Family of Barack Obama
|Ethnicity||African American, English-Irish American|
|Current region||Washington, D.C., U.S.|
|Place of origin||various|
|Members||Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Ann Dunham, Barack Obama Sr..|
|Connected families||Robinson, Dunham, Soetoro, Ng|
|Traditions||Protestants (various churches visited; no definitive denomination)|
The family of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, is made up of people of Kenyan (Luo), English, African-American and Irish, French, Scottish, English, Welsh, German and Swiss ancestry as established through Obama's writings and other reports. His immediate family is the First Family of the United States. The Obamas are the first First Family of African descent.
- Michelle Obama, née Robinson, the wife of Barack Obama, was born on January 17, 1964, in Chicago, Illinois. She is a lawyer and was a University of Chicago Hospital vice-president. She is the First Lady of the United States.
Malia Obama and Sasha Obama
- Barack and Michelle Obama have two daughters: Malia Ann //, born July 4, 1998, and Natasha (known as Sasha //), born on June 10, 2001. They were both delivered by their parents' friend Anita Blanchard at University of Chicago Medical Center. Sasha is the youngest child to reside in the White House since John F. Kennedy Jr. arrived as an infant in 1961. In 2014 Malia and Sasha were named two of "The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014" by Time magazine.
Before his inauguration, President Obama published an open letter to his daughters in Parade magazine, describing what he wants for them and every child in America: "to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world."
While living in Chicago, the Obamas kept busy schedules, as the Associated Press reports: "soccer, dance and drama for Malia, gymnastics and tap for Sasha, piano and tennis for both." In July 2008, the family gave an interview to the television series Access Hollywood. Obama later said they regretted allowing the children to be included.
Malia and Sasha attend the private Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., the same school that Chelsea Clinton, Tricia Nixon Cox, and Archibald Roosevelt attended and that the grandchildren of Vice President Joe Biden attend. The Obama girls began classes there on January 5, 2009. Before the family moved to Washington in 2009, both girls attended the private University of Chicago Laboratory School.
In his victory speech on the night of his election, President Obama repeated his promise to Sasha and Malia to get a puppy to take with them to the White House. The selection was slow because Malia is allergic to animal dander; the president subsequently said that the choice had been narrowed down to either a labradoodle or a Portuguese Water Dog, and that they hoped to find a shelter animal. On April 12, 2009, it was reported that the Obamas had adopted a six-month-old Portuguese Water Dog given to them as a gift by Senator Ted Kennedy; Malia and Sasha named the dog Bo. The White House refers to Bo as the First Dog. In 2013, the family adopted a second Portuguese Water Dog named Sunny.
As a high school student, Malia Obama spent a portion of the summer in 2014 and 2015 working in television studios in New York and Los Angeles. In May 2016, the White House announced that following her graduation from Sidwell Friends, Malia will take a gap year and then attend Harvard University in 2017 as part of the class of 2021.
During the week June 26, 2016 to July 3, 2016, Michelle, Sasha, Malia and Michelle's mother Marian Robinson went to Liberia to promote the Let Girls Learn Peace initiative, which the United States funded it $27 million in aid for expansion. They met with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the first elected female head of state in Africa. Then they moved to Morocco, where they had a panel with Frieda Pinto and Meryl Streep moderated by CNN's Isha Sesay in Marrakesh and delivered a substantive amount of money to aid 62 million girls lacking access to formal education. They arrived in Spain where Michelle delivered a message about the initiative. In August 2016, Sasha started working at Nancy's, a seafood restaurant in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
- Marian Robinson, Barack Obama's mother-in-law, resides in the White House. She is part of the Robinson family (see below).
He often referred to his family during his candidacy and term as President. Obama's maternal heritage consists mostly of English ancestry, with much smaller amounts of German, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Swiss, and French ancestry.
- Mother of Barack Obama, born in 1942; died in 1995. Born Stanley Ann Dunham, she was an American anthropologist who specialized in economic anthropology and rural development. She earned her PhD degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and worked with the United States Agency for International Development, the Ford Foundation, and Women's World Banking, to promote the use of microcredit in order to combat global poverty. The Ann Dunham Soetoro Endowment in the Anthropology Department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the Ann Dunham Soetoro Graduate Fellowships at the East–West Center (EWC) in Honolulu, Hawaii are named in her honor. Obama refers to his mother as the dominant figure in his formative years. "The values she taught me continue to be my touchstone when it comes to how I go about the world of politics."
