As we continue to develop our range of products for Know Thy Place Ltd,we have started researching the ancestral townland’s of American presidents with Irish Ancestry. As the current incumbent, Barack Obama, has a direct Irish lineage we thought he would be a good place to start. The result is for sale on our website here. So what did we find out about Barack Obama’s Place? We thought it would be a good idea to bring you some of our major findings, and there is no better way to do that than through the blog!
The Presidents ancestry has been traced back to the townland of Moneygall by a company of genealogists called Eneclann Ltd who are based in Dublin. The townland of Moneygall is located in central Ireland in the south of County Offaly, adjacent to the border with County Tipperary. In 1605 the present boundary of County Offaly, then known as ‘King’s County’, was established. Prior to this the land of Moneygall was part of Tipperary. Offaly had been shired as ‘King’s County’ in the 16th century in honour of Philip II of Spain who had married the Queen of England Mary Tudor.
The earliest definite evidence for human settlement around Moneygall dates to the Bronze Age, represented by four fulachta fiadh. It is likely that the presence of such sites also indicates that less obvious monuments, such as the homes and cemeteries of the Bronze Age population, are also present buried beneath the soil. The activities of the early medieval population have left a clear mark on the landscape surrounding the town. The beginning of the early medieval period, or Early Christian period as it is sometimes referred to, is generally held to correspond with the introduction of Christianity to Ireland. Nine ringforts are still upstanding in the fields around Moneygall, with a further six sites of potential ringforts also present. While many ringforts were established in the early medieval period it is possible that some could be long-lived settlements with prehistoric origins. It is also likely that some of these sites may have been in use into the late medieval period. Just to the north of Moneygall town is an early medieval settlement and cemetery. Results from recent archaeological excavations show this was established at the end of the 6th century AD and remained in use into the 1600s.
The late medieval period begins with the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in 1169 and formally ends in 1534. Around this time Moneygall was within the homeland of the O’Carrolls. The land of Moneygall is also likely to have been part of an area granted to Theobald Walter by King John in 1185. Motte and baileys, tower houses and castles are features typical of this period. Tower houses were built and inhabited by both the Anglo-Normans and indigenous Irish lords during their struggle for control over land. The castle site at Busherstown near Moneygall could have its origins in this period although there are no upstanding remains visible today. Ireland underwent considerable change during the post-medieval period which extends from 1534 to modern times. It was at the beginning of this period (1605) that the present County boundary of Offaly was established. During the mid to late post-medieval period the agricultural and industrial revolution played significant roles in shaping the country and as a consequence, Ireland enjoyed a higher degree of economic and social prosperity. Improvements in technology and advances in infrastructural developments such as road and rail provided the stimulus for this growth.
Our research identified a landscape that was populated by tower houses such as those near Cullenwaine and Ballinlough in the early post-medieval period, with a more settled picture emerging as time went on. This was typified by the development of the village of Moneygall and a number of large country estates centred on ‘The Big House’ such as Busherstown – the development of the Demesne landscape which is a central element of Irish rural society in the post-medieval period. The church in Moneygall town was built as a chapel of ease around 1800. This was a church constructed in addition to the parish church and was in a more accessible location for many of the parishioners. A house within the town of Moneygall has been identified by the Irish company Eneclann as the residence of Phoebe Kearney, Obama’s 3rd great-grandmother. The house was described as being thatched with stone or lime mortar walls in 1851, which is typical of the houses of this time.
There was certainly plenty going on in Barack Obama’s Place throughout the prehistoric, medieval sand post-medieval periods, and hopefully this post has given you a flavour of the type of information on the first of our Presidents Charts. We have also developed this product for ex-Presidents Ronald Reagan and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, with many more to follow!