Now this really is strange news. As it turns out, Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama and current US President George W. Bush are distantly related… as are Harry Truman, George Sr. and Dick Cheney.
Now I know that actually makes a lot of sense considering Obama’s diverse ancestry, but what really impresses me is that he can trace his family tree back to his great x 8 grandfathers! In my family, we can’t trace back much further than my great grandparents; our records just aren’t that good.
Kudos to the Obama/Bush/Truman/Cheney clan for keeping that family tree up to date. Awkward.
They fought leopards in Africa and for their lives on the American frontier. They served on the U.S. Supreme Court and stole from governors. They owned slaves in Maryland and cooperated with white oppressors in Kenya.
Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s ancestors are as diverse a group as one might expect for a man born to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya. Using interviews with family members and genealogists, a study of archives and records, and Obama’s book, "Dreams from My Father," the Chicago Sun-Times has cobbled together biographies of 16 of Obama’s ancestors, from the noble to the, well, not-so-noble.
And his family tree has its share of surprises. Take, for instance, the distant relation to three U.S. presidents — Harry S. Truman, George W. Bush and George Herbert Walker Bush — as well as to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Obama’s ancestors hail from seven countries: Kenya, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands. And he has seven half brothers and half sisters living across some 10,000 miles.
The Illinois Senator embraces the diversity of his heritage, referencing it during his now-famous 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention.
"I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible," he said.
In a report in Sunday’s editions, the Sun-Times introduces characters like Obama’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather Jonathan Singletary, whose methods for discrediting enemies in colonial Massachusetts included accusing them of being witches.
Singletary was convicted of defamation and slander, and he was later arrested for stealing from the governor’s home.
Obama’s ancestors walked a different path in eastern Africa, where his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was a leader and respected warrior of the Luo tribe.
His paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, bragged of chasing away leopards during a two-week trek to Nairobi during colonial rule in Kenya. But — to his grandson’s dismay — he also worked for white oppressors, first supervising road crews and then working in a white man’s home.
While Obama’s relatives managed to escape ever being enslaved, many did own slaves themselves, a revelation that his campaign has responded to by saying his ancestors "are representative of America."
For his forebears who struck out across the American frontier, life could be cruel: Several ancestors were killed or kidnapped by American Indians in Kentucky.
Genealogists warn not to make too much of Obama’s links to U.S. presidents, saying they’re a distinction not uncommon to Americans with ties to New England.
Still, it’s worth noting that President Truman is Obama’s fourth cousin four times removed, and Obama and the current President Bush are 11th cousins, sharing the same great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents in 17th century Massachusetts. Obama and Cheney have a common ancestor who migrated from France in the 17th century.
Other public servants in Obama’s heritage include a second cousin of his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Gabriel Duvall, who served in Congress and on the U.S. Supreme Court.
While Obama acknowledges being shaped by the diversity of his ancestors, the impact of a more direct relative — his Kansas-born mother, Stanley Ann Dunham — can’t be overlooked.
His parents divorced when he was just 2 years old, and his mother was left to raise him alone. She died in 1995 of ovarian cancer at the age of 53.
Obama has called her "the single constant in my life" and credits her influence for "that what is best in me."