Excited to share the most recent book review, a book note, that appears in the Journal of Southern History, vol. 84, no. 4, 2018, p. 1065.
There Is Something about Edgefield: Shining a Light on the Black Community through History, Genealogy, and Genetic DNA. By Edna Gail Bush and Natonne Elaine Kemp. (Takoma Park, Md.: Rocky Pond Press, 2017. Pp. 330. Paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-0-9992406-0-1; cloth, $20.00, ISBN 978-0-99924062-5.)
If biography is the handmaiden of history, then DNA testing may very well be the new hand tool of genealogy. All elements—biography, genealogy, and DNA—are present in this narrative of the authors' successes and failures in tracing their descent from enslaved African Americans and white enslavers in Edgefield County, South Carolina. The story has all the trappings of an engrossing saga, and if the results are less than that, it may be due not to the authors, who write quite lucidly, but to the paucity of records or to the nature of the lives researched.
Excessive amounts of blood and ink have been spilled on the racial violence that has characterized Edgefield County and the South. The authors detail some of it and succeed in following their lineage back to when their ancestors were chattel, coming forward to Reconstruction and beyond as well. To compensate for the lack of detail about relatives reduced to "x" marks on censuses or assumed to be residents in specific locales at specific times, the authors resort to logical assumptions and imagined emotions their kin might have felt. Much is made of "nuggets" of information that the authors candidly admit come from standard sources or the internet (p. 227). Like unrefined bits of ore, these bits, while interesting, cannot take the place of fully recovered or realized past lives. It is sad for all involved that despite herculean efforts to reconstruct enslaved people's lives, the outcome is often frustratingly vague. A bit of a how-to guide, the book details the authors' search and will encourage others to do the same. [HARLAN GREENE, College of Charleston]