- Stanley Dunham is the grandfather of Barack Obama. He was born in 1918 and served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II, enlisting just after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Stanley and his wife Madelyn raised Obama in Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition to Obama, Stanley is related to six US presidents: James Madison, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. He died in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1992, and is buried at the Punchbowl National Cemetery.
- Barack Obama's maternal grandmother was born in 1922 and died on November 2, 2008. She was a bank vice president in Hawaii. Obama said that when he was a child, his grandmother "read me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and told me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something."
- Great-uncle of Barack Obama, younger brother of Madelyn Dunham, born 1925. Served during World War II in the U.S. Army 89th Infantry Division. Obama has often described Payne's role in liberating Ohrdruf forced labor camp. There was brief media attention when Obama mistakenly identified the camp as Auschwitz during the campaign. In 2009, Payne spoke about this experience:
"Ohrdruf was in that string of towns going across, south of Gotha and Erfurt. Our division was the first one in there. When we arrived there were no German soldiers anywhere around that I knew about. There was no fighting against the Germans, no camp guards. The whole area was overrun by people from the camp dressed in the most pitiful rags, and most of them were in a bad state of starvation."
- Payne appeared in the visitor's gallery at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, when his great-nephew was nominated for President. He was the assistant director of the University of Chicago's Library.
- Great-uncle of Barack Obama, older brother of Stanley Dunham, born 1916, died 2012. He served in the U.S. Army as an assignment and personnel officer during World War II, landing at Normandy's Omaha Easy Red Beach on D-Day plus four, working his way through France, Italy and Germany.
Margaret Arlene Payne
- Great-aunt of Barack Obama; younger sister of Madelyn Payne Dunham and Charles T. Payne. Born 1927, died 2014. She was a professor of nutrition who taught at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and subsequently at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1980 to 1990. She authored numerous research articles and two books.
- According to Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father, his great-grandmother Leona McCurry was part Native American, which Obama was told Leona held as a "source of considerable shame" and "blanched whenever someone mentioned the subject and hoped to carry the secret to her grave"; whereas her daughter (Obama's maternal grandmother) "would turn her head in profile to show off her beaked nose, which along with a pair of jet-black eyes, was offered as proof of Cherokee blood." To date, no concrete evidence has surfaced of Cherokee heritage.
- Fulmoth Kearney (circa 1829-1878) was a third great-grandfather of Barack Obama. Born circa 1829 in Moneygall, Ireland, he emigrated to Ohio via New York in 1850, making him the most recent immigrant on the maternal side of Barack Obama's family tree. Fulmoth married Charlotte Holloway and raised a family which included three Kearney daughters (including Mary Ann) who married three Dunham brothers. He and his wife are buried in Fairview Cemetery in Labette County, Kansas, where descendants placed a headstone in 2014. Around the same time, a photo of him was discovered. Barack Obama visited Moneygall in 2011.
- His formal Javanese given name was Martodihardjo, born in Indonesia 1936, died 1987. The second husband of Ann Dunham (married on March 15, 1965) and stepfather to Barack Obama, he is the father of Maya Soetoro-Ng. After his divorce from Dunham, Soetoro married Erna Kustina. They had two children, Yusuf Aji Soetoro (b. 1981) and Rahayu Nurmaida Soetoro (b. 1984).
- Half-sister of Barack Obama, born August 15, 1970, in Jakarta, Indonesia. She has another half-brother, Yusuf, and a half-sister, Aya, from her father's second marriage. She is married to Konrad Ng, with whom she has two daughters, Suhaila and Savita. Maya Soetoro-Ng is a teacher in Hawaii.
