Once Upon A Time (OUAT), founder and owner, Ryan J. Heathcock will offer a video presentation and discussion on “Our Stories Matter: Documenting Our History and Culture in the Lowcountry” from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12th at the St. Helena Branch Library. Through OUAT, Heathcock offers his experience and his expertise to the residents of the Lowcountry and the organizations serving the communities within the Gullah Geechee Corridor to keep their history alive and documented for generations to come. Ryan will be speaking about his “journey of discovery” tracing his genealogy from Africa, to Europe, to the Americas. Ryan has traced his Gullah roots to St. Helena Island as far back as the 1800’s with his fifth great grandmother, Elizabeth Heirs.
In 2008 Ryan began researching his family history focusing on his father, Johannes Heathcock, who was born in Steinhöring, Germany in 1946. Seven years later Ryan turned his attention to his mother, Brenda Heathcock’s Gullah roots in South Carolina. His great grandmother Margaret Capers was born 1903 on St. Helena Island. She married and finally settled in Newport News, Virginia where she had 6 children, her oldest, Elwood Parker, was Ryan’s grandfather. But it was Elwood’s youngest sibling, his sister Margaret Judkins, who would provide Ryan with the key to unlocking the mystery behind his Gullah heritage. It was his Aunt Margaret who first told him about St. Helena Island and from there his course was set.
In November of 2015, Ryan and his mother attended the annual Penn Center Heritage Days Celebration on St. Helena Island and took part in a seminar on researching your genealogy. It was there that information was provided to Ryan and his mother on how to best research their ancestry. A few weeks later, utilizing the information from the seminar, Ryan discovered that his first ancestor arrived from Africa and settled on St. Helena Island, where according to census records of the day, she gave birth to her first and only child in 1840.
Ryan has returned to his Gullah roots here on St. Helena Island with his own video production company, Ryan Int’l, to help support local residents through his initiative, “Once Upon a Time”. OUAT was created with the intent to give individuals, as well as historical and cultural institutions, the opportunity to video document their stories to ensure that their history and legacy are preserved and passed on to the next generation “in their own words”.
Join Ryan Heathcock at the St. Helena Branch Library located at 6355 Jonathan Francis, Sr. Road, St. Helena Island on Saturday, March 12th from 1:00 –2:30 p.m. for “Our Stories Matter”. The presentation is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. This program is sponsored in part by the Beaufort County St. Helena Branch Library.