Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Title of Freedom

By Robin Foster   Posted at  12:53 AM   Robert Foster 2 comments

June 2015 left a scar on my heart which has now been soothed. I have hoisted this title of freedom.  It makes my heart skip a beat.  It represents all that a perfect society could be (Recite the pledge aloud).

My ancestors lived in a society which for them fell short of the basic freedoms that I have today, but that did not hinder their ability to seize the opportunities that were bestowed upon them.  They looked to my day in anticipation of what I would be able to achieve.  They did not lose faith because of freedoms denied them or injustices they endured.

My own father, a graduate of Central State University (one of the nation's oldest historically black universities) took graduate courses (in Illinois) and worked in civil service as a mathematical statistician.  He made a hard choice when I was very young which had a lasting effect on our family.  He quit his job to build and rennovate homes. Working for himself helped him to avoid on-the-job conflicts stemming from they way people treated him because of his color.

Robert Foster 1938-1988
He was available every day to drop me off and pick me up from school. I never rode a bus.  I learned a lot from him. I would stuggle in math, and often was brought to tears. I would wait up for my dad thinking he would help me do my problems. He would come in and say, "You need to get it on your own. Work every single problem in the book. When I was in school (graduate school), no one let me in their study group.  They divided up the problems and met to share the answers with each other. When it came time for the test, they could not work all the problems, but I could because I had completed each problem on my own."  Because of my dad, I still remember how to work those trig problems.

Because he became self-reliant through his business, our family never knew lack.  Even with my dad's education and success, I still saw people treat him differently because he was a very dark shade of brown. He taught me how to handle these situations. He never was rude in return nor sought to even the score. He found victory in being the best at everything he did. When the odds were stacked against him, a divine power intervened. He taught me "What goes around, comes around.  Be careful how you treat people because the very person you mistreat might have to pick you up out of the street one day."  My dad was a patriotic man. He loved his country. He studied current events. He loved to serve his fellow man.

I have been enlightened by my ancestors and their faith, their ability to keep their perspective in spite of what they endured.  Man has multiplied laws beyond comprehension, but I can hear my ancestors whispering:

"Jesus said, all laws can be satisfied through two great commandments:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Thy shall love thy neighbor as thyself.  (Matthew 22: 37 and 39)"

For me, I choose to give all with all that I have. I pray that all who are connected with me in this society benefit from that, and this great banner of freedom is my symbol.  I look forward to the day when all will be made right and when I shall behold the face of my Great Sovereign King!

Friday, May 22, 2015

My Journey on Genealogy! Just Ask!

By Robin Foster   Posted at  8:47 AM   Genealogy! Just Ask! FamilySearch 1 comment

I was asked in the Facebook group, Genealogy! Just Ask! to share more of the spiritual side of being an admin in the group on this thread.  I know that is a peculiar question for those who have never made a connection between the two before, but as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, genealogy goes much deeper than looking for evidence to construct a family tree.  I believe the question posed to me refers to my testimony and the faith that drives me.

I would first like to explain that because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I believe anything is possible in the quest to identify our forebears.  I believe we have more help that we are unable to see. Those who have gone before us are pulling for us, and even helping us.   We have a loving Father in Heaven whose main purpose is the establishment of eternal families. We cannot establish an eternal family going back generations unless we know who they were. He will help us.  As proof of that, we have a wonderful website at the world's disposal free to use, FamilySearch.org.

When I first began my research, I turned to those who were considered knowledgable.  They shared opinions with me that included the belief that I would not be able to document my African American ancestors before 1870.  Because of my faith, I refused to accept that. I figured there must be records out there that they had not seen yet. I vowed to uncover those records for myself and for anyone else who could use them. That meant for me, moving to South Carolina to scour the archives in person and to meet living cousins.

I found success because of faith. I found several records between 1865 and 1870 that documented my family.  Another principle that I followed was to research the former owners of my African American ancestors.  This was easy because the owners were in several cases my ancestors too. I looked for the records generated by the owners to document both slave owner and enslaved ancestors.

I have followed both lines as far back as I can go so far. That enabled me to become proficient in tracing both races of people.  People often look to me as being an African American genealogist only with expertise in researching African Americans.  To that I say, do not look at records as documenting only one color of people.  People stumble today because even the Freedman's Bureau records document more than African Americans.  For example, when the formerly enslaved people signed labor contracts, who did they enter into those agreements with?  I am just as able to trace people not my color, especially since I have traced ancestors who owned my formerly enslaved ancestors back several generations. Looking with the eye of faith, seeing the possibility in my mind's eye, taught me that.

My experience and training through FamilySearch enabled me to assist scores of people at the same time, understand the dynamics of social media, and learn how to stay abreast of developing technologies.  I learned that I could master technology by teaching it regularly to others. That is why I volunteer at the library near me, and I present for whomever asks me.

After overcoming my own hurdles in research and understanding the pain of not knowing who you are or where you came from, I was left with a great desire to help everyone else I could.  There are limits to helping people offline. The is a limit to how many people you can assist.  Facebook and other social media puts you in touch with the world. My desire is to help as many people as I can to feel the joy I have felt. You can call it an addiction.

