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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

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Six of my most favorite people on 1940 US Census

I knew my emotions would be running high when I would finally be able to gaze upon my mother's name on the 1940 US Census. She was only one then.  I am sitting right now not too far away from Manning Avenue where this census was taken.  The house has been torn down, but I drive down the street every now and then trying to imagine what it may have looked like in the empty space.

I am so glad that I made the decision to move here so that I could walk the same streets and take in the history firsthand. With tears streaming, I am going to try to make it through the rest of this post.  I feel so totally connected to the past. One principle that I was reminded of recently is that we can obtain closer relationships with family members who have passed away.  

My mom is the only member of  the family listed below who is still living.  This week she is visiting her brother in Virginia who was born a few years after this census was taken.  It is wonderful to see that after all these years, my family is still close.  

There were really rough times from slavery and well past the 1940's, but extended family took care of each other.  When one got educated and established, they reached back for other family members.  They had no one else, and they did pretty well with each other's help.  They gave to the community and the community gave back.  

As I look at the 1940 US Census, I remember the stories.  I remember how my grandparents met and eloped and how my grandmother left Buffalo.  My great grandfather, Lafayette, had already become established in Columbia.  Opportunities were greater here, and there was a strong community base for African Americans (church, education, employment). 

                  Columbia, Richland, South Carolina, ED 40-40, Image 10,
Living on Marshall Street, Rev. Lafayette Franklin Vance and his third wife, Martha, affectionately called, "Grandma Martha."  They were living near Lafayette's son, Emory W. Vance and family on Manning Ave.

Emory Wallace Vance, downtown Columbia
My grandfather, Emory, invited  my grandmother Otis' relatives to come live with them in Columbia where they attended either Benedict or Allen University.  I love my grandfather, Emory, with all my heart.  I was able to spend a great deal of time with him in my early years.  My parents worked in Illinois, and did not want to leave their children alone with babysitters, so we stayed with our grandparents after they had migrated to Ohio.  

I learned to be curious about my ancestors when I saw a hymn book dedicated to my grandfather's mother, Lula.  I had never known her.  I realized how important she must have been to my grandfather to have that hymn book dedicated to her.  I began asking questions before I was old enough to go to school.

My grandparents spent time with us taking us to church and to the state fair.  My grandfather had me choose what flavor Jello I wanted everyday.  I followed him into the garden where I learned his planting secrets.  I followed him to the yard for his daily nap where I knew his mouth would fall open, and I would stand on guard keeping the flies out. I felt a sense of dedication.  It was the one thing I felt charged to do then to show it.  I still fill the same, but I think he is on guard helping me now...for I can feel him.

My great Aunt Catherine or Cat as my grandmother affectionately called her, graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and then Benedict College.  She told me that she graduated Magna Cum Laude. I was able to find her school records at Benedict.  My Aunt Cat and other cousins and sisters of my grandmother were the most sweetest charitable ladies I have ever known.

Columbia, Richland, South Carolina, ED 40-40, Image 9, 
My grandfather, Emory Wallace Vance; grandmother Otis; mother, Edna, and Otis' sister, my Aunt Cat.   

The men were no less serviceable.  Still today, I hear older cousins and friends recount how my grandfather brought vegetables out to them from the farm he eventually owned.  He had so many nieces and nephews and cousins and siblings come out to stay on that farm in the summers.  I love to hear them recount the stories.

I love to see the evidence of the stories they told in these records. I love the legacy that was forged for me, and I am bound to live up to it.  I know I will have much to share about my family in the coming weeks.
I did not quite know that looking at them on the 1940 Census would stir so much within me.  I am glad I was finally able to get pages to load and then download.
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