To understand Joe Biden, the new US president-elect, one has to know his family history.
Biden is the eldest of four siblings. His sister, Valerie, has advised him throughout his political career, worked for his foundation, and served as vice chair of the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware. He also has two brothers: James and Frank.
Biden married Neilia Hunter in 1966 and they had three children: sons Robert “Hunter” Biden and Joseph “Beau” Biden, and daughter Naomi. Biden’s wife and daughter died in a car accident in 1972, shortly after he was elected to the US Senate. His sons were injured but survived, although Beau later died of brain cancer in 2015, after serving in the military and as attorney general of Delaware.
In 1977, Biden married Jill Jacobs—now Jill Biden, future US first lady—who became godmother to Hunter and Beau. They had a daughter, Ashley Blazer Biden, in 1981. Hunter and Ashley are Biden’s surviving children.
Jill and Joe Biden have seven grandchildren. Beau and wife Hallie Olivere had two children before Beau’s death: Natalie and Robert “Hunter” II. Hunter and first wife Kathleen Buhle had three children: Naomi, Finnegan, and Maisy. After a divorce, Hunter married Melissa Cohen in 2019 and they had a son whose name has not been made public. Hunter was also recently recognized as the father of a fifth, unnamed child (pdf) when the baby’s mother, former exotic dancer Lunden Alexis Roberts, sued Hunter for child support in Arkansas. (She won her case.)
You can find out more about Biden’s granddaughters here:
Biden has said that the death of his first wife and two children profoundly affected him as a person and as a politician, and during the campaign he relayed his experience with grief when speaking to a nation contending with hundreds of thousands of deaths from Covid-19.
The breadth of his personal experience, as well as decades of relationship-forming in the Senate, will be necessary to deal with the tumultuous environment ahead. In his acceptance speech on Saturday, Biden spoke about uniting the country around shared goals, from fighting climate change to building an economy that works for everyone. He also added two members to his family: Harris and her husband, future second gentleman Douglas Emhoff.
“Kamala, Doug—like it or not—you’re family,” Biden said. “You’ve become honorary Bidens and there’s no way out.”