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Genealogist finds Obama's German roots

The Local · 26 Jul 2008, 14:45

Published: 26 Jul 2008 14:45 GMT+02:00

A true representation of the melting pot that is America, Barack Obama owes his German roots to his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Christian Gutknecht, who left Germany for the New World in 1749, Germany weekly newspaper Die Zeit reported on Friday.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of Obama's Berlin visit.

When his name was translated into English, Gutknecht (which means “good serf”) leapt through the ranks to become Mr. Goodknight. Eventually, the silent “k” was dropped and he went by the name of Goodnight. Die Zeit speculates that this distant relative of Obama's likely lived as a farmer in Pennsylvania, where he would have experienced the American Revolution and the founding of the United States. He died on December 26, 1795 – appropriately – in Germantown.

From there, it's just a journey over six generations from Virginia via Indiana to Kansas, before you get to the birth of Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in 1942. And that, says genealogist William Addams Reitwiesner, makes the Democratic presidential candidate almost 5 percent German.

While this could go a long way in explaining Obama's popularity in Germany, the paper says it could also be the key to his success at home, where researchers say the candidate would do well to “embrace protestant German values.” After all, every third American has German ancestors, and Obama's home state of Illinois still reflects the German background of many of its settlers.

Story continues below…

Many pundits agree that an association with Germany sits well with American voters – unlike an association with France, as the last Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, learned the hard way.

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