July 23rd, 2008
03:40 PM ET

Meeting cousin Rubystein...

Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET

We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/23/art.bia.martha.jpg caption="Martha Rand Hix and Rubystein McGhee "]

Editor's note: Martha Rand Hix is the great, great grandchild of William Harrison Rand, who had children with his white wife and children with his black mistress in the 1800s. She has a black cousin named Rubystein McGhee, whom she met at a family reunion in Lodi, Texas.

Martha Rand Hix

The truth of the matter is, the best part of genealogy has always been the cousins.

When Rubystein McGhee said we’re kin, I already knew there were black Rands from East Texas. What I didn’t know was exactly how Rubystein’s Harold Rand related to my great-great-grandfather, William Harrison “Hal” Rand, 1822-1909.

Hal brought the Rand family to Cass and Marion counties of Texas in the early 1850s, from Alabama via Mississippi. What I hadn’t known? That Hal’s mixed-race love, Ann Mullins Rand, later Ann Alsbrook, also brought the Rand family to East Texas. Hal, aka Harold, had two families, all riding west in the same wagon.

Once I realized Rubystein’s Harold Rand was also my Hal Rand, I couldn’t stop the thrill. This lovely lady is my third cousin! In genealogy, that’s kissin’ cousins.

One of the first things she did was invite the Hixes to the Rand reunion in Shreveport, Louisiana. What a good excuse to meet this interesting cousin, to meet even more of the Rands, and to dress up.

This, you see, was no bring-a-dish family reunion. There were fashion shows and costume parties; even the kids participated in events, all in a nice hotel. A scholarship presentation highlighted the activities.

Trouble was, my husband and I had a scheduling conflict, and it was the same for the next reunion, Atlanta 2007. The part I most missed? Hugging Cousin Rubystein in person.

By 2007, I had grown quite fond of my retired-educator, textbook-author cousin. We often exchanged e-mails, and sometimes talked on the telephone. Then folks at CNN asked if I had an interest in meeting her. If they arranged for the two of us to meet at the cemetery, the last resting place of our great-great-grandfather, would I show up?

Does a duck quack!

My husband, granddaughter, and I sailed off to East Texas. The moment Cousin Rubystein and I grabbed each other for a hug, it was like I’d known her forever. The soft yet durable sash of kinship and friendship tightened around us. This, I knew, was truly meant to be.

This did not happen at the cemetery, though. We’d been told to arrive at Cousin Thelma’s home. There, a large group of people stood waiting. I swallowed. Back in Kerrville, Soledad O’Brien mentioned that some people might not wish to meet us, and I couldn’t help but wonder if we were being set up for a TV moment.

It wasn’t that way at all.

These cousins opened their arms to my bunch of newbie Rands. From young Willie Sheppard who got interested in genealogy in grade school, to several daughters of the late Lonnie and Johnie Rand, to Dick Rand’s granddaughter (the aforesaid, lovely Thelma)—and to Darlene and John, and Adella and Tracy, not to mention Cousin Rubystein’s daughter, Audrey—they each greeted my family and I as COUSINS, smiling and warm.

Like I’ve always said, cousins are the best part of genealogy. It couldn’t be truer than with the Rands. Thank you, Cousin Rubystein, for getting in touch, and for giving me this gift of wonderful family.

Below are some photos from when Martha met Rubystein:

Door of No Return
Cousins meeting for the first time

Door of No Return
Martha Rand Hix and Rubystein McGhee hold up portrait of their great, great grandfather, William Harrison Rand. Rand had children with his white wife and children with his black mistress in the 1800s.

Door of No Return
Rubystein McGhee and Martha Rand Hix

Door of No Return
Soledad O'Brien with Martha and Rubystein

For more on the Rand family tree:

DNA provides clues to family’s African roots | Slideshow

Filed under: Black in America
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Martha Rand Hix

    Cynthia A. Cass, PLEASE e-mail martha_hix@yahoo.com.

    This is the ONLY way we can contact you, can get you in touch with Rubystein and Tigner.

    August 6, 2008 at 10:56 pm |
  2. Tigner Rand

    Cynthia and William you will find Martha's contact information a few blog entries higher in the thread.

    August 6, 2008 at 7:09 pm |
  3. Tigner Rand

    William and Cynthia please contact me through Martha Hix, she will be able to forward me an email.

