finding your roots

The Bunch Family

suzanne meiner May 31, 2012

I come from a long line of people named Bunch. And according to the Chicago Sun Times, so does President Barack Obama. Our shared ancestors, John Bunch I, John Bunch II, John Bunch III, and Samuel Bunch lived in Virginia.
Another descendant, Mr. Richard Haney Bunch (1865-1964) of Chicago, did an exhaustive study of family history and his daughter donated his papers to the U of Va @ Charlottesville, VA. The earliest records show that John Bunch I came to the US in 1651 or 1652, living in New Kent, VA. It is estimated that he was born about 1636. There have been books written about the Bunch Families, notably, “Park and Bunch on the Trail West” by Alice Crandall Park.
In all my research, the family is racially “white”. There is one reference to a court case between a John Bunch, “a mulatto” and Sarah Slayden, a white woman in 1705 who petitioned the Council of Va to allow them to marry because the minister of Blisland Parish refused to marry them because of his color. Whether this is the same John Bunch as my ancestor is unknown.
My son uncovered a link to Mark Bunch (, who has had DNA testing, & has a project ongoing and states that he “found his DNA is linked to sub-Saharan Africa, and is found in the western hemisphere typically in association with the trans-Atlantic slave trade.” Mark concludes “that John Bunch was probably an Afro-European mulatto. His father was likely born in western Africa and would have been one of the earliest Africans in English colonial Virginia.” Mark has a Melungeon Core DNA project.
I am a woman and there are no direct male Bunch descendants in my family (although I do have brothers and sons). None of my Grandfather’s (James W Bunch) sons had children, and his brothers had no male descendants. My Great Grandfather, David Suprey Bunch married a second time in Fancy Prairie, Menard, IL, and had 2 more sons; Frank Fulton Bunch (2/1895-10/8/1964) of Athens, IL, and John Harlow Bunch (born in 1902). I don’t know if there is a possibility of DNA testing there.
I have 4 direct lines coming from John Bunch I to myself. The one I share with President Barack Obama most closely is: John Bunch I, John Bunch II, John Bunch III, Samuel Bunch, Judith Bunch, Clarissa Bunch, David Pouncey Bunch, David Suprey Bunch, James William Bunch, Lucille Bunch Schwarz, and myself, Suzanne Schwarz Meiner.
President Obama’s is: John Bunch I, John Bunch II, John Bunch III, Samuel Bunch, Charles Bunch, Nathaniel Bunch, Anna Bunch Alfred, Frances Allred Wright, Mary Belle Wright McCurry, Leona McCurry Payne, Madelyn Payne Dunham, Barack Obama.
One of my Bunch lines is all male until my Mother, so if there were any sons of my Grandfather’s half brothers: Frank Bunch or John Harlow Bunch, it would be a good line for testing.
I have discovered–much to my dismay–that at least two of my ancestors, James Suprey Bunch and David Pouncey Bunch were slave owners, and that James Suprey Bunch sold a slave named Savoney. President Obama’s ancestor, Nathaniel Bunch had slaves, but freed them upon his death.
Every week I see you use the magic of your staff to find the impossible. Will you use that magic and tell me whether Mark Bunch is correct that John Bunch was from the African continent? Or did the African blood come from a different path?
I’m thanking you in advance for any consideration you may give this matter.
Suzanne Meiner

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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