Grandma Matilda, if it were not for the 1870 US Census, 1880 US Census, an Abbeville County, SC land deed, and my first glimpse of your name in print in an old church hymnal before I was school age, I would think you were only a figment of my imagination.
I have no photograph, and no one living seems to have any recollection of you. Oh yeah, there's that one mention of you in the biography of your son, Lafayette Franklin Vance in 1919. I know you were born around 1841 and your mother who is nameless to me was born in Virginia during slavery. Your maiden name was Dunlap. I am going mad trying to connect you to parents. Do you know how many Dunlaps were in Virginia? Did you leave her behind when you came to South Carolina? Whew!
I suspect your mother could be Sarah Dunlap who had a son named Robert living in Calhoun County near Abbeville, but close is just not good enough. You have simply got to give me a little more to go on. You just disappeared after the 1880's with not even a trace in a descendant's memory. That is pretty hard to do with 8 children...one would think.
I share the blame. I could have asked more about you when I opened your grandson Emory's hymnal. He did not volunteer any information other than you were his grandmother. The fact that hymnal was dedicated to you means you made an impact somewhere. Only one problem.....someone forgot to keep your memory alive.
For goodness sakes, no one even knows where you were buried or even when you died. We are only talking five generations here...what a shame. I have gone far past that on other lines. You make me think of the song "Waltzing Matilda." People are in disagreement about the origins of the song and they even think the song is about traveling with a bag over your back. Some argue that the Matilda in the song is a bag not a lady. See Waltzing Matilda and Waltzing Matilda a little ditty. How could you lose the memory of someone or something you cherish so much? People love the song so much they have written many versions, but know one is sure what it is about.
I know so much about all your children and your brave husband, Beverly Vance (1832--1899), who I consider a Reconstruction Era hero. You were there too. If he made the choice in 1868 to vote, he would have been dead in ten days as he had been warned. He did not cross party lines though, and in 1876, he was a constable standing guard at the ballot box.
Thanks for that decision....I would not be here. He was one mile from the place Senator B. F. Randolph was shot and killed in 1868. A different decision would have cost him the same price. I wish you were here to experience my day. I saw a YouTube video, We Are All Cousins, the other night that made me feel so fortunate to have the genfriends that I do. Elizabeth Shown Mills explained that she has never encountered feelings of prejudice among members of the genealogy community. I feel the same.
So Grandma...I have to be going...I snuck away from the family BBQ. It's Labor Day. Just remember, I am not just waltzing here. I could use some help :).