Obama's Irish relatives in southern Ohio endure racist jibes

SEVENTY TWO YEAR OLD Roger Kearney of Troy, Ohio stopped joking about his humble roots when he read an article about Barack Obama's Irish ancestry and realized he is a distant cousin, writes Carol Simmons

In the decade or so since he  first researched his family tree, and Kearney has often joked that there were no dignitaries nor horse thieves amidst its branches -- mostly just hard working, salt of the earth folks who helped settle rural Ohio 

(Read the full Cleveland Plain Dealer investigation here)

A supporter of Obama's presidential bid even before he knew of their family relationship, Kearney is delighted by his personal connection to the candidate.

But he certainly wasn't prepared for some of the "hateful" reactions he's received in response to the identity of this distant cousin. He said both overt and covert racist remarks have galvanized him to work even harder on Obama's behalf.

But we now know that the Democratic presidential candidate is a direct descendant of Fulmoth Kearney, who left Moneygall, Ireland, as a young man in 1850 to come to Ohio's Ross County.

The contemporary Kearney, who traces his family to the same Moneygall clan, estimates that Sen. Obama is his fourth cousin, three times removed.

"A lot of Kearneys lived here (in Ohio) in the mid-1800s," settling in Ross, Pickaway and Fayette counties, Kearney said on Sunday, Oct. 5, the day the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer published an extensive story tracing Obama's Ohio family tree.

The Kearney name eventually spread across the country, although many descendents remained in Ohio.

Obama's local relatives include the award-winning chef and restaurateur Anne Kearney, the proprietress of Rue Dumaine in Washington Twp.

"She's a cousin," Roger said.

"There are a number of other cousins in Dayton, and some in Washington Court House and Springfield," he added.

Being related to someone who grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansas-born mother, "shows you what a small world it is," Kearney said.

(Read more from the Cleveland Plain Dealer investigation here)

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