Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Another year has passed and we hope that this letter finds you healthy and hopeful during this holiday season. First, we want to share how grateful we are that you are a part of our lives. We are uplifted and enriched by our association with you, and we want you to know that we love you.

So much has happened this year for which we are truly grateful. Jon’s company laid off 500 employees, yet we were blessed that he was able to keep his job at Citrix. Kristen has been making contact with family members all over the country (primarily Bookers) who are also interested in the family history. It has been a blessing to connect with such wonderful people. We hope to get together for a family reunion sometime in 2011. (Let me know if you are interested!)

Kristen is still working at the Family History Center, as well as serving in the church as the music leader. Jon was recently released as the Elder’s Quorum president, where he served for the last 2 ½ years, and was just called to the Stake High Council. We are grateful for this opportunity Jon will have to teach and train in other congregations all over the area, but we’re sad that we won’t be able to sit together at church so much.

We have also been blessed this year with the opportunity to learn American Sign Language. We have several members of our congregation who are deaf, and they are so warm and friendly that we wanted to be able to communicate with them. It has been a blessing for both of us to gain this new skill as it has allowed us to create friendships with wonderful people that we otherwise wouldn't have known.

This year we welcomed a niece and nephew into our extended family – Siene was born in February, and Reid was born in November. We feel so much joy in being an aunt and uncle to them, so it is hard to be so far away, especially at Christmas.

Most of all, we are grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ that gives our lives direction and purpose. Ten years ago this month Kristen was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it is also when we first met at church. We have spent the last 10 years serving the Lord together and watching innumerable blessings come into our lives. We thank God each day for our Savior, and we love the opportunity to celebrate Him even more at Christmastime.

We pray that you and your families will be blessed with all that you need this year, especially with peace during this Christmas season and always.


Jon and Kristen Andersen

The two of us enjoying the view at Snow Canyon near St. George, UT in October.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Calling All Bookers!

I am looking into organizing a family reunion for Bookers descended from Daniel Booker (born 1819 in Virginia as a slave, died in Talladega county, Alabama). We have a rich heritage and a LOT of cousins across the country, so it's about time we get together and celebrate!

Daniel Booker was married to Rachael Welch (and possibly to another woman whose name is unknown), and had the following children:

John (m. Celia Reynolds)

David (m. Willie ?)

Julia Ann (m. Philip Long)

Thomas (m. Tilla Rivers, Nannie Allen)

Basil M. (m. Mattie Pope)

Lafayette (m. Martha Thomas, Ella Reynolds)

Robert Lee (m. Georgia Willis, Etta Lawler)

William Sherman (m. Caroline "Callie" Jemison)

Wesley Scott (m. Jennie Halmon, Estella ?)


Nannie (m. Paul Chapman)

Ann E.

Most of Daniel Booker's descendants either stayed in Alabama or moved to Chicago, New York, and Detroit, and then spread out from there. Please contact me if you are related, interested in getting together for a family reunion, or would like help to see if you are connected to this family.

Also check out this family tree on RootsWeb to get more information on the descendants of Daniel Booker.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Facebook and Family History

This week, I felt a little stuck in my research on my Czech ancestors. I have been checking the message boards at Ancestry.com and I made some connections with people who have similar surnames in their trees, but I just couldn't figure out any really solid links.

Early Sunday morning as Jon was leaving to go to a 7am church meeting, the thought came to me: check on Facebook. I thought it was kind of weird because I usually don't associate Facebook with doing my family history. But I have learned that when you hear that little whisper, you do what it says.

I started looking up the surname Jurasek, and I found that there are quite a few people with that surname living in Michigan, where my line ended up. I sent off a message to a friendly looking U of M alumna, and she wrote back! She is also not sure about how we might be connected, but her father has done some research and she is willing to send it to me.

The miracle was when I was looking at the group "Hey I'm a Tomecek" and found a man with that same surname, who comes from Vnorovy - where my Tomecek ancestors are from! I sent a message to him as well, and he wrote back, too! Not only is he a Tomecek from the same village, but he is into genealogy, has several of the same surnames in his family tree, speaks impeccable English, AND is really nice and helpful. I could not have dreamed up a better connection. In order to me to figure out how we are related, though, I will essentially have to pay a professional researcher to go to the regional and local archives to do research for me. Something tells me that I won't be able to decipher Czech, Latin, and old German records, even if I can scrounge up the money to get there.

So, as it turns out, Facebook is a pretty awesome tool for doing family history research. You just may find a distant cousin from the "old country."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I wish it weren't so...

