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August 27, 2014, 5:04 pm

Philly storyteller successfully traces family tree

Northwest Philadelphia storyteller Joann “Auntie Jojo” Frasier Dasent, who resides in Cheltenham, was recently inspired by the words of Martin Luther King III.

The son of the legendary Civil Rights Movement leader spoke at a genealogy workshop. As he traced the southern roots of his own family tree, it sparked Dasent’s interest in putting together the missing links of her ancestry trail back in Georgetown, S.C.

This journey not only took her scampering through South Carolina documents, but led to a family reunification in the family’s Mount Airy home. Her mother would often connect with her brother Thomas Benjamin in North Carolina and her other brother Wilie Alfonzo in South Carolina, but searched for her other brother Ed Jr. for 37 years. The impetus from King led her to find her uncle and bring her mother and him together again.

“Georgetown, S.C. is where my mother had so many fond memories as a little girl,” Dasent said. “It is where my grandparents met, fell in love and married at a very young age. It was during the 20th century that Georgetown became a modernized city with electricity, telephone service, sewer facilities, rail connections, some paved streets and sidewalks, a new bank, a port, and a public school.

“After the Great Depression it was hard times and tuberculosis hit Georgetown with a vengeance,” Dasent said. “After the Great Depression my mother, the only girl of seven children (left orphaned as a child) migrated north to live with relatives. That’s when she was separated from her siblings.”

It was just a few days shy of Dasent’s mother’s 82nd birthday that she sat at her computer and decided to search for the uncle her mother lost contact with. Since the children in the family were split up and went to different states living with different relatives their last names were changed. Dasent’s determination paid off as she found herself on the phone with her uncle’s wife.

“She assured me that her husband had been looking for his sister for 37 years,” Dasent said. “When I spoke to him I felt like I was going to faint. I had to dance and thank the small voice within. I was shaking like a leaf when I called my mother. After we (her siblings) regained our composure everyone pulled out phone books and spread the good news.”

Thanks to new technology her newly found uncle was able to see some of his lost siblings by way of Skype, according to Dasent.

“My uncle spoke to his brother for the first time in over 70 years,” she said. “My mother and uncle met for the first time (in Mount Airy) for the first time since she was 10 years old. The rest is ‘hestory’ and history and I know our God is an awesome God.”