The Reunion (Part 1)- My Genealogy Search and Research Tips

Family Reunion Society Hill

Emails, phone calls and yes, you guessed it!!!  The Reunion!!

It was absolutely amazing, September 4th, 2015 through September 6th, 2015; the long awaited family reunion.

A reunion with family we had never physically met.

I went back and forth with the title of this blog. Should I call it “The Reunion” or a “Uniting and Reuniting”. I spent more time thinking of the title than I did putting words to paper. As you can tell, I settled on “The Reunion.”

My first Bostic reunion and my first time in Bennettsville, SC and Society Hill, SC.

I had heard about Society Hill all of my life. To be able to go to Bethesda  Baptist Church Cemetery was a dream come true. To see the headstones of people whose names were as familiar to me as is my own. Great-grandma Mattie’s people, the Bostic’s.

Bethesda Union Baptist Church Cemetery
Bethesda Baptist Church Cemetery

As soon as mom, Aunt Vicky and I arrived in Bennettsville our site seeing adventure began. We had a few hours before the Meet and Greet so Bethesda Baptist Church Cemetery was on the top of our list.

I had never experienced  a cemetery at the back of a church before. Well, not in real life anyway.

I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie and every western ever made so a cemetery behind a church wasn’t foreign to me.

I’m not sure if it was frustrating or funny. I had imagined going to the cemetery office and getting my printout of the plots and rows. Finally I  would be touring the graveyard that had become the final resting place of so many of my Bostic ancestors.

Solomon & Ellen Bostick
Solomon & Ellen Bostick
Cemetery
Bethesda Baptist Church Cemetery

Not exactly as I had imagined. 

  1. There was no office.
  2. No one was at the church

Mom, Aunt Vicky and I saw a lady going into the church next door; we asked her about the Bethesda Baptist Church Cemetery, where exactly was it located? I knew I had to be in the wrong place because there was no cemetery from what I could see. Mom and Aunt Vicky didn’t see it either.

The woman we talked to was more than willing to help in anyway that she could. She began pointing to Bethesda Church and saying how their church had given Bethesda the land for the Bethesda Cemetery and that both church cemeteries were next to each other.

Bethesda Baptist Church
Bethesda Baptist Church

She told us that if Marie wasn’t at Bethesda, then we should go to Palmetto Furniture Store next door and have the girls over there call Marie from Bethesda.

The entire time she’s talking, as nice as she could be, she’s pointing at these cemeteries that I still couldn’t see.

We made our way to the furniture store which is basically next to the church. The women there were as nice as the women who had instructed us to go to the store.

Finally!!! We would get the information that was needed. I explained to them that the lady from their church had told us to come to the furniture store and have them call Marie from Bethesda.

The furniture store had the phone numbers to everyone in town!!!

Southern hospitality at it’s finest.

They began calling around to several of the Bethesda church members after trying to reach Marie and only getting her voicemail. They were having leisurely conversations with people on the phone as if this was the norm.

Unfortunately, they were unable to get in touch with anyone from the church who would be able to assist.

I said to one of the women who had just ended her call with one of the Bethesda congregants, “it’s okay, the only thing that I need is the office location of the cemetery.

Meanwhile mom and Aunt Vicky are having a field day talking to all the other friendly people in the furniture store. Everyone became quiet once they heard my request for the office of the cemetery.

They all looked at each other and looked at me. The main furniture store lady said, “the office?” “Yes”, I replied, “the office”.

I explained I wanted to get grave site information and the actual location of the cemetery. Once I had that information I would be able to handle the rest.

“The location?” asked the furniture store lady. “Weren’t you just at Bethesda?” I confirmed that I had just been at Bethesda but I needed the address of the cemetery.

She started telling me what the previous lady had told us, about how their church had given Bethesda the land for the cemetery and that it ran adjacent to theirs.

That’s when I realized that I had obviously been at the wrong location and that’s what I began explaining to the furniture store lady.

“Yes, that’s exactly it, I’m at the wrong place,” I said.

“Honey,” she said, (as only a southerner can, you know you have to put that southern drawl on the word “honey” or it loses something in translation), “you are not in the wrong place,” your Bostic’s are buried at Bethesda.