- Brother-in-law of Barack Obama, born 1974. He is of Overseas Chinese descent, and his parents are from Kudat and Sandakan, two small towns in Sabah, Malaysia. Ng and his younger brother, Perry, were born and raised in Burlington, Ontario. Perry Ng works for the University of Ottawa. He married Maya Soetoro-Ng at the end of 2003 in Hawaii. They have two daughters, Suhaila and Savita. Konrad Ng is a US citizen. He is an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii's Academy of Creative Media. He studied philosophy at McGill University and cultural studies at the University of Victoria before he got his PhD degree from University of Hawaii at Manoa.
- Ng studies "how minority and diaspora communities use cinema and digital media to engage in artistic and cultural representation and preservation, and community mobilization." Since 2011 he has served as director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.
- Barack Obama's great-great-great-grandfather. He served as a private in Company A, 145th Ohio Infantry during the American Civil War. He is buried in the Olathe Memorial Cemetery in Olathe, Kansas.
- News sources reported in July 2012 that according to Ancestry.com, through research in a combination of historical documents and yDNA analysis, John Punch, the first documented African slave in the American British colonies, has been documented as likely an eleventh great-grandfather of Obama through his mother, Ann Dunham, and her Bunch ancestors. With intermarriage, there were eventually both white and African-American lines of descent from Punch; some Bunch descendants were classified as white by the early 18th century. Other Bunch descendants intermarried as free people of color; Ralph Bunche, US minister to the United Nations, is thought by historian Paul Heinegg to have likely been a descendant of the Bunch family via South Carolina and Detroit, Michigan.
- Born in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1640, Barack Obama's eighth great-grandfather was his earliest ancestor known to be born in North America.
The Obamas are members of the Luo people, Kenya's second-largest ethnic group. Linguistically, Luo is one of the Nilotic languages. The Obama family is concentrated in the western Kenyan province of Nyanza.
Hussein Onyango Obama
- Paternal grandfather to Barack Obama, he was born Onyango Obama (c. 1895–1979). (One source gives 1870–1975 as his dates of birth and death, possibly based on his tombstone in his home village. Barack Obama relates finding in 1988 a British document, based on a 1928 ordinance, recording his grandfather as 35 years old. The date of the document was estimated to be about 1930, which would mean that his grandfather had been born around 1895.) The Luo are given names related to the circumstances of their birth, and Onyango means "born in the early morning."
Onyango was the fifth son of his mother, Nyaoke, who was the first of the five wives of his father, Obama. Barack Obama relates how his step-grandmother Granny Sarah (Sarah Onyango Obama) describes his grandfather: "Even from the time that he was a boy, your grandfather Onyango was strange. It is said of him that he had ants up his anus, because he could not sit still." As a young man, Onyango learned to speak, read and write in English, the language of colonial administration.
Onyango worked as a mission cook and as a local herbalist. He joined the King's African Rifles during World War I.
In 1949, Onyango spent at least six months in Kamiti Prison. He was probably tried in a magistrates' court on charges of sedition or being a member of a banned organization. Records do not survive; all such documentation was routinely destroyed after six years by the British colonial administration. He was tortured to extract information about the growing insurgency seeking the independence of Kenya. In his memoir, Obama recounted family descriptions of his grandfather's shocking physical state when released from prison:
"When he returned to Alego he was very thin and dirty. He had difficulty walking, and his head was full of lice." For some time, he was too traumatized to speak about his experiences. His wife told his grandson Obama: "From that day on, I saw that he was now an old man."
Habiba Akumu Obama
- Also known as Akumu Nyanjoga and Sje (c. 1918–2006). Sje was Barack Obama's paternal grandmother, and the second wife of Hussein Onyango Obama. She had three children with Onyango: daughters Sarah and Auma, and son Barack (Barack Obama's father). Her father was named Njango, and she was born and raised in the Western Kenyan village of Karabondi. In his memoir Dreams from My Father, Obama wrote that Akumu was miserable in her marriage and abandoned Onyango Obama and her children with him. She subsequently married again and moved to Tanganyika, now Tanzania. Her name Akumu means "mysterious birth," related to her conception after her mother had given birth to another child, but before resumption of the woman's menses. Akumu took the name Habiba upon her conversion to Islam. A photograph of her holding her son, Barack Sr., on her lap is on the cover of her grandson's memoir. (See image at right margin.)