    Cynthia, I may have some information for you regarding Nellie Harrison and her mother Palistine Rand-Harrison

    August 6, 2008 at 7:07 pm |
  4. Kathleen

    I did not see the showw on CNN but I have the bug from all of you..how wonderful to be a part of this wonderful family..you all have made me want to find my family..God bless and continue to enjoy your journey...

    August 5, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  5. William L. Rand

    Tigner, I dont have any of your contact information. Please provide it and I will contact you.

    August 5, 2008 at 7:46 am |
  6. Cynthia A. Cass

    I would also like some contact information for Ms. McGhee. My father was born in Lodi, Texas. His mother was Nellie Harrision and we are also related to the Rands, although I'm not sure if they are one and the same. If there is a contact person, I would like the info. In the meantime, I'm going to start looking at some birth certificates.

    August 4, 2008 at 1:21 pm |
  7. Martha Rand Hix

    Everyone, please do check out the Web sites I mentioned above. This is how we'll stay in contact, will connect our Rand families (blood or name), and will end up with a true and large picture of who we were, who we are, and where we're going. And who knows? You just might make some wonderful friends on this noble journey.

    Like Tigner said, we don't all have blood ties, but I guarantee you, from my years of being in contact with that particular gentlemen, I couldn't think more of him, were he my brother.

    August 3, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  8. Martha Rand Hix

    GREAT NEWS! A Rand family Web site is on the way. Benefactor PAT RAND has generously purchased a domain name and will be in charge of maintenance. This site is under construction, as of Sunday, August 3, 2008, but keep checking for: http://www.Randfamilytree.org

    In the meantime, check out http://www.e-agathas.com. You'll find there what Pat is looking to include at the new site.

    August 3, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  9. tigner rand

    contact me I may have some info for you

    August 2, 2008 at 7:02 am |
  10. William L. Rand

    I would like to know who to contact. My father is from Texas. His mother was born there and moved to Tulsa, OK. I currently live in Georgia. If Paul Rand formerly married to Eula Rand are a part of this geneology please contact us.

    August 1, 2008 at 11:52 am |
  11. Jackie

    This was a great piece, I too am constantly searching information about our family. I was able to look real quick at the book you was holding that you had made able your family. I would love to see it some day. I am concerned the family historian in my family as well.

    July 31, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  12. william rand

    Did everyone know that the first rand in north america was William Rand he came on one of the Mayflower ships. He owned property on Plymouth rock.

    July 29, 2008 at 12:29 pm |
  13. Julia

    This was very touching. This simple letter and candid snapshots, brought tears to this hardened persons eyes. Thanks for being beautiful, both of you.

    July 27, 2008 at 8:26 am |
  14. adrian smith

    This was truely a great story on one family coming together. As others has said I to had tears in my eyes , because I also have a love for knowing who my cousins are. Thank you for a wounderful story.

    July 26, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  15. Tigner Rand

    JuJu, you will be suprise that as small as Lodi, and Jefferson, Tx is there are many Rands who are not related to the Rand's on CNN. my father was born and raised in jefferson texas and we are not related to the Rand's aired on CNN. thanks to the tirless efforts of Martha we were able to determain that fact. though I'm related to several branches Hal Rand by way of marriage there is no blood line. At best we believe that my great great great Grandfather Flem Rand was chattel and took on the Rand last name. So it is save to say there is a whole "new" Rand tree from east texas: Ike, Abe and Ada Rand.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:20 pm |
  16. V Rand

    How can I get information about this family reunion? My last name is Rand as well.

    July 25, 2008 at 8:26 pm |
  17. JuJu

    @ Iler....if her name was Rand and she lived in Lodi...99% of the time there is a relation. Lodi is not a big enough town to have people with the same last name who are not related. I think I rememer your Aunt. I remember a lady named Sweeta. You should definitely pursue it.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:20 pm |
  18. Mansell

    So with all the beautiful gasping and excitements going on about this story, have we all learned anything? Or is it going to go on for a couple of weeks and then back to business as usual? Just like the highway, when cracks appear in the tar on the surface, that portion is removed and re-surfaced. What remains intact is the concrete that lies beneath...

    The roots of our problems today regarding race in America are embedded in the "concrete" that was layed centuries ago. That's what needs to be tackled and not just re-surfacing the top!

