2013: The Year That Was At Lowcountry Africana
By Toni Carrier
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The gallery above has 130 pics from this year. Be sure to scroll back up after reading the post, to enjoy our 2013 in pictures!
2013 was one of the busiest years at LCA yet. So busy that we rarely slowed down enough to blog about it! We got out in the community, caught up with old friends, met many wonderful new friends and were blessed by the contributions and accomplishment of several talented colleagues. 2013 brought us opportunities to participate in meaningful research and great collaborations. The year that was at LCA was one of our busiest, but one of our best.
February: Magnolia Gardens Seminar, Field Trip to St. James Chapel of Ease
Our first collaboration opportunity came in February, when we presented a seminar at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens on breaking through the 1870 Brick Wall. Ramona La Roche of Family TYES SC presented on Reconstruction-Era records and I presented on Freedmen's Bureau records. After the presentation, Ramona La Roche, Paul Garbarini of Uniquely Charleston Tours, Fallon Green of African American Genealogy With Fallon Green and I provided one-on-one genealogy advice to attendees.
Here we first met William Perry, whose roots are on Johns Island. Mr. Perry has been researching his family for many years and decided to travel from Washington, D.C. to attend the seminar. With him traveling so far to attend, we were hopeful that we would be able to make his trip worth it by working with him to find new leads for his research. Thank Goodness, during the one-on-one research, we were able to locate Mr. Perry's ancestor Moll Ford.
Field Trip to St. James Chapel of Ease
While we were all together, Ramona, Paul, Fallon and I took a field trip to visit the St. James Chapel of Ease to meet with Justin Heyward Lynes and members of the Friends of St. James Chapel of Ease organization. St. James Chapel of Ease was endangered but is now protected and being restored thanks to the dedicated preservation efforts of Friends of St. James Chapel of Ease. After many years of fundraising, they raised the money to purchase the property and immediately commenced restoring damaged headstones and clearing and cleaning the cemetery. It was wonderful to visit the cemetery and meet this dedicated group of concerned citizen preservationists.
Here our second blessing and collaboration opportunity appeared when we met Dr. Ade Ofunniyin. "Dr. O," as he is known in the heritage preservation community, is an anthropologist and the founder of Gullah Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring Gullah ancestors and preserving their burial grounds. Dr. O joined us on the field trip at Ramona's urging and we are so happy that he did. In the months since, we have developed a meaningful collaboration with Gullah Society and Dr. O has become an invaluable member of our organization.
More good news - in February, we welcomed Ramona to LCA as Senior Editor. She hit the ground running and has brought so much magic to LCA with her dedication to honoring ancestors and preserving their stories. Ramona's special interest is in inspiring youth to learn and preserve family history and cultural heritage. Her new Youth Corner page on LCA will provide resources to inspire the next generation of family historians.
March: Launch of the Ancestors Page on LCA
In March we created a new blog called the Ancestors Page on Lowcountry Africana, where we post pictures of SC, GA or FL ancestors that need to make their way home to descendants. Have you found pictures of SC, GA or FL ancestors that you would like to share with the research community? You can share them on the Ancestors Page! Perhaps you have found a picture of an Ancestor that you would like to share online so descendants can find it. Or perhaps you descend from slaveholders and have pictures of African American ancestors who share your family's history.
If you have photos or documents that you would like to share, just drop us a line using our contact form, and we'll help you share! Your contributions will be cherished.
April: Smithsonian Research, Point of Pines Slave Cabin, Edisto Island
In April we began researching the history of the Point of Pines slave cabin acquired by the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society had previously acquired the cabin in order to preserve it, but limited funding led them to the difficult decision to donate the cabin to the Smithsonian in order to protect it and assure that it would be interpreted for the public.
When the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in late 2015, the cabin will be a centerpiece of the Slavery to Freedom exhibit.
April: A Milestone for the Fold3 Restore the Ancestors Project
Co-Director Alana Thevenet and Senior Editor, Digitization Projects William Durant have worked hard all year to index the final few reels of the Fold 3 collection "South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1728-1872." The entire collection will be indexed soon, and we are so grateful to Alana and William for the hard work they have poured into completing this major indexing project. Kudos and congratulations on this major achievement!