Sarah Obama (aunt of Barack Obama)
- Aunt of U.S. President Barack Obama and elder sister of his father, born 1933 to Hussein Onyango and second wife, Habiba Akumu Obama. (She should not be confused with her stepmother Sarah Onyango Obama, also often called just Sarah Obama, the third wife of Onyango.)
- Barack Obama's father (1934–1982), son of Onyango and second wife Habiba Akumu Obama. Educated in the US at the University of Hawai'i and Harvard University, he returned to Kenya, where he became an economist with the government, serving in the ministries of transportation and finance. Obama Sr. was married a total of three times and fathered a daughter and at least four sons in addition to Barack II.
Hawa Auma Hussein (aunt of Barack Obama)
- Aunt of U.S. President Barack Obama and younger sister of his father, born to Hussein Onyango and second wife Habiba Akumu Obama. She is the sole surviving full sibling of Barack Obama Sr.
- Third wife of Obama's paternal grandfather, born 1922. She is known for short as Sarah Obama; she is sometimes referred to as Sarah Ogwel, Sarah Hussein Obama, or Sarah Anyango Obama. She lives in Nyang'oma Kogelo village, 30 miles west of western Kenya's main town, Kisumu, on the edge of Lake Victoria. (She should not be confused with her stepdaughter of the same name, Sarah Obama, a daughter of Onyango's second wife Akumu.) Although she is not a blood relation, Barack Obama calls her "Granny Sarah". Sarah, who speaks Luo and only a few words of English, communicates with President Obama through an interpreter. On July 4, 2008, Sarah Obama attended the United States Independence Day celebrations in Nairobi, hosted by Michael Ranneberger, the US ambassador in Kenya. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, she protested attempts to portray Obama as a foreigner to the United States or as a Muslim, saying that while Obama's grandfather had been a Muslim, "In the world of today, children have different religions from their parents." Sarah Obama is "a strong believer of the Islamic faith", in her words. In November 2014, Sarah Obama received an award from the United Nations for the work of an education foundation that she heads, as a part of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.
- (Also known as Kezia Aoko and as "Grace," she was born c. 1940.) She is Barack Obama Sr.'s first wife; she married him in Kenya in 1954 before he studied abroad in the United States. They had at least two children together: Abongo [Roy] and Auma; and she has also claimed Bernard and Abo Obama as sons by Barack Sr. She lives in Bracknell, Berkshire, England. On March 22, 2009, Kezia Obama made a guest appearance on the British television show Chris Moyles' Quiz Night. Her sister, Jane, is the 'Auntie Jane' mentioned at the very start of Dreams from My Father; she telephoned Obama in the US in 1982 to tell him that his father had been killed in a car accident in Kenya.
- Barack Obama's half-brother, also known as Abongo or Roy, was born c. March 1958, the son of Barack Obama Sr. and his first wife, Kezia. Malik Obama was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. He earned a degree in accounting from the University of Nairobi. The half brothers met for the first time in 1985 when Barack flew from Chicago to Washington, D.C., to visit Malik. Malik and his half-brother Barack were best men at each other's weddings. Barack Obama brought his wife Michelle to Kenya three years later, and they met with Malik again while meeting many other relatives for the first time. Although much of the Obama family has dispersed throughout Kenya and overseas, most, including Malik Obama, still consider their rural village on the shores of Lake Victoria to be their true home. They feel that those who have left the village have become culturally "lost". A frequent visitor to the United States, and a consultant in Washington, D.C., for several months each year, Malik settled in the Obamas' ancestral home, Nyang'oma Kogelo, a village of several hundred people. He prefers its slow pace to that of the city. He runs a small electronics shop a half-hour's drive outside of town. During his brother's presidential campaign, Malik Obama was a spokesman for the extended Obama family in Kenya. He dealt with safety and privacy concerns arising from the increased attention from the press. He ran for governor of the Kenyan county of Siaya in 2013, and was defeated by a wide margin. Prior to the 2016 United States presidential election, he stated that he supported Donald Trump, the candidate for the Republican Party. Malik Obama is a United States citizen and has lived in Washington, D.C., since 1985. 