    July 25, 2008 at 9:19 am |
  19. Randye S. Rand II

    I was unable to watch this segment of Black In America, unfortunately, because I'm a Rand as well. Alot of my college friends were texting me, wondering if these Rands on CNN were my family. I kinda assumed that it wasn't my family just because it seemed unlikely. Sure enough, my moma calls me and tells me that my family is on CNN. I knew that I had white relatives but I had no idea about the history. The furthest that I had known down the Rand side of my family was to my great-grandfather Earl Rand. Well, for Cousin Rubystein and Cousin Martha, this is Randye II, son of Randye Sr., grandson of Randye Mote, and great-grandson of Dr. Earl Rand. I don't think I've ever met either of you, but here I am! I'm going into my 3rd year at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, and my first year in the business school.

    July 25, 2008 at 2:36 am |
  20. Edwin Rand

    ..just wanted to say "hello" to all my new found cousins !!!...thanx CNN,Ruby and Martha for making this a great piece.I'm going to check on a possible website;we did have one,leading up to the last reunion...but not sure if it's still active ???..but you guys have made me proud,all over again !!!

    July 25, 2008 at 12:29 am |
  21. Rubystein McGhee

    It is a delight to hear from all of our supporters including my student, Nicole, my schoolmate, Dr. Helton, my co-worker, Dianne (by-the-way, I was in Matteson last week), Cousin Tigner, and my new cousins that I just met today, Deanna, Pamela, and Randolph.

    When it comes to researching your heritage, my Cousin Martha is your expert. If you are interested, please hurry to her email account that has she set up for a couple of weeks. On behalf of the Rand family, thank you all for your comments and support.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:57 pm |
  22. Iler

    My maternal great grandmother's name was Sallie Rand Rushing who was born, raised and burried in Lodi, TX. I think she passed in 1984 at the age of 102 or 104. I can't remember her sister's name; however, we called her "Aunt Sweet".
    I'd like to find out if there's a family connection, and learn more about the maternal side of my family.

    July 24, 2008 at 9:47 pm |
  23. Martha Rand Hix

    I have created an e-mail account, if anyone would like to get in touch about the Rand family: martha_hix@yahoo.com

    I will leave this up for a couple of weeks, unless computer spiders come out of the nether reaches of the 'Net to bite me .

    July 24, 2008 at 3:15 pm |
  24. Martha Rand Hix

    Pam and Deanna–well hello, cuzs! Your Rebecca was sister to my great-grandmother, Martha, both daughters of Hal and Sallie. Rebecca, btw, was named after her maternal grandmother, Rebecca Smith, Mrs. James Mullens. I even have a picture of Rebecca Smith Mullens. I'm sure Cousin Rubystein will give you the lowdown.

    FYI, your Rebecca is buried next to Hal Rand, in Cass County.

    July 24, 2008 at 3:07 pm |
  25. Martha Rand Hix

    Veronica, you're right about the Smiths. They ARE the picture of love.

    As for your mother's reluctance to help you, many people would rather not think about the painful past. There are things I'd prefer my children not know, not while I'm alive. (No, I'm not tellin' anyone!) We ran up on the same thing with my husband's mother and aunt. We found out later they were embarrassed because their grandmother married her brother-in-law, after her first husband died. In the old German families in South Texas, this evidently wasn't done.

    The thing about genealogy is, you have to be ready for anything. Every family has skeletons. And some families have clung to "family history" that isn't even theirs. For instance, the spelling of every name has changed, one way or another, throughout the years. If your name is Smith now, it may well have been Smythe or Schmitt or even Heriz-Smith at some point. Just keep digging, keep your options open, and if someone doesn't want to discuss family history, go ask someone else. If there's no one to ask, look in public records. Probably wouldn't be a good idea to dig up dirt, then confront your mother with it. Respect her feelings. If she changes her mind later on, fine.

    July 24, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  26. Martha Rand Hix

    Felicia Smith, I would need more information than Eddie Rand and his son, Hal Rand. Ed–Edward or Edwin or Edgar, usually–is a very common name in the southern Rands, as is Hal. If you could post Eddie's wife's name, that would be a huge help.

    July 24, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  27. Wendy

    The Rand family seem like a wonderful family. I wish them well. However, they must face the obvious–as all African American families must do. That is, the great, great grandfather, William Harrison, was an ADULTEROUS! If he was married to one woman and fathering children with another, then he was just that–an adulterous. And it seems quite apparent that William Harrison was sleeping with his mistress as a "slave owner." Though everyone is trying to make it seem as though the two familles (white and black) were all close neighbors and nothing more, the reason for the close vicinity was probably because the black side was living in slave quarters. Why is everyone seeing Mr. William Harrison as heroic in virtue? Holding up his photo as though lauding him!

    July 24, 2008 at 2:47 pm |
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