The leadership team at IDG is extremely excited to introduce Robin Foster to you, she joins our writing team in the next edition of Going In-Depth. Robin is getting excited about sharing her new column ‘Citing African Ancestry.’
I cannot remember a time as a child when I was either visiting family or relatives had come to our home in Illinois and I was not enthralled in the conversation going on. It was not custom to interrupt “grown folks” while they were talking. That could result in the command: “Go to your room.” I figured out early on that if I sat very indiscriminate at the feet of those reminiscing, I could hear all the details and not be accused of looking people in the mouths while they were talking.
Everyone would be so anxious to retell the stories over each time they met adding a little twist that was not included before. After the laughter and nods of approval, I knew I could ask questions without interrupting. I would fire question after question to get the details of the story that were left out:
- What was your grandmother’s name?
- Where did you live then?
- Was anyone in the family a slave?
I was never denied the answer to any of my questions. I used no notepad, neither did I think of recording back then. I committed it all to memory. Never in my wildest dreams did I realize I was laying the groundwork for my quest to officially document my ancestors later in life. I cannot recount the times where I have been in the archives or searching online in the middle of the night only to have a piece of one of those stories come to mind and steer me in the right direction.
I have been extremely fortunate to have documented my African Ancestry using the various types of records available. When I began officially in 1985, no one could point out for me specific records other than vital records and the census. As a matter of fact, I was told that I probably would not find them on any record prior to 1870.
The stories told to me sparked my interest in genealogy, but documenting them was not easy. I found great success after moving to the land of my forefathers and studying the record types that exist in places like the South Carolina Department of Archives & History. I have secretly shed many tears of joy there. Fortunately, with all the records and information being made available online we do not have to make moves like that today.
I am approached all the time by people who are shocked by the types of records that I have found to exist and how I have used them to tell my ancestors’ stories. I am so excited to share findings and processes that you might apply in my IDG column, “Citing African Ancestry.”