- Barack Obama's half-sister, born c. 1960, to Kezia, his father's first wife. As of July 2008, she was a development worker in Kenya. She studied German at the University of Heidelberg from 1981 to 1987. After her graduation at Heidelberg, she went on for graduate studies at the University of Bayreuth, earning a PhD degree in 1996. Her dissertation was on the conception of labor in Germany and its literary reflections. Auma Obama has lived in London. In 1996 she married an Englishman, Ian Manners, although they have since divorced. They have a daughter named Akinyi (b. 1997). In 2011, Auma Obama was interviewed for Turk Pipkin's documentary Building Hope and was the subject of a German documentary film The Education of Auma Obama.
- Barack Obama's alleged half-brother, also known as Samson Obama, born 1968 to Kezia Obama. In Dreams from My Father, Obama wrote that his Obama relatives doubt that Abo and Bernard are the biological sons of Barack Obama Sr. Abo is a mobile phone shop manager in Kenya.
- Barack Obama's alleged half-brother, born 1970 to Kezia Obama. Dreams from My Father states that the Obama family doubt Abo and Bernard are the biological sons of Barack Obama, Sr. He had been an auto parts supplier in Nairobi, Kenya, and has one child. Bernard converted to Islam as an adult and has said: "I'm a Muslim, I don't deny it. My father was raised a Muslim. But it's not an issue. I don't know what all the hullabaloo is about."
Ruth (Baker) Ndesandjo
- Born Ruth Beatrice Baker in the United States around 1937, the daughter of Maurice Joseph Baker and Ida Baker of Newton, Massachusetts, who are of Lithuanian Jewish descent. Ruth Baker was a 1954 graduate of Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts, and a 1958 graduate of Simmons College in Boston with a degree in business. She was a suburban elementary school teacher when she met and began dating Barack Sr. in Cambridge in June 1964, a month before his return to Kenya in August 1964. She followed Obama Sr. back to Kenya five weeks later, and married him in Kenya in a civil ceremony on December 24, 1964. She later became a private kindergarten director in Kenya. She had two sons with Barack Obama Sr.: Mark and David. She and Barack Sr. separated in 1971 and divorced about 1973. Since she remarried when her sons were young, they took their stepfather's surname, Ndesandjo, as their own. Her third son, Joseph Ndesandjo, was born c. 1980 in her second marriage.
Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo
- Barack Obama's half-brother, born c. 1965, son of Barack Obama Sr. and his third wife Ruth Baker. Mark Ndesandjo runs an Internet company called WorldNexus that advises Chinese corporations how best to reach international customers. Mark was educated in the US, graduating from Brown University; he studied physics at Stanford University, and received an MBA degree from Emory University. He has lived in Shenzhen, China, since 2002. Through his mother, he is Jewish. He is married to Liu Xuehua (also spelled Liu Zue Hua in some reports), a Chinese woman from Henan Province. He is an accomplished pianist and has performed in concert. In 2009, Mark Ndesandjo published a semi-autobiographical novel, Nairobi to Shenzhen: A Novel of Love in the East. He published a memoir in 2013, entitled, Cultures: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery. In it, he accused their father Barack Sr. of abuse.
David Ndesandjo (c. 1967 – c. 1987)
- Barack Obama's half-brother (also known as David Opiyo Obama), son of Barack Obama Sr. and his third wife, Ruth Baker, an American. He died in a motorcycle accident several years after his father's death in a car accident.
George Hussein Onyango Obama
- Youngest half-brother of Barack Obama, born c. 1982, son of Barack Obama Sr. and Jael Otieno. (She has since moved to Atlanta, Georgia as a full-time resident.) George was six months old when his father died in an automobile accident, after which he was raised in Nairobi by his mother and a French stepfather. His mother took him to South Korea for two years while she was working there. Returning to Kenya, George Obama "slept rough for several years," until his aunt gave him a six-by-eight foot corrugated metal shack in the Nairobi slum of Huruma Flats. As of August 2008, George Obama was studying to become a mechanic. He received little attention until featured in an article in the Italian-language edition of Vanity Fair in August 2008 during the US presidential campaign. This portrayed him as living in poverty, shame, and obscurity. The article quoted George Obama as saying that he lived "on less than a dollar a month" and said that he "does not mention his famous half-brother in conversation" out of shame at his own poverty. In later interviews, George contradicted this account. In an interview with The Times, he "said that he was furious at subsequent reports that he had been abandoned by the Obama family and that he was filled with shame about living in a slum."
