Tuesday, November 18, 2008

AfriGeneas: From Africa to the Americas

I stumbled upon an excellent resource recently for African American family history research: AfriGeneas (pronounced: A · fri · GEE · nee · as). Users submit information that they have on their family members into searchable databases, allowing African Americans to search Census records, death records and obituaries, marriage records, photos, and even some slave records for their ancestors. There are also discussion forums, places to list or search for family reunions, and a "Lunch Bunch"--an online chat group that meets Monday through Friday from noon to 1:30pm.

The best resource that I have found on AfriGeneas is the Surname Database. By typing in a surname, you can get a listing of all of the people who are also searching for that surname on AfriGeneas. I was able to make contact with a distant cousin who is related to me through my great-great-great-grandfather, Daniel Booker, by searching for Bookers in Alabama on AfriGeneas. What a miracle!

AfriGeneas is free to use, and you can also submit your own information for others to search. It is an excellent resource to help those of us with African ancestry "climb the 1870 'brick wall.'"

Check out AfriGeneas by clicking here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It IS time for a change...

Over the past two years, I have watched the presidential campaign somewhat closely. Tomorrow it will finally wind down to an end, and the country will know who our next president will be. I have thought much about my great-great-great-grandfathers, John Estill and Daniel Booker, who both waited in line to register to vote in 1866 after they received their freedom from slavery. They did not take for granted this sacred privilege to use their agency, and I have an opportunity to follow their example, 142 years later, by showing up at the polls to vote.

I will not bore you with my views on various political issues, or even announce in whose behalf I will cast my ballot. I will support the president no matter who wins and follow the laws of the land. But I am appalled at the the voter suppression that is rearing its head even to this day, targeting areas with higher percentages of minorities to try to keep them from voting. (Read about one instance here. ) In some areas, people have been making phone calls encouraging people to vote by phone, sending our fliers warning people that they could be arrested if they try to vote with outstanding parking tickets, or that because of the unprecedented number of new voters, they have extended voting to Wednesday, November 5th. These are all attempts to confuse people, and although voters do have a responsibility to educate themselves, many first-time voters may be swayed by this very illegal behavior. It is time for this to stop.

It does not surprise me that there is still so much racism, but it still does hurt.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Walmart taking Christ out of Christmas

Grocery shopping in South Florida is not cheap. Lately, I have been lulled into shopping at Walmart because there are so many of them (there are four within a 5-mile radius of our apartment) and their prices are absolutely unbeatable. I don't agree with their business practices or the way they treat their employees, which is why I have tried to avoid shopping there for so long, but what do you do when food prices are going up and there is a recession?

This morning I went to Walmart to pick up a few basics, and I noticed that they had already put up the Christmas section. It is not even Halloween yet, mind you. But being the Christmas lover that I am, I decided to pick up the remaining pieces in my nativity set that I started last year. I bought figurines of the baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and some animals, and this year I wanted to finish it off with the wise men. I was pretty excited for my early Christmas gift to myself. :)

I want you to know that I went up and down those aisles TWICE. There were no nativity scenes. In fact, there were no references to Christ at all. None. I felt absolutely sick inside. I came home and searched to see if I had just missed something, but the online Walmart site only has four nativity sets now, and none of them are sold in stores.

But they did have a whole row of Hannah Montana tree decorations and stockings, in case you wondered.

According to an article by the World Net Daily, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights at one point back in 2005 launched a boycott on Walmart for "banning" Christmas. I think I will do some personal boycotting of my own. It may be a little more expensive, but I would like to choose to support an establishment that chooses to support my Savior, especially during a time of celebrating His birth.

Read more about the issue at http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=47330

Here's a tongue-in-cheek video about "Big Box Mart" for your viewing pleasure...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reunion Photos and Presentation

Here are links to the photos we took at the family reunion, as well as the visuals I used during my presentation. There are many, many more records than this, and we are updating the links on the right to make them easier to use. Have fun!

Family Reunion
Estell(e) Reunion Presentation Visuals

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Family Reunion and Family Tree

This has been an amazing weekend! Jon and I just spent three days with some of the best people in the world: the Estell(e) family! What a blessing it has been for me to do this family research, because it led me to find out about this family reunion and to meet hundreds of cousins I never knew about. We felt loved by everyone, and we look forward to seeing everyone at the next reunion in 2010!

