THE village of Shinrone has extended an invitation to President Obama, laying claim to earlier ancestry than Moneygall of the American president.
The Rev Michael Johnston said as is well known President Obama’s Kearney ancestors have been traced to County Offaly. “However, what is not so well known is that they have been traced back further than Moneygall - to the village of Shinrone (Suí an Róin, meaning ‘seat of the seal’ or ‘hairy person’!) in fact, about 10 miles distance.” Rev Johnston said this is the farthest back that President Obama’s Kearney line has been traced - to Joseph (c1698-1791) and Cicely (?-1769) Kearney of Gurtcreen townland, Shinrone. They would be President Obama’s
greatx7 grandparents. Their son Joseph (greatx6 grandfather) married in Shinrone and started a family there before moving to Moneygall. His son William (baptised in Shinrone, great x 5 grandfather) was the grandfather of Fulmouth Kearney who emigrated to America.
He said the parish church in Shinrone holds the original records for over forty Kearney baptisms, marriages and burials during the period 1741-1827, all related to President Obama, including the burial records of his great x 7 grandparents, the marriage record of his great x 6 grandparents and the baptismal record of his great x 5 grandfather.
“Over 15 Kearneys are buried in the church graveyard, eight of them infants or children who probably died through fever or smallpox - six of them belonging to one couple. All are in unmarked graves, probably due to the decreasing fortunes of the family. Many left the village to find work and the last person bearing the Kearney name appears to be a Widow Kearney, who is recorded as receiving Poor Money from the parish in the 1820s and 1830s,” said Rev Johnston.
He added “the site of the Kearney ancestral home has now, almost certainly, been identified - on a now-vanished lane which was, in living memory, referred to as Kearney’s Lane. It is clearly visible on 19th maps.”
Rev Johnston said Shinrone can thus truly be considered the ancestral ‘birthplace’ of President Obama’s Kearney family - as far back as can be traced.
“I am the Church of Ireland Rector of Shinrone and we as a village have issued an invitation to President Obama to unveil a memorial stone to his Kearney ancestors in the graveyard of the church, and to view the church records if he wishes. The invitation has been graciously received by the US Embassy and we are hopeful that a visit to Shinrone might be possible before the President travels to Moneygall - just as his ancestor did,” said Rev Johnston.
He said as an added interest, not only does Shinrone have a connection to the current President but also one to the first President, George Washington. Recorded in their register is the baptism of Edward Hand, who was born and grew up in the parish (alongside the Kearney family). He would later qualify as a medical doctor and travel to America with the British Army. Once there, however, he changed sides, joined the Continental Army and eventually became Major General Edward Hand - at one time in charge of Fort Pitt, hero of the War of Independence at the battles of Long Island, White Plains, Trenton and Princeton, the architect of the siege plan which led to Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, and friend and comrade in arms of George Washington. He eventually became a Member of Congress. Importantly he was chosen as a Presidential Elector for Pennsylvania and thus played a part in the election of Washington as the first President of the United States.
“Shinrone parish has thus produced both a man who was a friend of, and helped elect, the first President, as well as the ancestors of the man who is now the current President. And both would have known each other,” said Rev Johnston.