- He told The Times, "Life in Huruma is good." George Obama said that he expects no favors, that he was supported by relatives, and that reports he lived on a dollar a month were "all lies by people who don't want my brother to win." He told The Telegraph that he was inspired by his half-brother. According to Time, George "has repeatedly denied ... that he feels abandoned by Obama." CNN quoted him as saying, "I was brought up well. I live well even now. The magazines, they have exaggerated everything – I think I kind of like it here. There are some challenges, but maybe it is just like where you come from, there are the same challenges." George Obama and the British journalist Damien Lewis published George's story in a 2011 book called Homeland. George also appeared in the 2012 film, 2016: Obama's America, an anti-Obama documentary.
Omar Okech Obama
- At times using a variation of the name of his father, Onyango Obama, Omar Okech Obama is a half-uncle of Barack Obama. Born on June 3, 1944, in Nyang'oma Kogelo, he is the eldest son of Onyango and his third wife, Sarah Obama. He moved to the United States in October 1963 when he was 17 years old as part of Kenya president Tom Mboya's Airlift Africa project, to send promising Kenyan students to the US for education, particularly undergraduate and graduate school. Once he arrived in the country, his half-brother, Barack Obama Sr., found him a place at a boys' school then known as Browne & Nichols, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He later dropped out of school and changed his name to O. Onyango Obama. He has operated a liquor store in Framingham, where he resided as of March 2011. Barack Obama lived with Onyango in the 1980s while a student at Harvard Law School in Cambridge. Omar Okech Obama was subject to a deportation order in 1989. After an unsuccessful appeal, he was given a new deportation order in 1992. He was arrested on August 24, 2011, for driving under the influence, or DUI, and was held in jail until September 9, 2011, on a federal immigration warrant. The Boston Herald reported in August 2011 that Obama had had a valid Social Security card "for at least 19 years." On November 30, 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals remanded the immigration case to the Executive Office for Immigration Review for reconsideration of the original order of deportation, which was issued in 1986 and re-issued in 1992. An immigration judge ruled on January 30, 2013, that Onyango Obama would receive a deportation hearing. Onyango's attorneys said that his defense at the December 3, 2013, deportation hearing would be a reliance on the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, because Onyango had resided in the U.S. since before January 1, 1972, the cutoff date of the 1986 amnesty. At the hearing, Immigration Judge Leonard I. Shapiro ruled that Onyango was eligible for permanent residence and that Onyango would receive a green card.
- Half-aunt of Barack Obama, born May 29, 1952, in Kenya, Onyango is referred to as "Aunti Zeituni" in Obama's memoir Dreams from My Father. She entered the US in 2000 on a temporary visa with her son who was going to school; she applied in 2002 for political asylum due to unrest in Kenya and ethnic conflict. This was denied in 2004, but she remained in the country illegally. Her presence was leaked to the media during Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. She was granted asylum in 2010. She died on April 7, 2014 from complications caused by cancer and respiratory problems.
- Half-uncle of Barack Obama,[dead link] born c. 1950s in Nyang'oma Kogelo; son of Onyango and his third wife Sarah Obama.
- Half-uncle of Barack Obama,[dead link] born c. 1950s in Nyang'oma Kogelo; son of Onyango and his third wife Sarah Obama.
Michelle Robinson Obama's extended family
Barack Obama has called his wife Michelle "the most quintessentially American woman I know." Her family is of African-American heritage, descendants of Africans and Europeans of the colonial era and antebellum eras. Michelle Obama's family history traces from colonists and slavery in the South to Reconstruction to the Great Migration to northern cities, in her family's case, Cleveland and Chicago. Each of her four grandparents was multiracial. Some of Michelle's relatives still reside in South Carolina. Extended family from her mother's Shields ancestors also reside in Georgia and throughout the South.
