May 22nd, 2011
08:52 PM ET
By CNN’s Shawna Shepherd and Brianna Keilar
DUBLIN, Ireland (CNN) - The tiny Irish village of Moneygall has been thrust into the spotlight after genealogists revealed Barack Obama has roots there. Residents are literally rolling out the red carpet – and O’Bama t-shirts – for the U.S. president’s visit Monday.
Moneygall, population 300, will be one of his first stops on a six-day, four-country tour through Europe.
Henry Healy, one of Moneygall's many residents claiming to be a distant relative of America’s first African-American president, is hoping to hoist a beer with their favorite son.
“We knew that the president had interest in his Irish roots,” Healy tells CNN. “He expressed while he was seeking the Democratic nomination that he did want to visit the little village in Ireland and have a pint.”If the president keeps his word, then Healy’s chances aren’t too bad since there are only two pubs in town.
Situated in central Ireland between Dublin and Limerick, Moneygall has undergone a patriotic facelift. With American flags hanging in front of homes and stores, Obama might feel like he’s visiting a small town in the U.S. on the Fourth of July.
Genealogists at Ancestry.com first shed light on Obama’s Irish roots when he was campaigning for the presidency. They traced his Irish ancestry several generations to a fellow by the name of Fulmoth Kearney, the president’s great-great-great grandfather on his mother’s side, who immigrated from Moneygall to Ohio in 1850.
Maybe it was that “luck o’ the Irish” – or perhaps support from some of the 40 million Irish-Americans – that helped Obama win the presidential nomination.
“It never hurts to be a little Irish when you’re running for the presidency of the United States of America,” Obama joked during a campaign stop in 2008.
Megan Smolenyak, author of the book “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the former chief family historian for Ancestry.com, tells CNN that President Obama’s Irish lineage is a typical migration story.
“His heritage has got shades from many different countries,” Smolenyak says. “There’s towns in Germany, in England and Ireland. Everybody wants to claim a piece of Barack Obama’s past. He’s like many of us: an American mutt.”
The president’s great uncle Ralph Dunham, who lives in Virginia, tells CNN he’s known of the family’s Irish roots for some time. He distinctly remembers his grandmother speaking with an Irish brogue.
Dunham, whose brother is Obama’s maternal grandfather who helped raise him in Hawaii, teasingly insists one trademark Obama feature does not come from their Irish side.
“Big ears do not come from my side of the family,” says Dunham. “I mean, even at an age when you’re supposed to be the biggest ever in your life, my ears aren’t that big.”
CNN’s Tim Garraty in Washington, and Diana Magnay in Moneygall, Ireland contributed to this report.
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