May: Smithsonian Cabin Move
In May, the Point of Pines Slave Cabin was carefully disassembled and each piece was meticulously labeled in preparation for the move. Lowcountry Africana was on hand for the cabin move, which was an incredible experience for us all.
A few days before the cabin move commenced, we met several descendants from the local community who remembered the families that lived at Point of Pines until the 1960s. We were blessed to met the Esteves family, who are descendants of James Hutchinson, a leader in the Edisto Island African American community during and after the Civil War.
James Hutchinson served in the U.S. Navy during the war. After Emancipation, he was a leader in the African American community as freed people forged new identities and negotiated the transition from slave to free labor. Hutchinson formed a land cooperative, purchased the "Berwick's" plantation on Edisto Island and subdivided the land among members of the cooperative. His family home is still standing on the road to Point of Pines Plantation.
Hutchinson's descendants Arlene Esteves and Theresa Hilliard joined us nearly every day during the cabin move and introduced us to other community members, including Mr. Junior Meggett, whose aunt and uncle lived in the cabin on Point of Pines. Mr. Meggett joined us several days during the move as well. Sharing the experience with Arlene, Theresa and Mr. Meggett was profound.
One of the most profound moments of the experience was when Theresa, who is a professional story teller and founder of Mama Doonk Gullah Stories, channeled her grandmother's voice to discuss the significance of the cabin going to the Smithsonian, where millions will view it and learn about the Gullah/Geechee culture. It is difficult to put into words how emotional that moments was, as Theresa became her grandmother, channeling her voice and facial expressions.
Related Video: NBC News
May: Gullah Festival
Once the cabin was disassembled, loaded on the truck and driven off to its temporary home in Virginia, we headed down to Gullah Festival for the official launch of African American Genealogy With Fallon Green. Ramona, Paul, Dr. O and I helped out at the genealogy advice table on Friday and Saturday, where we assisted more than 100 family historians with their research. We also got to eat "fair food," funnel cakes, barbeque and of course, rice!
June: 7 Days of Juneteenth
7 Days of Juneteenth is a tradition here at LCA. Each year for 7 days leading up to Juneteenth, we post new record sets from the earliest days of freedom. This year, we focused on Beaufort and Georgetown 1868 Voter Registrations, Freedmen's Bureau requests for transportation and an especially rich Freedmen's Bureau rations list that preserves the names of elders on 112 plantations in and around Moncks Corner, SC. You can view those files and more in our Research Library.
July: History Fair at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
In July, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens held their first annual History Fair. Representatives from 19 of Charleston’s most historic organizations and four research groups that study rice cultivation in the Lowcountry, African-American family ties, history and culture and the workmanship of legendary blacksmith Philip Simmons participated.
We were there with our advice table, handouts from Charleston area archives and "How To" research handouts. We enjoyed our new and much-needed tent, which had its first outing at this event. The fair was well-attended and we were able to assist many attendees with their family research before an afternoon rainstorm ended the day a bit earlier than planned. We look forward to participating in Magnolia's History Fair again!
July: Smithsonian's Return Visit
In mid July, Smithsonian curators Mary Elliott, Nancy Bercaw and Tsione Wolde-Michael returned to the Lowcountry for a week-long visit. We packed a lot into that one short week, visiting Caw Caw Interpretive Center, Walterboro, Edisto Island, The South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, Drayton Hall and the South Carolina Historical Society.
The South Carolina Historical Society brought out some of their richest holdings for curators to view - slave badges, plats, plantation journals, photographs and more. The most remarkable of these treasures was the register of Reverend Alexander Glennie, an itinerant minister attached to All Saints Waccamaw Church in Georgetown. Glennie established chapels on several local plantations. There he catechised, baptised, confirmed, and married enslaved ancestors on those plantations, recording all of his activities in his journal. Remarkably, the ring Reverend Glennie used to marry enslaved couples in Georgetown has been preserved and is curated by the South Carolina Historical Society.
