The state of Ohio is often called the Mother of Presidents, and it looks like its reputation is well deserved.

This week in a rural corner of the state, news is spreading that Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, has many Irish American relatives living in southern part of the state, all of whom are white.

Roger Kearney, 72, a retired Ohio technology director with a keen interest in genealogy, recently discovered his distant connection to Obama while researching his Irish American family tree.

Recent online news reports about Obama's Irish ancestry surprised Kearney because they explicitly mentioned an ancestor from the 1800s that both men shared, Fulmoth Kearney, a direct descendant who left Moneygall, Co. Offaly as a young man in 1850 to emigrate to Ohio's Ross County.

There was even more surprising news to come. Irish genealogists researching Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, discovered that a number of her relatives had laid claim to land in Ross, Fayette and Pickaway counties in Ohio where Roger Kearney grew up (he now lives in nearby Troy, Ohio).

Clearly, the connections between the two families were stronger than he first suspected.

"I live in Troy, Ohio, which is a pretty conservative Republican area, so not everyone I've told about our shared ancestry was immediately pleased," Kearney told the Irish Voice with a laugh on Tuesday. "But the truth is I was very impressed by Barack Obama before I even knew we were distantly related."

Although Obama's links to the Kearney family from Moneygall first came to light last year, he has yet to meet his Ohio relatives.

Obama, the biracial son of a Kenyan father and a Kansas-born mother, grew up mainly in Hawaii.

For voters looking for a way to connect with his unique story, however, his strong Irish ancestry may offer a hook.

Asked if he'd ever been to Ireland himself, Roger Kearney said no, but he would not object if Obama invited him to visit.

"I would love to visit Ireland if I could afford it, but I just can't. I dream about it right now," he said.

"I would hardly say no to doing a little genealogical study in Offaly. If Obama invited me over as part of a presidential visit to Ireland, that would certainly be interesting."

Kearney now professes to be an ardent fan of Obama's, and he makes a point of correcting conservative colleagues when they cite what he calls "facts" they've read on the Internet.

"Those viral emails that get sent around the country by right wing organizations are just trying to keep people uninformed about the real issues we're facing in this election," he said.

Kearney added that he thought it would be wonderful to meet with Obama at a later date, but that the senator has more important things to do right now - like get elected.

Earlier this year Irish researchers discovered that the Kearney family was probably Gaelic Irish in origin, based on their family name, and that their probable place of origin was in Co. Tipperary.

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