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Tiny Irish Village Is Latest Place to Claim Obama as Its Own

In one of the village's two pubs -- which face each other and are owned by different members of the Hayes family -- Julia Hayes offered ham sandwiches and tea to a visitor as the smell of a turf fire filled the cool spring air.

"It's very exciting," she said, noting that local and foreign journalists have started to arrive. "I was hoping Hillary [Clinton] would get in, but now this has come up and I'd love to see him win."

Neill, the rector, said he had found baptismal and other church records related to the Kearney family in old, handwritten books that had been kept in a parishioner's home. Kyle Betit, a U.S. genealogist also involved in the Obama research, said that "many pieces of evidence on both sides of the water" link Obama to Moneygall.

Obama, the only African American in the U.S. Senate, has said about his diverse roots, "I've got pieces of everybody in me." Obama spokesman Bill Burton declined to comment on questions about a Moneygall connection.

Just over 1 percent of Ireland's population is black, and 88 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. That makes Obama's Irish Anglican connections quite a "novelty," said Healy, who now considers Obama to be family.

Neill said he faxed the Obama camp the church records he had found and hopes he gets a response.

Others are setting their sights on an Obama visit.

So many Irish people left their homeland in dire times, Neill said, that it is uplifting to see an emigrant's family faring well.

"We like to see people working their way to the top," he said.

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