Barack Obama's Branch-y Family Tree

How many half-siblings do you think Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, has?




Would you believe eight?

That's the official count, at any rate, though that number seems approximate.

Here's how it shakes out.


The one who has been front row and center is Maya Soetoro-Ng, 37, who has campaigned on Obama's behalf.

After Obama's parents divorced, Obama's mother Ann Dunham -- Barack Obama Sr.'s second wife -- married a man named Lolo Soetoro. The whole brood, including Obama and his new little half-sister Maya, lived in Indonesia. 

Maya Soetoro-Ng is a Buddhist, holds a Ph.D. in education, has a Chinese-Canadian husband, and teaches at an all-girl's school in Hawaii.

On this video she discusses her relationship with her older half-brother.

We know far less about Obama's half-siblings through his late father's side. Barack Obama Sr. had eight children with four different women. Here's who they are.


When Obama was in London, The Sun found one of his half-brothers in the UK, Bernard Obama.

Bernard is the youngest child from Barack Obama Sr's first marriage in Kenya to Kezia (who now lives in the UK.) He runs an auto parts firm in Nairobi, Kenya, and converted to Islam.

Their other three kids from the Obama Sr./Kezia marriage are Abongo (Roy) Obama who is also known as Malik, half sister Auma Obama, and Abo Obama.

Malik lives in the Obama family's ancestral home in Kenya, Nyangoma-Kogelo, and runs an electronics store nearby. He and Sen. Obama served as best men for each other's weddings. Readers of this blog might also recall the misinformation spread after Malik spoke to Israeli Army Radio.

Malik converted to Islam and Obama wrote in Dreams From My Father that Malik is "prone to make lengthy pronouncements on the need for the black man to liberate himself from the poisoning influence of European culture, and scolds Auma for what he calls her European ways. The words he speaks are not fully his own, and in his transition he can sometimes sound stilted and dogmatic. but the magic of his laughter remains, and we can disagree without rancor."

Obama met his half-sister Auma after their father died in a car accident in 1982.  “I knew at that moment, somehow, that I loved her," Obama wrote in Dreams From My Father. "Even now I can’t explain it; I only know that the love was true, and still is, and I’m grateful for it."

She lives in London, and in 2006 told the Guardian, "Barack was a lot like my father - his hand movements, his gestures, how he talks, how he sits. He's got a certain quietness about him and he sits and he concentrates like my father. He can be in a room full of people and he withdraws on his own. And we've all got the Obama hands - the fingers and everything. So it was amazing to watch that, because I was meeting him for the first time but it felt like I knew him."

The last child from this brood, Abo Obama, doesn't necessarily come across the best in Dreams From My Father.

In 1987, Obama visited Kenya to meet Jok Obama in K'Obama (the people of Obama in the Land of Obama), and Abo wasn't happy that the tape recorder Obama brought him as a gift wasn't a Sony. "I nodded at him, trying not to get angry," the senator wrote. In his half-brother's eyes he saw  "something that reminded me of young men back in Chicago. An element of guardedness, perhaps, and calculation. The look of someone who realizes early in life that he has been wronged."

One except from Dreams make it seem less clear whether Bernard is definitely related to Obama.

Obama's Aunt Zeituni, his dad's sister, tells him that after Obama Sr. went off to live with his third wife Ruth Nidesand, "'well, he would go to Kezia sometimes. You must understand that traditionally she was still his wife. It was during such a visit that Kezia became pregnant with Abo…The thing was, Kezia also lived with another man briefly during this time. So when she became pregnant again, with Bernard, no one was sure who --' Zeituni stopped, letting the thought finish itself.

"'Does Bernard know about this?'" Obama asks.

"'Yes, he knows by now. You understand, such things made no difference to your father. He would say that they were all his children.'"


The London Times also found Obama half-brother Mark Ndesandjo in Shenzhen, China, selling services to help Chinese merchants sell their goods in the U.S.

Mark Ndesandjo is the son of Obama Sr. and his third wife, American Ruth Nidesand, who runs a kindergarten in Nairobi, Kenya. In Dreams From My Father, Obama describes meeting Mark, who said he never thought of settling in Kenya since, “there’s not much work for a physicist, is there, in a country where the average person doesn’t have a telephone...You think that somehow I’m cut off from my roots, that sort of thing. Well, you’re right...At a certain point I made the decision not to think about who my real father was. He was dead to me even when he was still alive. I knew that he was a drunk and showed no concern for his wife and children. That was enough.”

"It made you mad," Obama said.

"Not mad," replied Mark." Just numb."

Obama wrote that when he said goodbye to Mark, “we exchanged addresses and promised to write, with a dishonesty that made my heart ache.”

Mark's brother David Ndesandjo was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Nidesand had another son, Joseph Ndesandjo, owner and president of DHS Security in San Antonio, Texas.

Joseph Ndesandjo may have a resemblance to Obama, but the campaign says they are of no relation, though he is Obama's half brother's half brother.


Lastly, from Barack Obama Sr.'s last known relationship, is George, whom Obama met during that 1987 visit to Kenya.

"I took comfort in the fact that perhaps one day, when he was older, George, too, might want to know who his father had been, and who his brothers and sisters were, and that if he ever came to me I would be there for him, to tell him the story I knew," Obama wrote.

- jpt

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