I knew there would be people who would want to also share what they knew. I did not know it would be to the tune of 13,000+! Sometimes we miss out on opportunities to learn from ordinary people who are not considered experts. They have a hard time finding a place to share and feel satisfied from offering service. Genealogy! Just Ask! is a place where people can help others past the hurdles they overcame. They can share with others knowledge about records they have accessed without being made to feel inadequate. That makes for a successful community.

Genealogy! Just Ask! is a commuity that I feel so rewarded to be a part of . The exchanges that go on there are simply amazing.  I am in awe of the vision of it's creator, Jan Mitchell, who through her eye of faith followed her vision and invited me.

I hope this give those who requested this post some insight into the journey I am on. I am happy to share more if need be.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Are You Looking For Grandma's Husband?

By Robin Foster   Posted at  1:40 PM   research 1 comment


"Are you looking for Grandma's Husband?" is an article I wrote as the National Genealogy Examiner where I showed how to find the husband of the widowed Grandma Emma Warner who has two daughters and her grandchildren living with her in Accomack County, Virginia in 1940.

I found her on the 1930 Census ten years earlier, but her husband was still not there.  I did find him with her on the 1920 Census, but by that time there were so many different children between those three censuses that it was hard to keep track of them.  I usually use a census tracker when there is such a big family group.

I created the chart below so that it would be easy to see which child I had found each year.  Now I can tell easily which children should show up on the 1910 Census.


Child
1940
1930
1920
Fannie
29


Ada
26

4
Sallie

30

Martha


16
John

28
13
Ethel


12
Frank

18
6
Helen

12
infant


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Military Veterans Beneath Overgrowth in Farview Cemetery

By Robin Foster   Posted at  2:32 PM   William Nedwood No comments
In addition to cleaning Fairview Cemetery on 300 Holman Street in Greenwood, SC, we are working to document the people that are buried there hoping that any descendants looking for ancestors will be able to find them.  In addition to finding ministers and masons we are uncovering the graves of military veterans of World War I and World War II. 

We hope that we will be able to find churches and concerned people in the community that will help us to maintain Fairview Cemetery.  We feel it is our moral obligation to uncover these graves and save what history we can that documents the lives of those buried therein.  In a few cases, all we started with is a headstone.

Help us remember the men whose headstones we have found that served our country.  Hopefully they will not remain among the forgotten:

James Nelson Adams
James Nelson Adams. Photo taken by Jim Ravencraft, April 2014.


James H. Backus
James H. Backus served in Company A., 489th Engineer Battalion in Engineers Division from New York as a private first class. 

Emsey C. Boozer
Emsey C. Boozer. Photo taken by Jim Ravencraft, April 2014.  
Frank McGhee
South Carolina, Pvt Co B 534 SVC BN, ENGR CORPS, World War I & II
July 18, 1898
March 14, 1960

William Nedwood
William Nedwood.  This photo was taken by Jim Ravencraft, April 2014.

Thomas L. Puckett
Served as a Private First Class in the US Army during World War II.

This is not a complete list of veterans buried in Fairview Cemetery.  Research is ongoing.  If you would like to donate to the volunteer effort to clean and maintain Fairview Cemetery, please forward your donation to:

Greenwood Historical Society
P. O. Box. 49653
Greenwood, South Carolina 29649
C/O Carol Scales

Please specify that your donation is for Fairview Cemetery.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Help to Save Fairview Cemetery

By Robin Foster   Posted at  3:12 PM   Fairview Cemetery No comments
Prior to Saturday, May 31st cleanup.  Photo taken by Jim Ravencraft.
The Fairview Project Committee and community volunteers came together for the initial cleanup of the cemetery located at 300 Holman Street in Greenwood, SC. on Saturday, May 31st at 8:00 am.  A total of 32 volunteers which included Greenwood County Library genealogy room volunteers, members of the Greenwood County Historical Society, Faith Home, Rev. Furman Miller, and members of Weston Chapel AME Church in Greenwood worked to almost 12 pm clearing trees, briars, trash, and other vegetation.
Working to uncover the Backus grave.  Photo taken by Robin Foster.
Fairview Cemetery is an historic African American cemetery with hundreds of documented burials since 1909.  Over the years, it has been overtaken by vegetation towering 10 to 15 feet high.  No one wanted to assume responsibility for this great undertaking, but I could not just let this remain the plight of the family members that I have discovered on death certificates as being interred there.  Some I have found headstones for.  The headstone of my great great grandmother (Jane McCoy) which did exist at one time has not been found yet.  Now that I have become so involved in this effort, I have gained a respect for the whole community buried there and will keep going to honor their memory as well.

