Report: President Obama Descendant of First Legally Sanctioned African Slave

A team of genealogists from Ancestry.com published a report today [pdf] that alleges to link President Obama to John Punch, one of the first — if not the first — African to be legally recognized as a slave.

Adding intrigue to the already fascinating discovery is the researchers' claims that Obama is related to Punch not on his father's side, but through his mother.

The New York Times reports:

The Ancestry.com team used DNA analysis to make the connection, and it also combed through marriage and property records to trace Mr. Obama's maternal ancestry to the time and place where Mr. Punch lived. The company said records suggested that Mr. Punch fathered children with a white woman, who passed her free status on to those children, giving rise to a family of a slightly different name, the Bunches, that ultimately spawned Mr. Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.

Of course, with no actual records to back up their assertions, the researchers were forced to make their case without official confirmation.

Still, an independent genealogist contacted by the Times said the argument for the connection appears "sound"; another praised the team's cautious language.

And at least one person has no doubt: The Bunch family's online lineage project director Mark Bunch. "I'm his fifth cousin twice removed," Bunch said of the president.

[H/T: HyperVocal, photo via AP]