Lifestyle & Belief

Obama roots traced to first slave in US named John Punch


US President Barack Obama



President Obama may be a descendant from America's first documented slave, according to his family tree on genealogist Joseph Shumway told USA Today, "Two of the most historically significant African Americans in the history of our country are amazingly directly related." Shumway also pointed out that the connection was made through President Obama's Caucasian mother's side of the family.

According to the website's research release, the connection was the result of years of research by genealogists who, "through early Virginia
records and DNA analysis, linked Obama to John Punch." Punch was an indentured servant in Colonial Virginia. The genealogists said that Punch was punished for trying to escape his servitude in 1640 by being enslaved for life. Punch's escape attempt marked the first documented case of slavery for life in the colonies.

Ira Berlin, a University of Maryland professor and expert in the history of slavery, told The New York Times that it was common to have both black and white indentured servants during that time period, but that these people were in an "unfree condition" and not technically slaves. Of Punch Berlin said, “What makes the John Punch case interesting is here is a guy who is definitely a slave."

While notes that its research cannot be conclusive, they are nearly positive that Punch and President Obama are related. Shumway told CNN, "[A] lot of pieces of circumstantial evidence pointed at John Punch as the only logical candidate who could fit as this African American ancestor."

This isn't the first time President Obama's lineage has been called into question. On July 27, GlobalPost reported on new research saying that less than half of American voters know President Barack Obama is Christian, while 17 percent think he is a Muslim, according to the new study by the Pew Forum for Religion and Public life. The Washington Post reported only 49 percent of US voters know that their president is Christian. Thirty percent of conservatives thought Obama was a Muslim, while about a third of the most conservative Republicans, some 34 percent, agreed.