As chairperson of the project appointed by Greenwood County Councilman Gonza Bryant, I was thrilled with everyone's effort.  They had a good portion of the cemetery cleared in 90 minutes. We would not have come as far in that amount of time if it had not been for Faith Home volunteers who brought their own equipment.  A member of Weston Chapel AME brought her daughter.
After initial cleanup.  Photo taken by Jim Ravencraft.
 My husband had not entered the cemetery previously for fear of snakes, but he worked with two other volunteers clearing trees.  We saw a fawn in the cemetery, and deer have also been sited which probably explains why we have not seen snakes.

We discovered a few new graves beneath the undergrowth, and they have been documented.  I was so disgusted to see all the debris over Rev. L. S. Burnett's grave (beers bottles, trash, a bra, medicine bottles).  That is one spot that I want to see cleared soon so that it can longer be used in that way.
Robin Foster, Saturday, May 31st.  Photo taken by Ellis McClure

We have a long way to go until this cemetery is brought up to standard.  To learn more about Fairview Cemetery, click here.  We are hoping to find people to donate labor and money that can be used to clean and maintain the cemetery.  Our next cleanup dates are:
  • June 10, 2014 at 8 am
  • June 28, 2014 at 8 am

If you would like to send a donation, please forward it to:

Greenwood Historical Society
P. O. Box. 49653
Greenwood, South Carolina 29649
C/O Carol Scales

Please specify that your donation is for Fairview Cemetery.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Facing the Hard Part of History with Descendant of Anthony Crawford

By Robin Foster   Posted at  10:28 AM   Sgt. Phillip Crawford No comments
Abbeville Courthouse, 2013, Robin Foster


Some of those who embark upon researching family history have a dark cloud that constantly looms overhead waiting to burst open unexpectedly at first and expected thereafter.  Sometimes my own heart has become faint from the hard parts of history that I must trudge through in the discovery of my African American heritage. Those are the times I must pause to find the courage to keep going.



Descendant of Anthony Crawford

I have often contemplated upon my ancestors' lives within the context of those who were contemporaries to them.  Some stayed and braved out difficult circumstances.  Others fled in hope of something better while some were slain. Such is the case of Anthony Crawford, one of the richest African Americans in the state of South Carolina, who was lynched in 1916.  I had the rare opportunity recently to interview the great grandson of Anthony Crawford, Sgt. Phillip Crawford of Abbeville. 

Portrait image of lynching victim
Anthony Crawford, lynched in
Abbeville, SC, 1916.
Image was taken around 1910 (LOC).
After pouring over the propaganda that gets published in books and historic newspaper articles surrounding such events, I felt fortunate to be able to glean from the personal perspective of Sgt. Crawford and to gain further insights into the experiences of my own ancestors who were emancipated in Abbeville County.  I am blessed to have a couple of Senate testimonies of my 2nd great grandfather, Beverley Vance as well as a few mentions of him in books such as One More Day's Journey, and Freedom's Lawmakers.  I do not however, have any history that details the reason why so much of my family vacated this area near the turn of the century.

Anthony Crawford, the man

I am coming to understand from scholarly publications the violence and brutally suffered by African Americans especially if they enjoyed a higher measure of financial success or were seen as pillars of their community.  Anthony Crawford was just such a man.  He was totally self-sufficient having a school on his land and the ability to produce all his family needed.  He was a large landowner as opposed to being a tenant farmer like so many others who still worked the land on which they had been enslaved.

It was important to understand that the underlying resentment to symbols of economic success incited mobs to riot and murder people they targeted like Anthony Crawford who were not free from the daily acts of retaliation of folks who were bitter at the perceived freedoms enjoyed by a people who were considered by ex-slavers as inferior.  Sgt. Crawford explained that Anthony Crawford was the strength that held his family together, and there were those that believed that if you cut the head everything else would fall apart.

Roots of violence and oppression

African Americans would try to avoid altercations because they knew that one incident between them and the agitators would bring unwarranted consequences upon the whole community through random acts of violence and oppression that could last for days. African Americans were not push overs though.  They defended themselves, their families, and other white sympathizers.

 According to Sgt. Crawford, his ancestor went to town on October 16, 1916 to sell his cotton because on the following day the prices were going to drop.  They tried to force him out of line to allow others to be able to cash in before an African American.  I appreciated learning about the circumstances that led to the altercation which lead to things getting completely out of control.

Living history

I will meet to interview Sgt. Crawford again to understand this history from the perspective of someone who lived.  For that reason, I am not interested right now in others who have told the story.  I learned that many of the descendants of Anthony Crawford migrated to leave after the lynching when mob rule forced all African American businesses to close in Abbeville and lands of family members were confiscated.  Sgt. Crawford spoke of his cousin, Doria Johnson, who researched to discover her ancestor, Anthony Crawford, and reconnected to family in Abbeville.  Many descendants migrated to Evanston, Illinois.

I was pleased to see descendants of Anthony Crawford actively keeping his memory alive. See Evanston's Living History.  In 2005, the descendants of Anthony Crawford were present for Resolution 39 passed by the 109th Congress of the United States Senate which apologized for Congress not passing any form of anti-lynching legislation. 

If you have questions that you would like me to ask of Sgt. Crawford when I interview him again, please send them to robin.savingstories@gmail.com.

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