something else?

Republicans have suggested that Warren used her minority status to further her career in academia. Several of Warren’s past employers, including a colleague from the University of Pennsylvania, have said the status played no role in hiring decisions.

Earlier this week, Warren’s opponent in a race to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, Republican Sen. Scott Brown, called on Warren to release her personnel files from her past employers, saying that would be the best way for Warren to put the issue to rest.

A further potential source of questions for Warren was unearthed on Thursday by The Boston Globe, which reported that a personnel document from the University of Texas -- where Warren taught law prior to joining the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania -- showed that Warren listed herself as white when she taught at UT’s law school.

Polling shows Warren and Brown in a dead heat.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mass. Senate Race: Warren’s Cherokee Ancestry Stirs Debate

US Senate/US Congress(BOSTON) -- To hear her opponents tell it, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren cheated the system for years.

Warren, 62, listed herself as a minority, based on a far-back Cherokee bloodline. How far back? Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother was listed as Cherokee on her 1894 marriage license, genealogists discovered.

The story has dominated the political news cycle in Massachusetts since it first broke last Friday. And to be sure, Elizabeth Warren has had a horrible week since then.

But amid all of the inquiry into Warren’s ancestry and all of the questions as to why she did in fact self-identify as Native American, two overarching questions still remain. First and foremost, did Warren actually use her heritage to get ahead in her career? And what’s the lasting damage from the story?

There’s no doubt that Warren has an impressive resume. She has taught law at numerous prestigious universities, including Harvard, where she currently serves as the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law.

In 2008 she was tasked with heading the Congressional Oversight Panel to oversee the Troubled Assets Relief Program (more commonly referred to as TARP). She is credited with being the driving force behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She made Time Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People In the World in 2009 and 2010.

Many of Warren’s past employers have come forward on her behalf, stating that their decision to hire her was in no way based on her heritage.

“When the Harvard Law School faculty voted in the early 1990′s to make Elizabeth Warren an offer of a tenured professorship at our School, the decision was based on three factors:  our goal of adding a top-notch academic expert in debtor-creditor law to the regular faculty; her excellent scholarship in that field; and her fabulous success as a teacher.  Her Native American heritage was not a factor in the discussion or the decision,” said Robert Clark, former Dean of Harvard Law School.

The only person who could answer the question as to whether Elizabeth Warren used her ancestry to get ahead is Elizabeth Warren. But Warren’s comments on the topic have not helped her case very much. First Warren explained that she listed herself as a minority in the hopes that she might meet what she described as “people like her.”   When pressed again about the subject by local reporters, Warren said her Aunt Bee used to envy Warren’s grandfather’s “high cheekbones” -- which Aunt Bee used to describe as a physical characteristic of Native Americans.

Still, there is an advantage to identifying as a minority within the realm of academia, says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and a fellow professor.

“It is an advantage to be qualified as a minority if you’re looking for a job, or you’re looking to get a counter-offer,” Sabato said. “So to an academic looking at these facts, it appears fairly obvious why she did it.”

Whether or not Warren truly intended to game the system, Sabato says that damage has been done by this story, and it’s not insignificant.

The good news for Warren? Election day is still six months away, and in politics, six months is practically a lifetime.

“It’s May, the election’s in November, and everything seems vitally important on the day it happens” Sabato said. “And two weeks later we’re trying to remember the details.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio