For years, Doug Wead and I have been researching the siblings of the U.S. presidents for the third in the trilogy of the lives of presidential families. The first one was All the Presidents’ Children, and the second was The Raising of a President, about the parents.Both were fascinating to research, and I found special favorites that touch me, even now, years after publication.
I thought the lives of presidential siblings would be a yawn. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It has been like thumbing through some National Presidential Enquirer. Drunkards and wastrels, patriots and preachers and poets.
Now, with the election of the most astounding political year ever upon us, we looked at the siblings of the candidates. Does Barack Obama have any siblings? What do his siblings do? Where do they live? Who are they?
Frankly, I had to make a chart (as I did to figure out which of George Washington’s siblings were born to whom.)
Obama’s siblings offer a completely different challenge.
First of all, he has no full siblings. But half siblings? It’s hard even to figure out how many there are.
As we know, Barack Obama’s mother was Stanley Ann Dunham, who was a white woman from Kansas, completely committed to improving the lives of people who had no hope. (Those of us who were in the Peace Corps or who work in international relief and development know exactly how passionate she was. It requirespassion to do that work.)
His father was Barack Obama, Sr., a Kenyan goat-herder who managed to get to the United States, study at the University of Hawaii and at Harvard, and eventually become a Kenyan government economist.
The couple met and married in Hawaii, and Barack, Jr. came along, only to be left behind by his father when he was two, when his parents divorced.
The follow chart offers an explanation for the
Before the president's father came to the U.S., he had a wife in Kenya named Grace Kezia. Below are their children, the half siblings of the president.
Father's First Marriage: Grace Kezia
1. Malik Abongo (Roy) Obama
2. Auma Obama (Grace Kezia was pregnant with Auma when Dad Obama left for the U.S.)
3. Abo Obama (born after Dad Obama returned to Kenya)
4. Bernard Obama (perhaps) (See #V below.)
And then he married Ann Dunham.
Father's Second Marriage: Ann Dunham
1. President Barack Obama, Jr.
When Ann and Barack Sr. split up, he went to Harvard, where he married a woman named Ruth Nidesand and took her back to Kenya. They had two children.
Father's Third Marriage: Ruth Nidesand
1. Mark Ndesandjo
2. David Ndesandjo (was killed in a motorcycle accident.)
During his marriage to Ruth, Barack, Sr. was often drunk. When he began to beat her and picked up his relationship with his first wife, Ruth divorced him, Grace Kezia.
Barack, Sr. also had an ongoing relationship with and unknown woman who became pregnant and gave birth to a son. The paternity is uncertain but this son may very well be a half brother to the president.
Father's Fourth Relationship:
1. George Obama
In addition to the half siblings fathered by Barack Obama, Sr., his wives also had multiple marriages producing other half siblings.
Grace Kezia, Obama Sr.'s first wife, was also in a relationship with another man. So, when she had her next son, the father is unknown.
Grace Kezia's Second Marriage:
1. Bernard Obama
Ann Dunham's Second Marriage:
The president was two years old when his father Barack Obama, Sr. walked out on the family. Eventually, his mother married again. Her second husband was Lolo Soetoro. They had one child.
1. Maya Soetoro Ng