Since many people at the reunion wanted to know more about how we are all connected, we have put up a family tree that should help with that. I will be working on it over the next few weeks, updating it with the information I got at the reunion, and the look may change if we can find a better-looking website. The "home person" (the first person the tree starts with) is my grandmother, Nellie Booker, and following her line up to John Estill will take you to any other Estell(e)s that you want to find. Enjoy getting to know the many, many Estell(e)s, and more!

Click image to access the Estell/Booker/Demps/Magruder Family Tree

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cemetery photos

Family history and genealogy is a lot of fun. In our travels Kristen and I have photographed and transcribed memorials from many cemeteries. Here we share them with the world. I am licensing these photos and transcriptions under a Creative Commons Attribution License. This means you can copy them and use them for any purpose, as long as you give me (Jon Andersen) credit. Please drop me a note if you find your relatives in here, I'd love to hear from you! The original high-res photos are included here. Look under "named_photos" for the high-res versions.

Corinth Cemetery, Sycamore, Talladega, Alabama
(High-res download)

Wilson Cemetery, Winterboro, Talladega, Alabama
(High-res download)

Detroit Memorial Park East Cemetery, Warren, Macomb, Michigan
(High-res download)

Westview Community Cemetery, Pompano Beach, Broward, Florida
(High-res download)

St Hedwig Cemetery, Dearborn Heights, Wayne, Michigan
(High-res download)

Ayersville Cemetery, Defiance, Ohio
(High-res download)

Cole Cemetery, Shorter, Alabama
(High-res download)

Monday, July 7, 2008

30th Anniversary of Priesthood Revelation

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes known as Mormon. Every now and then I get challenged about my beliefs--among them, how I can be black and be Mormon. I have been a member of this church for almost 10 years; I have attended the church in seven countries on three different continents, and in nine different states. I can say that I have never met more loving, warm, friendly, open, and accepting people anywhere than the Mormons. From the first time I set foot in one of their churches, I felt welcome, and it has been the same every Sunday ever since for all these years.

Every church has their history. This church is no exception. There are all kinds of theories out there about why the priesthood was not extended to all worthy men until 1978, and I don't agree with any of them. But what I do know is that the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness, along with the power to act in the name of God to administer the ordinances of the gospel, is available to all people on earth who seek it. I believe that we are all equal in the eyes of God and that we always have been, and everything is available to all of us to enable us to return to live with our Father in heaven again, regardless of our race. God loves everyone, black and white and Hispanic and Arab, Mormon and Catholic and Baptist and Muslim and Jewish. And He has invited all people to come unto Him.

So in honor of the 30th anniversary of the revelation on the priesthood, I have posted this video for your enjoyment.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Tie That Binds

Today is a good day. After much research and many phone calls and no luck in getting Interlibrary Loan to send me genealogical materials, I finally found a copy of Casey W. Arnette's The Tie That Binds: A History of the Alpine Baptist Church for sale. It just came in the mail. The next closest copies of this book are in Macon, Georgia and Auburn, Alabama (over 500 miles away), and now I have the information at my fingertips! What a blessing.

So I would like to offer to do lookups for other people, because I realize how difficult it is to get a copy of this book. I am particularly interested in doing lookups for people who are doing research on African-American ancestors, but I will look up names in the index for anyone. My husband is also in the process of trying to contact the author/descendants to see if there is any way that this material can be digitized. (We would be happy to do it!)

So if you have stumbled on this blog in search of this book and would like a look-up, post a comment with your email address and I'll do what I can.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wasting time. . . or am I?

I'm supposed to be going on a camping trip this evening, and since Jon is at work, I have the task of making the preparations for such a trip. Of course, I've never REALLY been camping, so my tendency is to overprepare. But then he sent me a link to itsourtree.com, where we can post our family tree and invite others who are connected to our family to also edit and add information in our family tree. . . .And now my camping preparations have gone out the window. Yes, I set out the tent and blankets and flashlights, and I have some warmer clothes ready to sleep in, but there is still the task of food, and that is the part that will take the most time. Yet I have been sitting here adding almost 200 names, and I am so excited to use the feature where it will just send off emails to my cousins to invite them to claim their spots in the family tree. :)

I guess if I'm procrastinating on one responsibility, at least I'm doing something else that's positive. At least that's what I keep telling myself. :)

Check it out: www.itsourtree.com

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Gandy Dancers

I have been doing research on my great-grandfather, Henry Lewis Demps, Jr., whose job in the early 1920s was to move railroad tracks back into place. These African Americans were sometimes known as "gandy dancers" for the tools they used and perhaps the movement with which they pushed the tracks back in place to the rhythm of the calls. Have a look...