Obama’s Ancestry

Primary Sources

01.   Clarence H. Kerns
Born: May 1, 1917   Died: January 2, 2014
Classmate of Stanley Dunham
Clarence went to school with Stanley Dunham. He served as the class historian for his graduation class at El Dorado High School, the class of 1935. Stanley was in that class but did not graduate that year.

02.   Carolyn (née Ewing) Short
Born: August 17, 1918   Died: October 19, 2010
Classmate of Stanley Dunham
Carolyn Short went to school with Stanley Dunham. She claimed not to remember him well, but the details she did remember are not found elsewhere in these interviews.

03.   Anna Margaret (née McCurry) Wolf
Born: November 21, 1935   Died: March 3, 2013
First cousin to Madelyn (née Payne) Dunham, first cousin twice-removed to Barack Obama
Margaret shares her childhood memories of President Obama's grandparents and playing with Stanley Ann, President Obama's mother.

04.   Clifford W. Stone
Born: November 9, 1918   Died: January 21, 2010
Schoolmate of Stanley Dunham
As a contemporary of Stanley Dunham, Clifford's memories are relevant to the time period covered by this oral history project. In this interview, he talks about the influence of oil, and the business climate in the community.

05.   Forrest J. Robinson
Born: September 7, 1922   Died: March 1, 2012
Pastor to Madelyn (née Payne) Dunham’s parents, Rolla and Leona Payne
Forrest was the pastor of President Obama's great-grandparents, Rolla and Leona Payne, late in their lives. He shares his experiences of living in south central Kansas, and his World War II memories.

06.   A. Margaret (née Haines) Doornbos
Born: December 19, 1918   Died:
Classmate of Stanley Dunham
Margaret, a 1936 graduate of El Dorado High School, shares memories about high school and the dust storms of the “dirty thirties.”

07.   Virginia (née Dashner) Ewalt
Born: June 8, 1924   Died:
Classmate of Madelyn Payne Dunham
Virginia, Augusta High School class of 1940, recalls events from their high school years and how the war and gas rationing in the 1940's impacted everyday life in Augusta...taking the train to Wichita, the

08.   Mary Frances (née Kennedy) Lawrence
Born: April 9, 1922   Died: April 14, 2012
Friend of Madelyn (née Payne) Dunham
Frances Lawrence, friend of Madelyn (née Payne) Dunham, President Obama's maternal grandmother, shares her personal memories of Madelyn and growing up in Augusta, Kansas.

09.   Bill D. Dennett
Born: September 2, 1921   Died:
Schoolmate to Madelyn (née Payne) Dunham
Bill shares stories about a one-room schoolhouse in Gordon, attending Augusta High School in the late 1930's, his time in the service during World War II, and working on the railroad.

10-1.   Nina June (née Swan) Parry
Born: June 23, 1923   Died: October 30, 2012
Schoolmate to Madelyn Payne
Lifelong friends, Nina June and Nelva recount growing up in Augusta, life during World War II, and their friendship with President Obama's grandmother, Madelyn (Payne) Dunham.

10-2.   Nelva (née Seaburn) Wentz
Born: February 24, 1923   Died:
Schoolmate to Madelyn Payne
Lifelong friends, Nina June and Nelva recount growing up in Augusta, life during World War II, and their friendship with President Obama's grandmother, Madelyn (Payne) Dunham.

11.   Lois Olsen Cox, née Olsen
Born: March 16, 1924   Died:
Schoolmate to Madelyn Payne
Lois recalls growing up on a farm outside Augusta, KS and events from her years at Augusta High School. She shares her surprise at finding a note written by Madelyn (née Payne) Dunham in her autograph book that she sent to the White House, and the personal letter of thanks she received from President Obama.

12.   Raymond James Teegarden
Born: October 9, 1922   Died: February 20, 2014
Schoolmate to Madelyn Payne
Raymond James Teegarden walked to school with Madelyn (née Payne) Dunham, who also sometimes informally tutored him. He was on the Augusta High School football team, and in this oral history, he tells a compelling story about the team’s spontaneous protest against a cafe that refused to serve their fellow teammate, who happened to be the only African American on the team.

13.   Margaret (née Lewis) Shirk
Born: August 18, 1917   Died:
Wife of David Shirk (1915-2009), Stanley Dunham’s classmate
Margaret (née Lewis) Shirk tells the story of her husband, David Lee Shirk (1915-2009) who lived with his family in a boxcar during the Depression. The El Dorado Rotary Club loaned him $60 to attend the University of Kansas. He saved the receipt for repayment of the interest-free loan all his life, and his wife established a scholarship fund in his memory. The couple spent a day with David’s high school classmate, Stanley Dunham, in Hawaii. Margaret remembers Stanley bragging on his grandson, who he predicted would go far in life.

14.   Christina (née Henry) Snyder
Born: June 1, 1923   Died:
Schoolmate of Madelyn Payne
Christine (née Henry) Snyder was a year behind Madelyn in school, and being from the country south of Augusta, did not attend school in Augusta until high school, so she does not recall having personally known Madelyn, though she remembers knowing who she was when they were in high school.

15.   Esther (née Gonzales) Mayes
Born: March 8, 1924   Died:
Schoolmate of Madelyn (nee Payne) Dunham
Esther (née Gonzales) Mayes was two years behind Madelyn Payne at Augusta High School, and remembers her, but knew Arlene and Charles, her younger siblings, better. Her parents emigrated from Mexico in 1914, and her family was one of the minority families living in Augusta when she grew up. She shares some memories from that perspective, and memories about two of her brothers who saw action and died during World War II, one of whom received the Silver Star.

16.   Berry Harris
Born: November 27, 1929   Died:
Berry Harris has played the blues for over 70 years, in just about every club in Wichita. Berry recollects the many experiences his guitar has brought him. Among music fans he met were three white women from Augusta, who frequented his club and his neighborhood in the 1950s.

Videos, Books, Resources

  • President Obama: From Kansas to the Capital 4-part series by Susan Peters, KAKE.com
  • President Obama’s Kansas Heritage, KTWU Sunflower Journeys segment produced by Dave Kendall
  • Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss
  • A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, by Janny Scott
  • Surviving against the Odds, by S. Ann Dunham
  • Kansas Historical Society
  • White House Profile of President Obama
  • Family of Barack Obama