Today, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. It is only fitting that today we will look at his family history and see what stories we can unearth - his family includes an African tribal warrior and six American presidents! MyHeritage even shows you how Obama is related to President Bush!
On his father's side, Obama's family goes back 12 generations to Miwiru. He was the grandfather of Owiny, a warrior-leader of the Luo, a tribe that migrated to Kenya about 400 years ago. The Luo fought many wars with the native tribes and the Bantu. After the wars, the Bantu women intermarried with the Luo men, but unfortunately the women's names and details are lost in the fog of history. This line was preserved through oral tradition, and there are very few written records, so precise dates and facts are lost.
Obama's mother's side is much more extensively documented. In the Duvall line, one of Obama's distant cousins is Gabriel Duvall (1752-1844), who was a member of the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court. He was also a friend of Thomas Jefferson and owed 37 slaves. In this line is also Maureen Duval, Obama's 9th great-grandmother, who links him to president Harry Truman and outgoing vice president Dick Cheney. Obama and Truman are 4th cousins 4 times removed, and he and Cheney are 8th cousins. Going back one more generation, in a different line, is Samuel Hinckley, who is also a distant ancestor of George W. Bush. Other presidential ancestors include James Madison, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, and Jimmy Carter.
Some other notable ancestors on his mother's side are Civil War general Robert E. Lee, painter Georgia O'Keeffe, and Francis Scott Key, who wrote the national anthem. Through her, Obama has genealogical roots in many Western European countries.
Michelle Obama also has a fascinating family history. Her oldest documented relative was Jim Robinson, her great-great-grandfather, who was born around 1850. He was a slave on a rice plantation in South Carolina. All that is known about him is that he was married to a woman named Louiser and he was unable to read or write. His son Fraser Robinson was a newspaper salesman, among holding other jobs, and he would have his children read the newspapers he would sell. In this way, he created a very strong dedication to education in the family, which has been passed down to Michelle and her two daughters.
These stories illustrate the difference between a culture that passes its history down through word of mouth, and a culture that writes its history down. Family stories can survive for many generations, but usually only include simple, direct lines of descent and focus on the most influential individuals and events. Written records can detail much more specific information such as birth and death dates, which allows much more complete family trees to be created. MyHeritage makes it easy to store our family trees online, where they'll be even safer than paper records - which will make work for future genealogists that much easier!
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