WATCH: Author Rachel Swarns On Michelle Obama's Ancestry
The Amazing Facts About Michelle Obama's Background, Ethnicity And Geneaology: Black, White, Native American
ANSWERS FROM ANCESTRY: Michelle Obama's parents genealogy, background and ethnicity contain a number of interesting facts. Researchers have discovered that she is of African American, Native American and European ancestry. This mix occurs quite commonly within the African American population. Today, thanks to the availability of ancestral and ethnic DNA testing, everyone can find out about their true genetic heritage.
RESEARCHERS HAVE TRACED MICHELLE OBAMA'S genealogy and ethnicity through five generations, from slavery to the white house — with some surprising results. By Ben Arogundade.
MICHELLE LAVAUGHN ROBINSON Obama was born on January 17, 1964 in Chicago, Illinois. Her father, Fraser Robinson III, was a pump operator for the Chicago Water Department. He died in 1990 of complications derived from multiple sclerosis. Her mother Marian was a housewife, raising Michelle and her elder brother Craig in their South Side Chicago home.
MICHELLE OBAMA'S GENEALOGY The first African American First Lady can trace her ancestry through five generations of history, from slavery to the White House. Her paternal great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson, was a slave from South Carolina, while her maternal great-great-grandmother, Melvinia Shields, was also a slave. Around 1859 Charles Shields, one of her owners sons, fathered her first-born son when she was roughly 15 years old, although precise details of the relationship and the birth date are not known. The child — Mrs. Obama’s maternal great-great grandfather — was named Dolphus T. Shields. He was listed in an 1870 census as mulatto. 88-year-old Helen Heath, who attended church will him, recalled that his hair texture and light skin “told you he has to be near white.” The family were descendents of Andrew Shields, a protestant Irish immigrant who fought against the British in the American revolutionary war of the late 18th century.
GENEALOGIST UNCOVERS BACKGROUND FACTS The facts about Michelle Obama’s parents genealogy — which also include traces of Native American ethnicity — were first uncovered in 2009 by genealogist Megan Smolenyak, together with The New York Times. She was also the researcher who traced the key information on Barack Obama's maternal background to Moneygall, Ireland. She tracked the First Lady's genealogy through 19th century probate records, marriage licenses and old photographs, as well as via the testimony of elderly women acquainted with the family. DNA testing was also used.
This, plus new research information and other interesting facts, feature in a new book by New York Times journalist Rachel Swarns. American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama, highlights the complex history of interracial connections in America, which were often the result of violence or coercion towards female African American captives. Indeed, Swarns states in her book that several black descendents were concerned that Melvinia's relationship had been forced upon her. The real answer will never be known.
ANCESTRAL DNA TESTING ARRIVES Today, thanks partly to advancements in DNA testing for heritage, many are now looking to science for answers to age old family questions about their identity. DNA testing for ethnicity and genealogy has become cheap and easily available, and the results are positive in establishing one fundamental truth about race — that we are all part of the same rainbow.