Book Review: Our Ancestors, Our Stories

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

Our Ancestors, Our Stories.
By Harris Bailey, Jr., Bernice Alexander Bennett, Ellen LeVonne Butler, Ethel Dailey, and Vincent Sheppard. Published by The Write Image, Suwanee, GA. 2014. 161 pages.

The five authors call themselves The Memory Keepers. They have published their accounts to honor their ancestors’ lives in Edgefield County, situated in the Piedmont of South Carolina known in the old days as the Backcountry, or the Upcountry.

Their ancestors were the enslaved workers who helped create the fortunes of slave owners but who, as equally as the white occupants, contributed to the history of South Carolina. The Edgefield District heritage continues to be watched over by members of the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society, the Old Edgefield District African American Genealogical Society, and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc.

Harris Bailey wrote “This Place Known as Edgefield,” a chapter examining the region’s cultural, economic, and political events shaped via the institution of slavery. He expands upon “The economic history…forever changed by five inventors—Richard Arkwright, Samuel Crompton, James Hargreaves, James Watt, and Eli Whitney—who paved the way for the textile industrial revolution.”

Ethel Dailey wrote “The Journey Has Just Begun” where she describes moving from the comfort of her New York home to live in the Georgian South swayed by the stories she uncovered about the real lives of her ancestral families in Edgefield. “Although I knew them, I realized in later years that I really didn’t know them at all.”

Bernice Alexander Bennett wrote “Finding My South Carolina Kin” where she chronicles the search for her ancestral families. “My great-great-grandparents created a legacy with the naming patterns of their children. They made certain that we would find evidence of their existence, even during the time of their enslavement.”

Ellen Levonne Butler wrote “A Journey to Find My Butler Ancestors” from her vantage point of having been born in and intimately familiar with the Edgefield community. A move to Washington D.C. triggered the discoveries of her families in the records of the National Archives. “I…wished…my ancestors were still around to save me from the heartaches and pains….How nice it would have been to have someone whisper the answer to me, but I do believe that my ancestors’ spirits continue to guide me.”

Vincent Sheppard wrote “On Behalf of the Ancestral Spirits,” relating his research trips between New York and Georgia. He pledged to visit as many cemeteries as possible, revealing the heart of a true genealogist. “I experienced an overwhelming sensation to bridge my present to the past and to eventually charter a family association that would lead me to Edgefield County.”

The Memory Keepers live up to their name. They have reclaimed the stories of their ancestors buried by authority and time, and have carved out a unique and collaborative work.

Our Ancestors, Our Stories is available from The Memory Keepers at http://www.thememorykeepers.net as well as from Amazon at http://goo.gl/3Tsqqp.

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