In his will, she is described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia.” After his death, she was shipped to Georgia. While she was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son under circumstances lost in the passage of time. Melvinia Shields, the enslaved and illiterate young girl, and the unknown white man who impregnated her are the great-great-great-grandparents of Michelle Obama, the first lady.
During the presidential campaign, the family learned about one paternal great-great-grandfather, a former slave from South Carolina, but the rest of Mrs. Obama’s roots remained a mystery.
The newly discovered story of Mrs. Obama’s maternal ancestors for the first time fully connects the first African-American first lady to the history of slavery. The findings, uncovered by Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist, and The New York Times, substantiate what Mrs. Obama has called longstanding family rumors about a white forbear.
You can read more about this story in the New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/us/politics/08genealogy.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1an and you can also watch a video slide show featuring Megan Smolenyak who provides a LOT more information on Roots Television at http://www.rootstelevision.com/players/player_africanroots3.php?bctid=35742160001&bclid=4865138001. The video includes details about Michelle's Native and Irish heritage, free and enslaved ancestors, 10 states that claim a piece of Michelle's past, and which relative invented a marble shooter.