The Pres and I


I was listening to the local talk radio station on my lunch break today and heard a well known radio personality mention that Ancestry.com has apparently done some research and found that President Obama descended from a man purported to be the first black slave in the American Colonies: John Punch. Here is Ancestry.com’s page on the topic and a New York Times article.

What piqued my interest was the speculated Punch/Bunch connection, which set off bells in my head. John Bunch sounded like a name I’ve ran across in my own research: a John Bunch is believed to have been father of Ann, the wife of a William Blevins.
Here are a few links:

One thing of interest is that several of the researchers believed the Bunches to be Melungeon. The Melungeons were an inter-racial group known to have lived in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee and the Carolinas. In some aspects, the Melungeons might have originated similarly to the Seminoles, who had Creek, black, and white ancestry. I’ve not seen it widely discussed, but there was a lot of intermarriage in the southeast anyway. See Alexander McGillivray, William McIntosh, William Weatherford, and John Ross. I that we make it out to be a bigger deal than it was in that early period of American history. Maybe the Anglo-Saxon (i.e. English) settlers didn’t intermarry, but there’s pretty good record to indicate that the Celts (Irish, Scots, Welsh) did.

So, the documentation to link Mr. Obama to John Punch is a bit spotty, but to be fair, so is most of the records from the 17th century. I’ll make a similar unsubstantiated jump over the the John Blevins (b. 1801, Kentucky) whose father I can’t find, back to Ann Blevins (née Bunch), whose father was likely John Bunch, purportedly the son of John Punch, and with that say hello to my new-found, yet very distant cousin, President Barack Obama.

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