- Michelle's earliest known relative on her father's side is her great-great grandfather Jim Robinson, born in the 1850s, who was an American slave on the Friendfield Plantation in Georgetown, South Carolina in the Low Country, where African Americans developed as the Gullah people and culture. The family believes that after the Civil War, he worked as a Friendfield sharecropper for the rest of his life. He is said to have been buried there in an unmarked grave. Jim married twice, first to a woman named Louiser, with whom he had two sons, Gabriel and Fraser, Michelle Obama's great-grandfather. A daughter was born to the family, but her name has not been discovered, and she is believed to have died as a child. His second marriage to Rose Ella Cohen produced six more children. Fraser had an arm amputated as a result of a boyhood injury. He worked as a shoemaker, a newspaper salesman, and in a lumber mill. Carrie Nelson, Gabriel Robinson's daughter, is the keeper of family lore and the oldest living Robinson at 80 years old in 2008. At least three of Michelle Obama's great-uncles served in the military of the United States. One aunt moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where she worked as a maid. She cooked Southern-style meals for Michelle and her brother Craig, when they were students at Princeton University.
- The earliest known relative on her mother's side is her great-great-great-grandmother, Melvinia Shields, who was held as a slave on a farm in Clayton County, North Georgia. Her master was Henry Walls Shields, who had a 200-acre farm near Rex. He would have worked along with his slaves. Melvinia became pregnant at about age 15 and had a biracial son, Dolphus T. Shields, born into slavery about 1860. Melvinia did not talk to relatives about his father. Based on DNA and other evidence, in 2012 researchers said the father was likely 20-year-old Charles Marion Shields, son of Melvinia's master. After the Civil War, Dolphus Shields moved to Birmingham, Alabama. Charles later became a teacher and married a white woman. Michelle Obama's extended family has said that people didn't talk about slavery time while they were growing up. Michelle Obama's distant ancestry also includes Irish and other European roots.
- Michelle Obama's mother (birthname Marian Lois Shields, born July 30, 1937), is descended from Dolphus Shields and his wife. She is now widowed, but had married Michelle's father, Fraser Robinson, on October 27, 1960. Robinson was formerly a secretary at Spiegel catalog and a bank. While Michelle and Barack Obama were campaigning in 2008, Robinson tended the Obamas' young children. She has continued to help care for them while living in the White House as part of the First Family; she is the first live-in grandmother since Elivera M. Doud during the Eisenhower administration. Some media outlets have dubbed Robinson as the "First Granny". Marian takes Sasha and Malia to school daily and enjoys life in Washington.
Fraser C. Robinson III
- Michelle Obama's father, born August 1, 1935, died March 6, 1991, married Michelle's mother, Marian Shields, on October 27, 1960. Robinson was a pump worker at the City of Chicago water plant.
- Michelle Obama's brother, born 1962. From 2008 until 2014, he served as head coach of men's basketball at Oregon State University.
Fraser Robinson Jr.
- Michelle Obama's paternal grandfather was born on August 24, 1912, in Georgetown, South Carolina, and died on November 9, 1996, aged 84. He was a good student and orator but moved from South Carolina to Chicago during the Great Migration to find better work and living conditions than in the South, where Jim Crow had been imposed and blacks were disfranchised. He became a worker for the United States Postal Service. He married LaVaughn Johnson. When he retired, they moved back to South Carolina.
LaVaughn Dolores Johnson
- Michelle Obama's paternal grandmother (February 6, 1915 – September 17, 2002) and wife of Fraser Robinson Jr. She was born in Chicago, Illinois, to James Preston Johnson (1880–1920?) and Phoebe (1879–1920?).
- He is Michelle Obama's first cousin once removed: his mother, Verdelle Robinson Funnye (born Verdelle Robinson; August 22, 1930 – April 16, 2000), was a sister of Michelle Obama's paternal grandfather, Fraser Robinson Jr. They grew to know each other in Chicago. He is one of America's most prominent African-American rabbis, known for acting as a bridge between mainstream Jewry and African Americans. He converted to Judaism after 1970, during years of activism when he regarded Christianity as having been imposed on slaves.
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