When will the madness end? Nine years after the last state (Alabama) finally overturned its ban on interracial marriage, we have this mess going on. In Louisiana, a justice of the peace is refusing to issue marriage licenses to interracial couples. I am tired of hearing people against interracial marriage use the excuse that "the marriages don't last long" or that "[interracial] children suffer" from such a marriage.

Mildred and Richard Loving, whose appeal to the Supreme Court in 1967 ended interracial marriage bans in the U.S.

I am mixed. My dad is black, my mom is white. Yes, I went through the moment of uncertainty when I had to check the race box on my college applications. Yes, I encountered my fair share of "not fitting in." But what kid doesn't? I think my experiences were shaped by the racial attitudes of the parents of my schoolmates. I found a great multicultural group of friends whose parents were open to us being friends. It's the adults that pass on attitudes about who you "should" marry, what skin shades and hair textures are "good," and other stereotypes about their own and other cultures. My black relatives and my white relatives love me equally. Even my Czech great-grandparents, who were super-racist and thought that me and my brother were adopted Hawaiian children for the first few years of my life, accepted us whole-heartedly when they finally found out that we were mixed.

I would never trade for a day who I am. I have such a rich heritage from being mixed, and I get to pass that on to my children. I love being brown. I love my curly hair. I love that everywhere I go I am asked if I am local - Hispanic, Polynesian, Mauritian - you name it! I can fit in just about anywhere, and that opens up greater connections for me with people of cultures that are different from my own.

If interracial marriage had still been illegal, I would not be here. And I think that's a shame, because I am doing my best to contribute some good to this world and to offset some of the tragedy that swirls around us. One less good person in the world, just because her parents aren't the same race, would be very, very sad.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Amazing Progress in Research Tools

There are other posts on the internet that talk about the New FamilySearch program, but I just have to add my two cents about how amazing it is - and will continue to become.

In 2007, the LDS Church (who has helped preserve so many records it's ridiculous!) started testing a new version of their FamilySearch.org site. Right now it's called New FamilySearch, but eventually it will replace the current site. It is pretty awesome. The New FamilySearch combines all of the information in the International Genealogical Index (IGI), Ancestral File, and Pedigree Resource File, and will eventually allow for searching in Censuses and other records...all in one shot.

Not only does it streamline the search process, but everything is in a family tree format, so when you find your ancestors in another family tree, you can link it up with your own and contact the person that added that information. If you realize you've made a mistake, you can always un-link it later. What makes this so beautiful is that it is not only going to be available in the U.S. - it is currently rolled out in almost every country in the world! So one day, I fully expect to make contact with some very, very distant cousin in Germany who has linked up their family tree with mine.

One other advantage: it is internet-based, so you don't have to worry about your computer crashing and losing all of your family history information. It currently does not have the capability to add photos or to download a GEDCOM (if, unfortunately, you DO lose all of your family history info on your computer), but I believe that is coming. There are all sorts of features that the Church is developing, and you can check them out at labs.familysearch.org.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Genealogist's Nightmare...

I have been working very hard for almost two years now on writing a book about my African American ancestors. It has been the most challenging and rewarding project I've ever done.

About a month ago, I decided it was time for self-publishing. I had all of the text and photos laid out, I had done four rounds of editing with various friends, and I was pleased with the final result. That day, though, some new historical records became available for free online: the Alabama Statewide Deaths 1908-1974. It was a gold mine!!! I found so many records I could barely handle them all. But then my heart sank as I searched through records for the Magruders and found this:

Name: Annie B. Lampkins
Death date: 26 Nov 1940
Death place: Tuskegee, Macon, Alabama
Gender: Female
Age at death: 46y
Estimated birth year: 1894
Spouse's name: Simon Lampkins
Father's name: George Mcgruder
Mother's name: Sally Fitzpatrick

I found out that the Annie Belle Magruder (Demps) in MY family tree, my great-grandmother, is not the same Annie Belle Magruder whose parents are George Magruder and Sally Fitzpatrick. I linked her to the wrong parents. I'm very fortunate that I caught this HUGE error two days before I was going to publish my work!

Now my challenge is to find the right parents for my great-grandmother. So far, with these newly available death records, I have narrowed down two Annie B. Magruders that are NOT my ancestor: Annie B. Magruder Lampkins, mentioned above, and Annie Bell Magruder Appleby, whose parents are Lazarus and Lou Magruder (also mentioned in my family history). I am pretty much at a standstill until I can find the right parents, but because of the missing 1890 census, it will be a miracle when I find them.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Musings on Father's Day

"Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes." ~Gloria Naylor

I saw this quote and immediately thought of my grandmother, Nellie Booker Demps. During the last few months that she was in the nursing home, Jon and I would go to visit her. We took our laptop full of old photos of her family members, and we would show them to her. Even with Alzheimer's disease taking quite a toll, she remembered most of the names of the people in the photographs. Inevitably, we would come around to this photo:

And as soon as his face flashed on the screen, she would say, "That's my daddy, Joe Booker!" Even at 94 years old, he was still her "daddy." I don't know a lot about Joe Booker's life - mostly that he suffered the loss of his wife when she was only 34 years old - but he must have been something special to Nellie for her to speak his name with such love, almost 30 years after his passing.

