The Yeldell Family (Through My Eyes)











{January 10, 2013}   Two Cities, One Church

Does your church have a unique name? What I mean is can you go outside of your state and find the name of your church somewhere else?  More than likely you can.  Did it ever make you wonder if those two churches were connected? I never would have thought like that had I not researched my family.  There are two Springfield Baptist Church in two different states that are connected.  One is located in Edgefield SC and the other in Washington DC. Both happen to play a huge part in my life.  These two churches didn’t even know they were connected until I started to research my family.  Who am I, my name is Donya Williams and my ties to both Springfield’s run deep may be even to both of their beginnings.

church

Springfield of DC

When I first started my research I already knew my connection with the Springfield of DC.  It was organized in 1939 by my grandparents and three other people. The first church was a store front on 7th street NW in Washington DC.  Although the suggestion of the first pastor came from a friend my grandfather was the one who acquired him, the Late Reverend Eddie Gallmon.  From the beginning granddaddy was the go to man.  His name is on the cornerstone as Chairman of the Deacon Board, I have documents that had to have his signature and from stories I have been told they went to him for everything.  Finally there was my grandmother. I am sure she held her own when it came to the founding of the DC Springfield but the most important part was naming the church after the same church she attended as a child. You guessed it The Springfield of Edgefield. My grandparents involvement was so instrumental that one person said the Yeldell’s were the glue that held the church together. In Edgefield SC the history of Springfield was not that different.  With the exception of how long both have been around their story is very close to identical.

The Springfield of Edgefield was organized in 1870.  The history tells us that the first pastor and four other men brought it to light in a blacksmith shop on the Major Bowles Property.  Natonne Kemp a friend, family member by marriage and fellow genealogist was able to dig up the deed and get the name of the men.  Joshua Peterson, who we are not sure if he is both of our relative, Andrew Harrison, Pickens Rearden, Miles Holloway and Nelson Shepard were all involved with the organization and founding of that church.  With the exception of Pickens Rearden I know that Harrison, Holloway and Shepard are all connected to my family.  Like my grandfather in DC they were deacons of the church in Edgefield.  Both churches are still in existence.  The Springfield of DC just celebrated 73 years while Springfield of Edgefield has been around for 142 years.

I met my cousin from Edgefield in September 2012 and he sent my mom two pictures. One picture was of the original Springfield that was built in 1870.  The other was of what the Springfield of Edgefield looks like today.

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1870 Springfield of Edgefield

When I viewed the older picture several thoughts popped through my head.  For example, the Springfield of Edgefield history teaches us that the second Pastor W.M Peterson was and still is their longest-serving pastor.  He served for 65 years.  Knowing this information and looking at that picture the doors are the same doors my grandparents walked through.  They met there, fell in love there, got married there.  They started their first six children spiritual walk there.  I realized my great-grandmother was three years old when this church was brought into existence.  She grew up there and probably met my great-grandfather there and definitely married there possibly by the same pastor who married her daughter.  That picture captured my mind and my heart.  I am so glad to be doing what I am doing to learn about my family and the spiritual connection that spans within two cities.  Nothing is more exciting to find my family responsible for founding not one but TWO churches!

 

 

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{January 2, 2013}   NEW BEGINNINGS

When I look through my looking glass and I think about the year 2012, I would say that it was the worse year of my life.  I have family members that I don’t talk to anymore and a friend who I miss with every beat of my heart.  I have entered into new frontiers with my children with no way of understanding how to deal with it.  I was mad at the fact that just when I was getting in a groove with my babies they grew up and were no longer babies.  My daughter is working and talking about moving out while my oldest son is old enough to go to a New Year’s eve party.  Did he go?  Well no, but I didn’t realize he was old enough until he asked.  Then there is Demetrius who feels he is oldest enough for rated M games and Cameron who wants to know why he can’t play them now because its not like he doesn’t understand most of what goes on in the games.  I have also been unemployed for two years and could not have been any poorer than what I am.

