First Ladies & Ancestral Identity

A series of eight articles about the racial, religious and ethnic identity of First Ladies, beginning with the 2012 genealogical discoveries about First Lady Michelle Obama's ancestry from both an Irish immigrant family of Georgia slave-owners and African slaves, as chronicled Rachel Swarns book on the subject, American Tapestry.

The series considers the family histories of Michelle Obama, Jacqueline Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Pat Nixon, Florence Harding, Edith Wilson, Mamie Eisenhower and Hillary Clinton, as well as that of Ann Romney, the spouse of 2012 Republican Presidential candidate. The series is not a definitive guide to genealogy, nor presented from the perspective of the professional genealogists.

Rather, it is presented to:

  • illustrate the uniquely American issues of “identity,” those choices made by individuals with various ethnic origins who, for various reasons, associate themselves with one particular part of their background
  • suggest how such choices of identity by spouses may have served the political and campaign purposes of Presidential candidates and Presidents
  • illuminate how the families of First Ladies have experienced the same difficulties and challenges faced by a wide variety of immigrant, enslaved and native peoples based on their nation of origin, identified race and faith

 Michelle Obama
Jacqueline Kennedy
Eleanor Roosevelt
Florence Harding
Hillary Clinton
Pat Nixon

Edith Wilson Mamie Eisenhower (coming soon)