The Yeldell Family (Through My Eyes)












My family has had somewhat of a famous status.  It isn’t as glorified as actors or musicians but in most instances you can’t mention the name Yeldell (especially to older or longtime residents of DC) and someone not know or recognize the name.  And just like with some celebrities where their name can help them or hurt them, in the DC area the Yeldell name can do the same.  From my grandparents founding and keeping a church stabilized that still exist 73 years later to my Uncle being chosen by President Lyndon B. Johnson to serve on the first DC Council the Yeldell name is considered well known.

As a Black American you know that somehow you were affected by slavery, someone somewhere down the line was owned.  In being owned your identity was stripped immediately.  You took the last name of your master; you followed the rules of your master and did whatever he wanted you to do.  My great great grandmother on the Yeldell side was a breeder so she had babies to make more slaves like a cow has a calf to generate more milk.  We also know that the women were raped.  Sometimes they were raped because that owner simply wanted the black woman, but mainly it was to make her husband or man to feel inferior and show that he cannot protect his family.  Knowing that your ancestors were raped reminds you of the possibility of them getting pregnant by their owner.  So as much as some are unable to deal with it the possibility of being related to the person that owned your ancestor can be a hard pill to swallow.  Not only is your identity taken away from you but you now have or share the same bloodline.  The one thing slavery didn’t take away (even if it was tried) was the blueprint of who you are.  In fact it added to it.  The make-up of you comes from all of your ancestors whether you like them or not.  So as I do my research and I look at who I come from and who I might come from I am able to look at the similarities as well.

So far I have added about 8 new surnames to my already big list.    Those names are Freeman, Talbert, Peterson, Adams, Sheppard, Williams (on my grandmother’s father side) Holloway and Brooks.  Brooks, Peterson and Yeldell are the names in my family that people tend to always be familiar with.  Peterson’s in the Edgefield area are huge.  My 2xgreat grandfather was a big man in Edgefield. I am guessing because of his farming.  He was so big that in 1909 he was mentioned in the paper.  Enoch Peterson was a Negro agriculturist in Edgefield SC.  He was mentioned in an Aiken County paper because he died from a disease called Pellegra.  Pellegra, which was a disease caused by vitamin deficiency, was a new illness and people were afraid it was contagious.  Although the papers biggest reason to post about him was to let the people know he was not from that area the fact that an aged negro man was mentioned at all was a huge deal.  During that time black men didn’t have obituaries and this was the closest a black person would get to having one.  To top it off at the top of the article it was stated special to the state.  Because of this article I was able to learn the date of death and the year my 2x Great granddaddy died.

Enoch Peterson Obituary

Then there are the Yeldell’s.  I already mentioned about my grandfather and uncle, but what about where the surname came from.  The white Yeldell’s in Edgefield were very influential people.  They had a farm and trained their slaves with high paying trades like carpentry and blacksmith.  They were instrumental in government in South Carolina and it seems so far they were not that keen on slavery.  As life went on they seem to be a part of the first to move on with it.

Now we get to the Brooks family who were the owners of my family.  So ok you already know where my dilemma is if you follow me up here.  Our last name is Yeldell but my 2xgreat grandmother was Brooks.  My research lets me know that she changed the names of my great grandfather and his siblings from Brooks to Yeldell by the time of the 1880 census.  I know that at one point she was married but I have no idea who she was married to nor do I know where or why the name changed.  Because of this I have a question of where my bloodline is.  Now there is DNA but number one I don’t have the money to do it and number two in order to find that out for that side I need a man to do it.  I am working on my male cousins and uncle but so far no luck.  So in the meantime I am looking to see if I see myself or my family in my Ancestors.  I started looking at my ancestors and paid attention to what they did and what my family is doing.

Did this help? Well no.  Yeldell’s and Brooks were both politically involved families.  Very outspoken, definitely feisty and when they believe in something it is supported one hundred percent.  Yeldell men, both white & black from what I hear treat women like they are supposed to be treated, are very handsome and extremely intelligent.  When talking with other Yeldell’s or viewing pictures no matter what race I hear and see my family.  I know going this route is not concrete but it is fun to do and I think will make that final discovery through DNA that much sweeter.

Until Next time…

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