However through that same looking glass I saw my blessings.  Those family members I don’t talk to I have come to a type of peace that as long as they know that I love them I won’t be hurt if we didn’t speak again, that friend and I are trying to find a common ground even though we have feelings that work even harder to stop us from agreeing.  My daughter and I have come to an agreement to help her get her own while I made it a point to apologize to my son for not realizing that it was something that he was able to do.  As for Demetrius and Cameron the lord has to work on me, with me and through me when it comes to them. I realized that although I am unemployed my landlord has worked with me and helped me in ways that you would never expect a person with no ties with you would.  I eat every single day somehow bills are paid.  I never had the fear of losing the roof over our head while I am unemployed.  I joined my church and I added over 20 new members not even known to us to the family tree.  I found and met family members outside of my grand parents children and on the last day of the year I talked with a side of the family that I was starting to believe had died out and would never get a chance to truly learn about.    If I didn’t know… I know right now that I am truly “Blessed and Highly favored”.

Some wanted us to believe the end of the earth would be December 21st, but it wasn’t the end but a new beginning.  The Mayan calendar wasn’t predicting the end but the start of new…a beginning.  A beginning to acknowledge what I have, an opportunity to try new things, an opening to meet new people.  It has broaden my thought process which in turn given me a new outlook on life.  My journey in finding my family, or should I say more of my family, has become more than a hobby to me.  It is now apart of my life that will not end for me.  It started out with me searching for my grandfather’s family and now I have both my grandparents family. We are not just Yeldell’s anymore.  I mean don’t get me wrong we were never just Yeldell’s.  There were always other surnames, but the difference is we were all descendants from one man and one woman.  But now everyone isn’t from them they are from their parents. We are Freeman’s and Harrison’s and Peterson’s and Seniors.  We are bigger and stronger and we need a new name.  Because I am doing this I feel responsible for letting them know that all are welcome.  We are a new Beginning.




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…




One thing I can say about my research is that I am not alone.  I have found so many Yeldells that have the same story as mine.   Sure other people have problems during their research but they can connect their families.  I have run across hundreds of Robert Yeldells and not find a connection with any of my Roberts.  The one thing that is for certain with all Yeldells is the same surnames that are in my yeldell family are in other Yeldell families and we can’t even connect them.

Tomorrow I go to my first meeting with people who have families from the Edgefield County area.  You have no idea how excited I am.  These genealogist have been researching for years and I look forward to learning from them.  I am also excited because I will be meeting two of my relatives for the first time.  Both who are related to me through my grandmother’s side of the family.  I will give details later

Until next time…



{October 2, 2012}   the Haitian Claim Fact or Myth

It has been said by my Aunts and Uncles that their brother John Carlton Yeldell was the first person in our family to do research on our family.  Other than myself there are three more family members that I know of who have done individual research of their own.  None of us (to my knowledge) has gotten to where we have been told Uncle John did.  According to Uncle John we come from Haiti and we are direct descendants of the famous author Alexandre Dumas.  For those that don’t know he wrote the Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.  So of course my goal is to prove the claims that

  1. we are of Haitian descendent
  2. we are related to Alexander Dumas.

How did my uncle come to these conclusions?  Now a days it is somewhat easy to find these things out.  I mean with places like ancestry.com, familysearch.org and DNA testing a few hundred dollars can help you find your very first ancestor.  But my uncle died in 1961 so being able to find out something like that in that time period had to be difficult probably even close to impossible.  I mean it took me about 20 years to get what I have.  Well in my research I have come close to how we may actually be of Haitian descendant.  John Brooks the great grandfather to Preston Brooks is said to have traveled from England and in his travels he stopped in Haiti to pick up supplies.  He then made his way into Virginia and finally settling in Edgefield SC.

It seems the slaves he had were passed down.  Sure some of them were sold off but they were famous for keeping some in the family.  My great great grandmother Martha Brooks for example had been with them as a little girl.  I know this because I have the will of Whitfield Brooks (grandson to John) and the will of Preston (Whitfield’s son).  Martha was handed down to Preston when Whitfield died and was sold to a family member named Lemuel when Preston died.  Was Martha parents bought as supplies from Haiti this is apart of goals and what is next for me to learn.

I know that I will never be able to learn the names of my twice great grandmother but to learn her origin and where she came from would be amazing.  Wish me luck as I gather this money and pray this DNA testing can help me solve this mystery.

