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Chain, chain, chain...In news that is certain to leave birthers confused and angry, a team of genealogists has announced that President Barack Obama may be descended, through his mother, from one of the first African slaves in North America. In a transparent PR bid that may nevertheless turn out to be historically significant, online genealogy outfit published a paper suggesting that Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was descended from John Punch, who traveled to colonial Virginia as an indentured servant, but after running away in 1640, was sentenced to a lifetime of servitude, making him one of the first documented African slaves in the colonies.

The 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.

We already knew that Obama has New England roots going back to 1669, and now it would appear that another branch of his maternal line goes back even farther into the American past. This could be rather embarrassing to greenhorn Mitt Romney, whose family didn’t even set foot on the continent until the 1840s — indeed, can such newcomers to our shores ever shed their strange foreign ways?

While the connection to John Punch cannot be fully documented due to gaps in the earliest records, DNA evidence of sub-Saharan roots for modern descendents of the Bunch family led the researchers to make the link. “The odds, based on what does actually survive, strongly suggest that President Barack Obama is a descendant (he would be the 11th great-grandson) of the first enslaved African in America,” said the paper’s lead author, Anastasia Harman. Two independent genealogists contacted by the New York Times found the analysis persuasive, if ultimately inconclusive.

This will surely come as news to writers like Stanley Crouch or Debra Dickerson, who once fretted that Obama’s lack of genuine slave heritage meant that he was “not black enough,” let alone Laura Ingraham, who once suggested that Herman Cain would be America’s REAL “first black president.” Furthermore, it remains to be seen if this news will inspire any hack columnists to meditate on its greater meaning for Race In America (it definitely will).

Readers of Free Republic and The Blaze were quick to conclude that the researchers’ conclusions were utterly false, planted by the Obama campaign, calculated to incite voter fraud (and / or liberal white guilt), and completely trivial compared to the President’s continued refusal to turn over all of his college records, particularly what is believed by many to be a trenchant English 101 analysis of the theme of conformity in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”

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