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Ancestry website: Obama's mother descended from first US slave

Susan Walsh / AP file

President Barack Obama walks from Marine One after returning to the White House on the South Lawn in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2012.

CHICAGO -- A family history website claims it has linked President Barack Obama to the first documented African slave in the American colonies.

Research by Ancestry.com from early Virginia records and DNA analysis shows Obama is the 11th great-grandson of John Punch, an indentured servant in Colonial Virginia who became enslaved for life after trying to escape in 1640, according to the website.

The findings were released about 100 days out from the presidential election. Obama's campaign headquarters are based in Chicago.

"Remarkably, the connection was made through President Obama's Caucasian mother's side of the family," the site said in a statement.


View NBCChicago.com's story on Ancestry.com claims

Ancestry.com genealogists researched Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and discovered her land-owner ancestors descended from Punch. According to the site, Punch had children with a white woman who passed her free status to her children, who went on to become successful land owners in Colonial Virginia.

"Two of the most historically significant African Americans in the history of our country are amazingly directly related," said Ancestry.com genealogist Joseph Shumway in a statement. "John Punch was more than likely the genesis of legalized slavery in America. But after centuries of suffering, the Civil War, and decades of civil rights efforts, his 11th great-grandson became the leader of the free world and the ultimate realization of the American Dream."

Ancestry.com called on a past Board for Certification of Genealogists president to perform a third-party review of the research.

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"A careful consideration of the evidence convinces me that the Y-DNA evidence of African origin is indisputable," said Elizabeth Shown Mills in a statement, "and the surviving paper trail points solely to John Punch as the logical candidate."

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