Until Next Time…




The below post was written when I found out I would have articles published I am placing it now because I wanted it to be apart of my blog.  the title has the original date this was written and posted in facebook.  Until next time…

 

My research on the Yeldell family has taken me through so many things.  It is oh so exciting to learn about our ancestors.  I know that I said I would not share anymore unless asked but this is something that honors our grandparents, our aunts, our uncles, moms and dads.  The story goes like this:

I was watching the Today show and they were honoring people over the age of 100.  The name Mamie Rearden popped up.  She turned 113 years old on September 7, 2011.  She is from Edgefield, South Carolina and attends Springfield Baptist Church.  When I saw and heard that I lost it.  I stated how great it would be for me to get to talk with her.  She was born the same year (1898) as our grandmother the late Annie Mae Senior Yeldell.  I knew that if I could speak with her she could give me so much information on our family.  So I went to the internet and started to read about her.  I got names of her children and learned that she is of sound mind.  So I thought some more and decided to contact the African American genealogist library to see if there is any way I could speak with her.

 

Tonya Browder who is the head of the African American genealogist research library and my contact for all things Edgefield gave me the number to a reporter with an Edgefield paper.  She told me that if anyone could get me an interview with Mrs. Rearden it would be her.  So I contacted this reporter.  I explained to her who I was and what I would like to do.  I talked about how our grandparents were born there and migrated to DC as well as spoke about how they attended the same church as Mrs. Rearden while living in Edgefield.  I told her once they settled in the DC area they founded their own Springfield Baptist.  This woman thought that was a wonderful story and is placing an article about our grandparents and their children in the Edgefield Advertiser.  She wants pictures of the Grandma and Granddad, a picture of Springfield Baptist church in dc, a picture of the cornerstone with granddaddy’s name and the names of their children.  My mouth dropped to the ground.

 

She will be writing this article and placing it in the paper the first week of February for Black History month.  She told me that she would send me a copy once it is done I thought about waiting but I decided to share this with all of you now.  The article will be written by Suzanne Derrick editor and owner of the paper.  I have sent her all of the info that I have found on our family so far and will be in contact with her until the article is written.  If you have any input (pictures, little known facts etc.) outside of what I already know please pass it on to me so that I can forward it to her.  Oh yea and she is going to get me the interview with Ms. Rearden.



{September 30, 2012}   The New Step in my Journey

I have gone through things in my life.  I have lost where I lived, been separated from my children, I have even been locked up.  But the current road that my journey is taking me on is more frightening than any of the things that I have gone through so far.  I will be joining my family church.   The church that has been a topic of  my blogs and as I learned the beginning of my entire family.  Now you may ask Donya, you can’t be serious about joining a church, your family church being scary?  My answer to you is I am more serious than you could every imagine.

While conducting my research I have gone through both mental and spiritual changes.  Mentally, and this may sound crazy to some, but I have connected with my ancestors.  I have heard them speak out to me and guide me into the direction that would be best to teach me and allow me to learn about them.  They have also taught me that GOD is the basis of who they are and in turn who I am.  Both new Yeldells (those I have met) and old Yeldells feel we are chosen people by GOD and I have been given the opportunity to learn why.  In my learning I have gotten closer and closer to him and because of that closeness the Devil has thrown more and more obstacles in my path.

Now what is frightening is the fact that I am able to recognize these obstacles and then see GOD move me around those same obstacles.  Most would say well since you can see it you shouldn’t be afraid of it.  But that is not true.  Everything that is coming at me is way bigger than me.  Way more than what I could ever be able to handle. And to see those things coming and knowing personally I can’t do anything about it, leaves me to do nothing but trust that a higher being, a force that is unseen get you through it and pass it.  That is what is scary.  I have learned the more I trust in him the more I WILL be attacked.  So yes joining a church is FRIGHTENING, and although I am afraid I am going to take that step.

I end this writing by thanking GOD.  Thanking him for the ability to understand what I need to understand and the courage to move forward in my journey blindly knowing you will not allow anything to harm me.  In JESUS the CHRIST name I pray.  AMEN.

