Monday, September 22, 2014

In Touch With Our History in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana

Antoinette Harrell and Bernice A. Bennett researching
family history in St. Helena Clerk's Office
Whenever I visit the St. Helena Clerk of Court office to conduct genealogy research, I prepare myself to spend the entire day. There are so many records and documents to read. The marriage, conveyance and other indexed books are very helpful, if you would like to see the original documents you can tell the employees and they would gladly pull them for you.

After finishing my research in the courthouse I went to the St. Helena Parish Branch library. There isn't many African American genealogy family history books in the library. I made copies of all the family records that I could find of my family members on all side of my family, and any other record that's vital to my family research.  Once I left the library, I visited Rocky Hill A.M.E. church were my 2nd great grandfather Thomas and his wife Amanda Richardson are buried. Their graves were easy to find because they have headstones. Amanda Breland Richardson was born in Livington Parish, Louisiana in the mid 1800s. 

Rocky Hill Cemetery, St. Helena Parish
Several branches of my family roots are deeply connected in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. The Richardson, Hart, Burton, Boykin and Harrell records can be found and I still have relatives that reside in St. Helena Parish. 

My plans is to go back and look at other records that had been buried in the dust. Since I've been traveling back and forth conducting genealogy research, I found one other African American person researching their family history and that is a woman by the name of Myrtis Johnson. Myrtis was looking for slave cemeteries, and I'll never forget the first time she took me to a slave cemetery in St. Helena Parish. There were over forty unmarked graves. She managed to get the graves cleaned off and add some head and foot markers put on the graves. 

I asked her did she know the names of any of the people in the cemetery,  she said that someone gave a few names. I wanted to know if Carrie Richardson was buried in that cemetery. I would like to find other information about Carrie. I do know she was sold to the Kemp family in St. Helena and that's all I know about Carrie.

St. Helena Parish has beautiful land. If you live close by and are looking to take a country scenic ride, St. Helena Parish is the place to visit. I often stop and talk with elderly people who were sitting on their front porch. I enjoy sitting a spell as they would say to talk with them, I soon learn that I'm talking to a walking library so I sit, listen and take notes, especially when you are talking about people they know and events they can recall.  If I'm lucky they will pull out a photograph of their loved ones.   

Sometimes I feel like I stepped back in time, a time when life was much simpler.  My ancestors who were slaves saw the harsh treatment of the slave masters and planters. But they remained in St. Helena and called it home. As a matter of fact, some will tell you that there is no other place they would rather live. The smell of the morning fresh air, trees whispering, birds chirping and the morning dew can be found on the green grass and beautiful meadows.

Most of the people who live there wouldn’t trade the beautiful and quiet parish for life in a busy city.  They will stay their until they are called on to “Glory” as they would say. Genealogy has no ending, I can only research and document what I found until the next genealogist or family historian comes along and pick up where I left off.