A while ago I learned from news headlines that President Barack Obama is descended via marriage from John Punch, the first documented African slave in America. He was an indentured servant declared a slave for life in punishment for attempting an escape in 1640.
Ancestry.com has been researching Barack Obama’s ancestry for several years and has declared that Barack Obama is the eleventh great grandson of the first documented African slave in American history, John Punch and eighth cousin to my husband, Mark.
If this is true, then by virtue of the connection of my husband Mark and Barck Obama through Ulrich Stehle (1720-1773), who was sixth great grandfather to Mark and seventh great grandfather to Barack Obama, Mark and Barack are eighth cousins.
In the words of Joseph Shumway, genealogist with Ancestry.com, “Two of the most historically significant African Americans in the history of our country are amazingly directly related.” What is wholly surprising is that the connection exists through his Caucasian mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and not his Kenyan father.
John Punch, an indentured servant in Colonial Virginia, was declared a slave for life in punishment for trying to escape in 1640.
Ancestry.com states further that they used DNA analysis to learn that Stanley Ann Dunham’s ancestors were white landowners in Colonial Virginia, who were actually descendants of one African man, John Punch.
President Obama is traditionally viewed as an African-American because of his father’s heritage in Kenya. However, while researching his Caucasian mother, Stanley Ann Dunham’s lineage, Ancestry.com genealogists found her to have African heritage as well, which piqued the researchers’ interest and inspired further digging into Obama’s African-American roots. With the support of existing documents and DNA, it is believed that John Punch had children with a Caucasian woman, and her free status was subsequently passed on to their children. Her descendants continued to be free land owners in Virginia.
The findings were further reviewed and verified by Elizabeth Shown Mills, past president of the Board of Certification of Genealogists and a Southern research expert. She states, “In reviewing Ancestry.com’s conclusions, I weighed not only the actual findings but also Virginia’s laws and social attitudes when John Punch was living,” said Mills. She further states, “A careful consideration of the evidence convinces me that the Y-DNA evidence of African origin is indisputable, and the surviving paper trail points solely to John Punch as the logical candidate.
- Ancestry.com Press Release.