Until next time…



{September 7, 2012}   Mamie Rearden 114

Normally when I do a post it is about my family.  Today’s post may or may not be about MY family (still checking on that) but it is definitely a post worth writing.   Mamie Rearden of Edgefield, SC turns 114 years old today.  This is important to me for several reasons.

1)  She is the oldest Living African American Woman in the United States

2)  She attends the same church as my grandparents when they lived in Edgefield and probably has family members that were founders of that church.

3) she went to school with my grandmother and finally

4) She is the same age as my grandmother would be if she was alive today.

I have a connection with her in so many ways but most importantly because she was the reason why my grandparents were honored in the Edgefield Advertiser in February of this year.  If you remember the story went something like this:

“I was watching the Today show and they were honoring people over the age of 100.  The name Mamie Rearden popped up.  She turned 113 years old on September 7, 2011.  She is from Edgefield, South Carolina and attends Springfield Baptist Church.  When I saw and heard that I lost it.  I stated how great it would be for me to get to talk with her.  She was born the same year (1898) as our grandmother the late Annie Mae Senior Yeldell.  I knew that if I could speak with her she could give me so much information on our family.  So I went to the internet and started to read about her.  I got names of her children and learned that she is of sound mind.  So I thought some more and decided to contact the African American genealogist library to see if there is any way I could speak with her.

Tonya Browder who is the head of the African American genealogist research library and my contact for all things Edgefield gave me the number to a reporter with an Edgefield paper.  She told me that if anyone could get me an interview with Mrs. Rearden it would be her.  So I contacted this reporter.  I explained to her who I was and what I would like to do.  I talked about how our grandparents were born there and migrated to DC as well as spoke about how they attended the same church as Mrs. Rearden while living in Edgefield.  I told her once they settled in the DC area they founded their own Springfield Baptist.  This woman thought that was a wonderful story and is placing an article about our grandparents and their children in the Edgefield Advertiser.  She wants pictures of the Grandma and Granddad, a picture of Springfield Baptist church in dc, a picture of the cornerstone with granddaddy’s name and the names of their children.  My mouth dropped to the ground.

She will be writing this article and placing it in the paper the first week of February for Black History month.  She told me that she would send me a copy once it is done I thought about waiting but I decided to share this with all of you now.  The article will be written by Suzanne Derrick editor and owner of the paper.  I have sent her all of the info that I have found on our family so far and will be in contact with her until the article is written.  If you have any input (pictures, little known facts etc.) outside of what I already know please pass it on to me so that I can forward it to her.  Oh yea and she is going to get me the interview with Ms. Rearden.”

It is because of the story listed above my connection to Mrs. Rearden has grown.  I am still trying to get to Edgefield to maybe get that interview.  But wishing her a Happy Birthday is the most I can do.
Until Next Time….

video of Mrs. Rearden at the age of 110




my mom and her cousins

It was by mistake how I met Ulysses Freeman.  I was calling Springfield Baptist church in Edgefield SC for possible records on my grandparents wedding and to see if there was a marker or headstone placed on the gravesite.  The secretary Dorothy Ryan (niece to our Aunt Essie Senior-Ryan but that’s another story) told me there were no records from weddings as early as 1913 but she directed me to Ulysses Freeman as far as learning about the gravesite.  So I called Ulysses and I told him what I wanted.  He said sure I can help you what were their names.  I told him my grandmother is Annie Mae Yeldell and my grandfather is Jefferson Davis Yeldell.  There was a pause and then he said “Jeff Yeldell my daddy had an uncle name Jeff Yeldell.”  Then I paused.  I asked him what was your father’s parents name” he said Mattie and Nathaniel Freeman.  I was shocked Mattie was my grandfather’s sister.

On November 19, 2011, I wrote on the blog about finding two of  my granddaddy’s siblings Mattie Yeldell-Freeman and Gary Yeldell.  Well on September 2, 2012 one year shy of writing that post the Yeldell’s of DC met our Aunt Mattie Freeman’s grandchildren.   We met her son Cleveland’s children Ulysses, Lutricia and Brenda.  This wasn’t the first time the Yeldell’s and the Freeman’s met.  As a matter of fact out of the five siblings granddaddy has Mattie’s children are the only other Yeldell’s that we have known before.  Peter, Katie and Oscar Freeman used to visit my mom and her siblings when my grandfather was still alive.  Katie even lived with the Yeldell’s of DC for a little while.

