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 requires passion 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.
Now comes the chart.
I. Before Dad Obama came to the U.S., he had a wife in Kenya named 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.)
II. Ann Dunham Obama and Barack Obama, Sr.
1. Barack Obama, Jr.
III. Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro and Lolo Soetoro
1. Maya Soetoro Ng
IV. 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. Drunk, he beat her and visited his first wife, so Ruth divorced him.
1. Mark Ndesandjo
2. David Ndesandjo (was killed in a motorcycle accident.)
V. When Dad Obama returned to Kenya with his new wife, Ruth, he would occasionally go visit his old wife, Grace Kezia. But Grace was also in a relationship with another man. So, when he had her next son, it is unknown which was the father.
1. Bernard Obama
VI. Barack Obama Sr, and Unknown
1. George Obama
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about them.