I pointed in the direction of the church and said, “OK, at Bethesda Church Cemetery behind the church?”

“Yes, that’s right”. Finally you could see the relief on her face that I had finally gotten it.

Well, until I brought up the non-existing office again. I explained that all cemeteries have an office where the records are kept and surely Bethesda had an office; and that they were probably just not aware of it’s location.

By now, we’ve been in this furniture store with the nicest people ever for close to an hour. Meanwhile, mom and Aunt Vicky are still talking to people including some of the other furniture store employees.

They are telling the people about their Aunt Fanny Bostic-Wilson who was actually their grandmother’s aunt.

I could here them going on about how Aunt Fanny’s Store was burned down several times and on the third time she didn’t rebuild. Just old friends shooting the breeze.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog, mom and Aunt Vicky have never met a stranger. They were having a grand old time. LOL!!!!!

I thanked the ladies for their time and told mom and Aunt Vicky that we should get going.

The furniture store lady said we might as well wait a little longer because she had left the message for Marie and she would no doubt call back any minute.

I was thinking to myself, really?!!! We’ve been here an hour already.

I said, “that’s okay and if she calls back just thank her for calling”. We thanked the furniture store people again and prepared to leave.

As I was turning to leave, the furniture store lady said, “Honey, don’t go looking for an office!!”

GUILTY AS CHARGED!! That was exactly what I was going to do because this situation was CRAZY!! You had to be there. LOL!!!

I said, “I don’t understand what’s going on here, you can’t have a cemetery without an office.”

With a few brilliant questions directed a the furniture store lady, LOL!!! I laid out the reasons why you had to have an office for a cemetery.

  • Who keeps track of who’s being buried?
  • Who is taking care of the grounds?

and then the MOTHER of all question…..Perry Mason couldn’t have done better.

  • WHERE IS THE CEMETERY? Baam!! take that!!!! LOL!!!

She said:

  1. There is no office.
  2. The families keep track of whose buried there.
  3. The families take care of their cemetery.

and then she came with the COUNTER PUNCH!!

  • The cemetery is right behind the church!!!

By now, I’m done!! This was the craziest stuff I had heard.

I said, “basically you are telling me that no one knows who on earth is buried at the cemetery.”

“The families know,” she said.

This was totally over the top. I told her that I had been behind that church and didn’t see a cemetery. ( I was beginning to wonder if the church was built on top of the cemetery).

She asked me if I had seen the road. I shook my head in the negative and then said, “no”.

I was thinking to myself, “OK, I know my sense of direction isn’t the best but to miss and entire cemetery behind a church?”

Thankfully a man came into the furniture store,  yes, we are still in the furniture store. He had been listening to us and smiling.

He explained that what they were describing as a road wasn’t exactly a road but a little path behind the church that a car could fit through.

By now the phone is ringing and it’s the lady from Bethesda. Needless to say, there wasn’t an office and they didn’t have organized records but were starting the process of creating a log of those buried.

An interesting story of Recovering and Preserving African American Cemeteries. http://forum.savingplaces.org/blogs/special-contributor/2016/06/02/recovering-and-preserving-african-american-cemeteries

Last I checked, the log is still not available. LOL!!!!

Well, we finally made it to the cemetery. I really don’t know what I was expecting to find? Our cemetery at home is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the country.

People are there all the time, myself included, walking, jogging, taking graduation and wedding pictures or just sitting and reading books.

Union Cemetery http://www.unioncemeterysteubenville.com/photo-gallery/

Bethesda Church Cemetery was not the Union Cemetery of my hometown, but it was a vision of loveliness in it’s own right because of who was there….My Family.

 

I hope you enjoyed this weeks blog about another highlight in my Family Found Genealogy Search. Please come back next week as I finish my family reunion adventure.

** ANCESTRY RESEARCH TIP OF THE WEEK** Make sure you use all of your family resources. Speak to all family members starting with the oldest first, you will be surprised at how much information you can learn. 

When documenting dates, write out the complete year. If you just put 89, or something to that effect, it can cause confusion for yourself and others. Is it 1889, 1989? You can see how this can leave an opening for misinformation.