Its been 48 years since my grandfather died and my family lost contact with Peter, Katie and Oscar. So bringing that family back into our lives was definitely a blessing.  I don’t think Ulysses and I ever really talked about the grave site but I am sure we will because we have promised each other to never lose touch.   It was very brief but yesterday we met Ulysses and his wife Alberta, his two daughters Tonjua and Tamiya and Tamiya’s husband Charles Fisher.  We also met Ulysses sisters Brenda and her husband Charles Behlin and Lutricia.  New Yeldell’s that lived right here in the DC area that we didn’t know were in attendance as well.  Shirley Yeldell and her husband James and their daughter Pastor Charlene Ivey and her son James Ivey.



{August 2, 2012}   Count Your Blessings

Do we realize the roles that others play in our lives? I do, but I will admit I didn’t at first.  I mean sure I knew the roles of my mom and my sister.  I even recognized the roles of my closest friends and their parents. But it wasn’t until I started this research when I realized the importance of everyone’s role. People you don’t know and people who may have spent just a moment in your life had a hand in shaping you into who you are.

Tomorrow my family is saying goodbye to a very dear loved one. Juanita Turner affectionately called by family and friends “Bugs” left us on July 18th at the start of the day.  She wasn’t sick I mean she had ailments (we all do) but she was not sick.  When I got the call my only thought was to get to her oldest living daughter one of the spokes in my personal wheel of life.  I had to be there for her. I had to be her shoulder, her rock, because I know she would and has been mine in different times in my life.  I cried when I saw Nicki, I cried when I saw Bugs and I cried when my mommy saw her niece.  That morning was rough.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything.  I sat on the side of my bed for three hours trying to figure out what to do. In all that sadness I missed Bugs I cried for Bugs I reminisced about Bugs but it wasn’t til today my thoughts were really about Bugs.

Today I thought about the nights I stayed at the house with Nicki.  I thought about how the stories I heard about how hard she hit. I would make sure I didn’t do anything wrong. LOL. She knew me from a baby but I can only remember maybe five years with her as a child.  My mommy moved to Va. Beach when I was 12 so the next time she saw me I was 18 but it wasn’t long actually really brief because as soon as I got here I left and went to college within two months. I was finally home permanently at the end of 1993.  We still didn’t spend time with each other but the few times that I saw her or talked to her she was still bugs with the great laugh and the sweetest person in the world and she looked just like my mommy. I loved her so very much.

About a month before her death was the first time we really talked.  It wasn’t face to face but over the phone. That phone conversation had to have been two hours long.  We talked about what I was doing and how my children were.  We talked about family and the research I am doing. She was so interested and we decided together to solve the mystery of her fabulous mother’s name.  I got the chance to tell her I love her and I got the chance to hear her tell me she loved me.  It was the best conversation ever! The last time I had this feeling was when one of the other spokes in my wheel of life left me. We separated knowing that we loved each other.  You can’t beat that feeling.  When Camille died I didn’t understand that feeling then but I do now.  It is a blessings.

I know I told you already Bugs but I love you and I will miss you so very much.  Your role in my life shaped me until you left us. With my children (they know I don’t play either LOL) and through our two hour long conversation. Your mom shared you with me and you shared your daughters with me. You were such a blessing in my life.  You did it without me and found out your mom’s name. Although I wish it was found in a different way I am so grateful for your contributions to the family tree.  You made a wonderful impact in my life and I am so glad to be able to reflect on it.

Juanita “Bugs” Turner leaves behind two daughters, 8 grandchildren, 6 great grandchildren, 1 Brother, 1 nephew, 2 great nieces, 2 Aunts, 1 Uncle and hundreds of cousins who loved her more than she could have ever imagined. Her mother Margaret and oldest daughter (Joycelyn)  has met her to welcome her into Heaven.



et cetera