Obama Distantly Related To Palin, Limbaugh

If you dig deep enough back in anyone’s genealogy, you’ll find some interesting relationships:

NEW YORK — President Barack Obama has family ties to none other than Sarah Palin, according to the genealogists at Ancestry.com, a discovery the family history site made when looking for connections between political foes.

And that’s not all – Obama also is apparently related to conservative radio host and relentless critic Rush Limbaugh.

A genealogist at the Utah-based Ancestry.com, Anastasia Tyler, said Obama and Palin are 10th cousins through a common ancestor named John Smith, a pastor and early settler in 17th-century Massachusetts. Obama is related to Smith through his mother, as is Palin, Tyler said.

“Smith was against the persecution of the Quakers,” Tyler said in an interview. “He was a very socially conscious man.”

As for Limbaugh, he’s also a 10th cousin of the president – one time removed – through a common ancestor named Richmond Terrell, who Tyler said was a large landowner in Virginia, also in the 17th century. “His history is a little more nebulous,” Tyler said.

How do the genealogists come up with this stuff? Tyler said they start by picking the people they’re interested in, then examine their family trees, going back further and further into history, looking for common surnames and locations.

In the recent project, genealogists looked at the trees of Obama, Palin, and Limbaugh but also a few others, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Fox News pundits Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. They didn’t find anything much with the latter three.

But former President George W. Bush? He’s related to both Obama and Palin, the site found. Obama and Bush are 11th cousins through common ancestor Samuel Hinckley, and Bush and Palin are 10th cousins one time removed, also through Hinckley – who, and stay with us now, was John Smith’s father-in-law.

Ancestry.com has revealed in the past that Obama is related to investor Warren Buffett and actor Brad Pitt. It has also found that Palin, the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate, is a distant cousin of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Princess Diana.

Does this mean anything ? Of course not, but it’ll be good for a few chuckles from the punditocracy.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Idiot says:

    They should all have Thanksgiving together at the White House to get to know each other better.

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    A friend of mine studying for a Ph-D in…some sort of genetics related field (we’re more acquaintances then friends)…once showed me a graph that indicates everyone in a fairly closed community is everyone else’s 8th cousin (at least). Of course at the “8th cousin” mark, the lacework of relations is so large that its a fairly believable claim. I don’t know how well her theory stacks up when applied nationwide (although her theory accounted for a substantially large “community,” and in theory a nation–even one with immigration such as ours–is a closed community) but when I see interest stories such as this, it never really surprises me.

    Indeed, I bet at a distant enough level, Mataconis, Brumm Joe, Hudelson, and Juneau (as a random sampling) have a pretty decent chance of being ‘related.’

  3. James Joyner says:

    All I know is that I want to see Palin’s birth certificate. The long one. And not a copy.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Yeah, I was thinking of posting on this one, too. Just goes to show how small a pool of old English settlers there were. Since I have no English ancestry whatever, I can probably take solace in not being related to any of them.

  5. Yea me neither, Dave.

    With all the family coming from various parts of Eastern Europe I seriously I doubt I’m somehow the distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth like our President is.