MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A Bible, for most people, serves as a source of inspiration and truth.
But for some families, Bibles were one of the only methods they had to document information about their family’s birth and death.
Helen Fox lives in Myrtle Beach and says her family is doing all they can to solidify both her parents’ history.
Both of Fox’s parents were born during the era of Jim Crow laws.
During that time, African Americans were known to record their vital information in Bibles, because many did not receive birth certificates.
Helen keeps her mother’s Bible by her side. The pages document her mother’s birth and family history.
Her mom was born in 1928.
Although Helen has closure about her mother’s history, she says things are a bit more complicated when it comes to her father’s history.
Helen took a moment to reminisce about her dad’s style as she looked at a picture of him wearing a hat.
“My dad with his hat,” she said. “He loved hats.”
She described Foster Fox as a loving father who worked hard to take care of his family.
“Wonderful man, a great man,” Helen said. “He took care of a family of ten. That was not easy. He was someone you could call and talk to. I had my father. Now he’s gone, we’re trying to move forward.”
She says there are many missing parts to her dad’s story. After his death, the family is trying to get clarity about the date he was born. She says the answer could be found inside the Bible.
Foster Fox died in 2016 after battling lung cancer.
Helen and her family then later realized information about her father’s date of birth was incorrect.
The family thought Foster was born in 1935. But Helen found official documents stating he was born in 1921.
“There’s other documentation that’s showing December 1925,” Helen said. “That’s two different documentations we have and we’re trying to figure this out. My daughter started looking at ancestries and pulling up information about his date of birth and when he went into the military and things wasn’t matching up because [based on the 1935 birth date] he would’ve been ten or 11-years old going into the military. So that’s when we started figuring out things. So I went to vital records to figure out what was going on. Back then with black people, all they had was the Bible. That’s how they recorded deaths and births.”
Foster was born in Darlington before his family branched out and moved to Baltimore, Maryland.
Helen says he served in the military.
When he became ill, Helen was by his side caring for him. During that time, she had conversations with her father about his life.
“He and I [talked] about Iwo Jima and [how he] fought in the war,” Helen said. “Stuff like that, you don’t really think about it until after they passed. The dots didn’t connect to me then [until] after he passed away. Then I thought about it, ‘Iwo Jim,’ if he was born in 1935, he [wouldn’t] been old enough to [serve] in the military.”
Helen’s hopeful, somewhere, there’s a family Bible with her father’s information. Right now, she says the process of trying to find it is hard because she’s imagining herself walking in her father’s shoes.
“I imagine what they had to go through keeping records of stuff,” she said. “Because all they had was the family Bible.”
Coastal Carolina University Assistant Professor of English Tabitha Lowery sheds a light on what life was like for African Americans during the Jim Crow era.
”Life for them was pretty difficult for them living separate and equal. Even though much of that was never equal for Black Americans,” said Lowery. “Between 1877 to mid 1960′s roughly. The[racial] hierarchy system pitted white Americans above black Americans. Oftentimes in social life, many African Americans were not able to enter through front doorways or eat in similar restaurants as White Americans could or sit at the front of the buses where white Americans traditionally sat. There we many types of laws that often segregated Black Americans from White Americans.”
Lowery added that the impact of Jim Crow can be felt for some families today, like Helen’s, trying to piece together their loved one’s history. A history that wasn’t so easily documented.
“We’re looking for closure, we’re trying to figure what direction to go next,” Helen said. “Some of the family stay in Darlington and some moved to Baltimore. Somewhere in there, something’s missing. Someone has correct information out there about him. We want to put the correct birthday on his stone.”
Helen’s daughter, Laticia Stephens, is creating a family tree. She says the process of trying to document her family’s history is very difficult because there aren’t many records to go by.
“I’ve noticed in my research, if you research a White American family, it takes you to European days,” said Stephens. “But in the African American community [a lot of times] it kind of stops. You don’t know exactly where you came from. I was researching the Fox name itself and I found out it could be tied to a plantation owner. With history, we’ve been told we’ve come from Africa and we’ve had other names. And when we brought here [to America] by the plantation owner’s they changed our names. So the Fox family name could be [from] a plantation owner. But we don’t know anything because records were not kept on us. It was just easier to let things go.”
Stephens says if her father’s Bible is found, pieces of the family tree will be complete.
Anyone with information about the Bible can contact Stephens on any of her social media platforms.