Michelle Obama's Possible Ancestral Tapestry
With her blonde hair and blue eyes, Debbie Shields looks nothing like First Lady Michelle Obama, but they actually share a common bond - they're related.
Shields' great, great grandfather is also Michelle Obama's great, great, great grandfather.
INSIDE EDITION's Les Trent asked, "You were told that you were Michelle Obama's fourth cousin. What was your reaction?"
Shields answered, "I said ‘Awesome."
Trent asked, "Did you believe it?"
Shields said, "Not at first. I thought it was a joke."
The gravesite of the man believed to be the family link between Debbie Shields and Michelle Obama, is a white slave owner named Charles Marion Shields. He died 96 years ago in 1916. If you cover the first name on his tombstone, you have the maiden name of Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Shields.
Geneologist Megan Smolenyak said, "Its the fabric of America, a very American story, very universal."
INSIDE EDITION first brought you the first lady's genealogical history three years ago, and it's now the subject of a new book, American Tapestry, The Story of Black, White and Multi-Racial Ancestors of Michelle Obama, which Sunday's New York Times Book Review called "fascinating" and "extraordinary."
Researchers discovered that Michelle's great, great, great, grandmother was a slave named Melvinia.
When she was just six-years-old, Melvinia was sent to what was once a 200-acre farm, where she was one of three slaves living with the Shields family of Rex, Georgia. At age 15, Melvinia was impregnated by a white man, presumed to be Charles Marion Shields.
Melvina's name shows up in the 1870 census, five years after the Civil War ended slavery in America. She is grouped under the last name Shields, as are her four children. Three of the children were listed as "M" standing for "Mullato," the now archaic term describing someone of mixed race.
A photo of Melvinia's first born, Dolphus Shields was uncovered. His great granddaughter is Marion Shields, who married Frasier Robinson, a Chicago city worker. Their daughter, of course, is Michelle Obama.
Debbie Shields said it fills her with pride to be related to the first family.
Trent asked "What goes through your head, you a white woman, who could possible be releated to the first African-American First Lady?"
Debbie said, "I think it's great."