Unfortunately, many of us don't have ideals relationships with our fathers. In fact, searching through my family tree for an especially good example of fatherhood revealed too many dysfunctional fathers! As I have searched for my ancestors, I have found that one thing is certain: fathers WILL be remembered. It is up to them to live their lives such that they will leave behind a legacy of honor and love. May all men have the desire to earn the love and respect of their daughters, sons, and wives, so that their names will be praised for generations after they are gone.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Black History Month Part 2

"A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself." --Malcolm X

Mae C. Jemison First African American woman in space (and possibly distantly related to me!)

Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the most visible advocates for non-violence during the Civil Rights Movement

Thurgood Marshall First African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court

Oscar Micheaux First African-American filmmaker, sometimes called the "Cecil DeMille of Race Movies"

Judy W. Reed was the first African-American woman to receive a patent in 1884 for a hand-operated machine used to knead and roll dough.

Sojourner Truth Campaigned for the abolition of slavery, against capital punishment, and in favor of women's rights

Harriet Tubman Freed herself from slavery, then spent her life working to free others through the Underground Railroad

Madame C.J. Walker Inventor, businesswoman, and self-made millionaire before 1920

Booker T. Washington Educator, head of Tuskegee Institute, champion of economic empowerment for Blacks through work and self-reliance

Malcolm X Powerful civil rights activist and spokesman for the Nation of Islam until his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Just in time for the inauguration...

...we are reminded that there is still, unfortunately, reason to be fearful and sad about the lack of progress in our society. At a time when there should be great growth and unity, instead there is an enormous surge in the number of people joining white supremacist groups and committing hate crimes. I have lived through hate crimes. My neighbors were white supremacists. We don't need more hate--we need more of our wounds to heal.

Suggested reading: The Hidden Wound by Wendell Berry. The most enlightening book I have EVER read on racism. You cannot hurt another person without hurting yourself.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Black History Month

We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.

- Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) on founding Negro History Week, 1926

Black History Month (also known as African American Heritage Month) is a time to celebrate the historic achievements and contributions of African Americans to our society and our world. I remember growing up and learning about so many amazing African Americans who were positive role models for me, at a time when all we saw on TV were athletes and musicians. And that's pretty much all you see now, except that suddenly we have a Black president, which is practically a miracle.

This entry (and perhaps a few other ones) will be devoted to making known a few of the amazing Black Americans who have advanced our society, and historical events in which they have participated. I hope this is as fun for you as it is for me. :)

Marian Anderson Contralto performing classical reperatoire whose career included several European tours, performances at the New York Metropolitan Opera and at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

Crispus Attucks The first American to die for the Revolutionary cause

Benjamin Banneker Astronomer and mathematician who carved one of the first clocks in America out of wood

Ralph Bunche Recipient of Nobel Peace Prize and United Nations mediator between Arabs and Jews in Palestine in the 1940s

George Washington Carver Scientist, researcher, and educator at what is now Tuskegee University

Paul Cuffee philanthropist, ship captain, and devout Quaker who hoped to settle free African–Americans in Sierra Leone, Africa in 1815; also founded the first integrated school in Massachusetts in 1797.

Benjamin O. Davis First African American general in the United States Army and commander of the 99th fighter squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen

Frederick Douglass Abolitionist, orator, and writer who fought against slavery

Charles R. Drew Founded world's two largest blood banks and developed preservation of blood plasma

W.E.B. DuBois Author, critic, editor, scholar, civil rights leader, and founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Langston Hughes Author, poet, and world traveler during the Harlem Renaissance.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thoughts on a 'Dream'

"One hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land." Even though Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was talking about one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation, we are still facing these same problems today, what would be 144 years later.

I am sad to say that today is the first time that I watched Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech in its entirety. But I am grateful that I watched it. It is powerful, and it is applicable to today.

We should not be satisfied. This work is not finished. There is still inequality, police brutality, an increase in segregation in schools, an enormous economic and educational disparity between blacks and whites. My dream is Dr. King's dream, that one day people "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Our hearts must change.