Many expert genealogists have worked for years to try and piece together the family history of U. S. President Barack Obama. It has not been an easy task considering one side of the family (his mother) has a long family history in North America and the other side (his father) comes from Kenya in the continent of Africa. You may feel your lineage has been difficult, imagine the work put in by skilled researchers for years to complete the President’s family tree.
His mother’s side dates back for hundreds of years along the eastern half of the Colonial America and then the new United States in the 1770s. The lineage of special interest follows his maternity side. From his mother, Stanley Ann Durham to her mother, Madelyn Lee Payne to Obama’s great grandmother, Leona McCurry to the second grandmother, Margaret Bell Wright to the third great grandmother, Frances Allred from Tennessee, and then Obama’s fourth great grandmother, Anna Bunch who lived from 1814 to 1893 in Tennessee then Arkansas, the line takes a turn.
It is the surname of ‘Bunch’ and that family lineage which becomes intriguing for investigators. The Bunch lineage then follows only the male line, starting with Anna Bunch’s father, Nathaniel Bunch who was born in Virginia in 1793 and died in Arkansas in 1859. Nathaniel’s father was Charles Bunch, born 1767 in Virginia and died between 1804-1813 in Tennessee. Further back comes the grandfather of Nathaniel, Samuel Bunch, who was born about 1720 in Virginia and died in 1783 in Virginia. Samuel Bunch would be the seventh great grandfather of Obama.
The researchers continued, then finding the father of Samuel Bunch being John Bunch III who lived about 1680 to 1742 in Virginia, to the grandfather of Samuel being John Bunch II who lived about 1655 to 1704 in Virginia, then the great grandfather to Samuel Bunch was John Bunch I who lived prior to 1637 to 1670s in Virginia. This John Bunch I was the tenth great grandfather to Obama.
That alone is quite a lineage, taking the family back to Colonial Virginia in the mid-1600s. The researchers working for Ancestry.com using the vast resources in the archives of Virginia located who they believe would be the eleventh great grandfather, a man named John Punch of York County, Virginia. His surname is a bit different in spelling, but that is a common occurrence, where a family name will be spelled or changed for a number of reasons.
Investigating into the story of John Punch became extremely interesting for the researchers. John Punch first came to Colonial Virginia from Africa as an indentured servant. In the beginnings of the English colonies, additional laborers were needed. However, they were not taken as slaves, but rather worked as indentured servants for a specific period of time then gaining their freedom.
When you look at the African population in Virginia around 1620, the numbers were small, approximately 25. John Punch appears to have been an early indentured servant to Hugh Gwynn of York Co, Virginia. Based on Journals of the Executive Council of July 9, 1640, three indentured servants of Gwynn had run away, fleeing to the Colony of Maryland, but were later captured and returned. Two returned were white servants and were punished by having to work an additional year for Gwynn. The third indentured servant was named John Punch, a Negro, who was punished by having to serve his entire life for Gwynn, never to gain his freedom. So making John Punch the first official slave in Virginia. Slavery as a legal practice did not come into law until 1670.
John Bunch I was considered a free man (because his mother was free) in the 1660s and owned 450 acres in New Kent County, VA. Yet, it appears that John Bunch’s mother was white and his father, John Punch, an African, resulting in an interracial marriage which was more acceptable in the 1630s.
It was not just the few court records, deeds, wills or other records that survived which helped prove the results, but also DNA testing showed the link, especially with origins from sub-Saharan Africa, possibly the west coast region of Cameroon, in the Bunch lineage.
Even with intermarriages eventually forbidden the Bunch family members had already married into white families with now little question of their racial make-up.
The researchers do state because there is a lack of more records it is hard to definitively prove or disprove John Punch’s descendants, which would include President Obama.
Ancestry.com has all the information, resources and conclusions available online to trace this Bunch lineage and it makes for interesting reading.
Photo Credit: Ancestry.com< Return To Blog