Friesland claims Obama too

Friesland claims Obama too

16th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

US president-elect Barack Obama said it himself: he is a mutt, a child of mixed race. He is the product of a Kenyan father and an American mother.

Now that he's been elected, everyone wants a piece of the action. After reports that Obama has some Irish blood, Dutch newspapers are reporting that the president-elect has an ancestor from the northern Dutch province of Friesland.

Local skating hero Lieuwe Obbema's grandpa Jelle apparently went to Kenya in 1870, where he established a successful peppermint business. 
Barack Obama © Flickr by zyrcs

Friesian genealogists say Jelle Obbema was a ladies' man, with a particular taste for local Kenyan women. He is said to have sired a number of illegitimate children, who used their father's surname.
One such child was called Sjoerd-Bark Obbema. Barack Obama's father is possibly a descendent of one of those children.

'Ja, wy kinne'
And that's not all. Back in Friesland, the Obbema family crest features two lilies, with its motto in Frisian, the local language, 'Ja wy kinne.' In English, 'Yes we can'.

Now, the idea that a US president may have some Dutch blood is not so far-fetched. John Adams' father was Dutch, and Martin van Buren even spoke the language. Both Roosevelts had Dutch roots.
Friesland landscape © Flickr by lennartack
But in the case of the first African-American to win the White House, the Netherlands will just have to keep dreaming: the claims of Friesian roots is a hoax first reported in February this year in the Dutch newspaper, De Volkskrant. 

But it's a hoax with legs: websites and bloggers around the world have picked it up. Like so much else about Barack Obama, people want to believe. 'Ja wy kinne.'

John Tyler
Radio Netherlands
Photo credit: zyrcster;  lennartacktsevis

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