Part 2: What Can We Glean from Oral Histories?

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In "Part 1: What Can We Glean from Oral Histories," I promised to share some of the amazingdiscoveries I have made through oral histories. I will illustrate how I recovered one ancestor’s story without having anyone’s recollection of him.

No Personal Recollections

After I interviewed my mother about her grandfather, Rev.Lafayette Franklin Vance (1861-1952), I was able to find him living with hisparents in Cokesbury, South Carolina on both the 1870 and 1880 censuses.  Neither my mom nor any other known living descendantof Lafayette could tell me anything about Beverly Vance (1832-1899), Lafayette’sfather.  Here is how Irecovered my ancestor’s story despite having anyone’s recollection ofhim.

One More Day's Journey

I was living in Joliet, Illinois.  My mom attended a family reunion and receiveda history of the family that was shared which referenced work researchconducted by a deceased cousin, Senator Frank Gilbert, Sr. of South Carolina.  I noticed that I had basically duplicated hisresearch except for a mention of the book, “One More Day’s Journey,” by Allan Ballard.

Supposedly, my 2nd great-grandfather, Beverly, was mentioned in the book. No details or quote from the book was given. At the time, we did not have the luxury of performing Google or WorldCat searches. Unbelievably, I checked out the book from the local library where I found a reference to another book, “South Carolina in 1876.”

South Carolina in 1876

Our family had already made plans to move to South Carolina so I could become acquainted with new found cousins and spend time researching in the local archives. Getting access to “South Carolina in 1876” at South Caroliniana Library was foremost on my list of priorities once we moved.

I am sure my cousin, Frank, probably knew the contents of Beverly’s senate testimony, but somehow it had not found its way into our family history before his death. I knew obtaining and sharing it with my family was worth every effort.

I located the item in the catalog, and submitted my request at the reference desk. Then I waited for the book to be brought to me while I realized I was about to cross a great divide back into 1876. I was about to touch a piece of history and connect to an ancestor in a special way for the very first time.

The book was placed in my hand, I found his testimony. Tears streamed down as I read words spoken long ago. I knew I was forever changed in a few short moments.  My research had taken to a new level as I read:

South Carolina in 1876
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February 12, 2014
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