I’m doing some genealogy work with the help of Ancestry.com. If there is a paper trail in your family then there is a good chance Ancestry.com will be of some help.
It is with that in mind I’ve followed the breaking story regarding President Obama. The researchers at Ancestry.com have discovered a possible link between the President and the “first slave” in the English-speaking colonies. Some of us ancestry members even got to see the family tree on the bottom of the page.
(Note that I said English-speaking because the Spanish had enslaved thousands of Indians well prior to Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. So, I’m real sure this first slave thing is accurate. Now if they said first African slave maybe they would be on to something.)
The story regarding the President traces him back on his mother’s side (she is white, his father was black and from Kenya) to a family named Punch or Bunch.
The big assumption is that Punch and Bunch (sounds a little funny, like a British comedy) are the same. It’s assumed that people wrote down how I name sounded and that over time, Punch became Bunch and hence the President can be traced back to “slave #1” in the English-speaking New World, circa 1640.
It’s plausible and having worked with names, especially German ones, I know a great deal of variation is possible.
For example my name of Roeder can appear to be Roder with or without an umlaut thingy, or Radar with or without an umlaut thingy or Raeder, with or without an umlaut thingy. And that’s just a smattering of the most common variations.
Another example is my great-mother’s maiden name. She is listed in American records as a “Steldt.” I believe I found her listed on the manifest of an immigration ship (1887) as Emilie Steldt. When I found this link I thought I had the connection I needed to Germany because Emilie’s parents were listed. A search in the German records produces no links to Steldt although I found that the name “Stell” is much more common in German than Steldt.
To make matters worse Emilie’ s parents didn’t leave much of paper trail in the US. In fact, her dad, my great-grandfather(3) was deported one month after he was made a citizen. How weird is that? I have no idea why. This occurred well before WW1 so he was hardly a spy for Germany.
Here’s the bottom line with my great-mother. I have one link to her probable parents and immigration date, but no means to verify with absolute certainty (at this point) that she in particular is my great-grandmother. It is plausible, even likely that Emilie Steldt (who may have been a Stell in Germany) immigrated in 1887 with her parents an to Chicago first and then to Milwaukee where she married my great-grandfather in 1890.
But, likely is not the same as a fact.
No one really cares one way or the other if my great-grandmother was a Steldt or Stell (except me). In the case of the President, many people do seem to care if Punch became Bunch. The question is why?
I have a theory of why the left jumped on this story with a certain amount of relish. I think it’s similar to the Elizabeth Warren thing where she claimed to be part Cherokee. For libs, being some sort of oppressed minority is a credential to brag about. I think it’s called Identity Politics.
The irony here is that President Obama may not be descended from slave #1 anymore than Elizabeth Warren is part Cherokee. I find that humorous.
In the meantime I’ll keep researching my family tree. Sooner or later I’ll find a marketable link I can exploit. Maybe Emilie is an Eskimo name.
- Media Overjoyed: Genealogists Link Obama to the First Slave… But They Can’t Prove It (rushlimbaugh.com)
- Obama Has Ties to Slavery Not by His Father but His Mother, Research Suggests (nytimes.com)
- Of course, Obama related to first black slave on his, um, mother’s side (legalinsurrection.com)