At Drayton Hall, Executive Director George McDaniel guided us through the Drayton Hall house and grounds, an extant rice dike and "A Sacred Place: The African American Cemetery at Drayton Hall."
The Reverend Albert "Chick" Morrison, Jr. of the New First Missionary Baptist Church on Edisto Island hosted a community meeting between elders in the African American community and Smithsonian curators. Elders shared many rich stories of the Edisto Island community of days past which will greatly enhance Smithsonian's interpretation of the cabin and understanding of the history of Edisto Island's African American community. Mrs. Emily Meggett generously shared her recollections of the Meggett family, who lived in the Point of Pines Slave Cabin until the 1960s. We also enjoyed lunch which was graciously provided by Gretchen Smith and Carroll Belser of the Edisto Island Historical Museum.
July: Launch of the LCAfricana Instagram Page
In our ramblings throughout the Lowcountry we see so many beautiful landscapes and historic sites. So we decided to make an Instagram page where we can share our beloved Lowcountry with you! Please visit our page, which we add to regularly.You can follow us on LCAfricana on Instagram.
October: AAHGS Conference, Gullah Geechee Day, SC State Fair
In October I journeyed to Nashville to present at the 2013 AAHGS Conference. The presentation, "Port Royal: Birthplace of Freedom in the Old South," examined the events which transpired after the capture of Port Royal, SC by Union troops in 1861. The events brought about by the capture of Port Royal set the stage for one of the largest social transformations in American history - the transition from slave labor to wage labor and from slavery to emancipation.
I so enjoyed finally meeting my genfriends Angela Walton-Raji, Shelley Murphy, Renate Sanders, Nicka Smith and Taneya Koonce (and an unidentified photo bomber, see below) in person after working online with them for so many years!
The AAHGS Conference was simply outstanding. The presentations, the hotel, the food and the comraderie were wonderful and I look forward to attending many more AAHGS conferences.
Also in October, Ramona and Dr. O presented at Gullah Geechee Day at the South Carolina State Fair in Columbia. Dr. O presented his work with his Gullah Society organization, and Ramona presented materials on Family TYES SC and Lowcountry Africana.
October: Ball Family Records
October saw the debut of Henry Louis Gates' long-awaited PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. In the first segment, Gates highlighted the story of Priscilla, a 10 year old girl kidnapped in Sierra Leone in 1756, taken to Charleston, SC and sold there to rice planter Elias Ball. Priscilla labored on Ball family plantations for 55 years before she passed away at age 65.
Author Edward Ball, a descendant of Elias Ball, discovered Priscilla's story while researching the history of the Ball family and those they enslaved. Ball published his research in the award-winning book Slaves in the Family. Ball was able to trace Priscilla's family lineage in the extremely detailed and complete Ball family plantation records, and his research linked Priscilla to her great-great-great-great-great granddaughter Thomalind Martin Polite of Charleston.
Anthropologist Joseph Opala later discovered the log book of the ship Hare, Caleb Godfrey captain, which brought Priscilla from Sierra Leone to Charleston in 1756. With the discovery of the ship's log, there suddenly existed an unbroken 248 year paper trail linking Priscilla from the time she was taken from Sierra Leone, to present-day descendant Thomalind Martin Polite.
When the Sierra Leonean government learned of Thomalind's connection to Priscilla, they invited Thomalind to visit Sierra Leone as an honored guest, to bring Priscilla's spirit home to Africa after nearly 250 years. The 2005 trip, dubbed Priscilla's Homecoming, lasted twelve days, during which Thomalind was honored by government officials and community members alike.
We accompanied Thomalind on her trip in 2005, and as part of our ongoing contribution to the research, we traveled to every archive in the United States known to have Ball family records. In honor of Priscilla's story being highlighted in Henry Louis Gates' PBS series, we posted all of the extant Ball family wills, estate inventories and bills of sale on Lowcountry Africana, for others with roots on Ball family plantations to access. You can view the feature here: Do You Belong to Priscilla's Family? Take a Journey Through Ball Family Records to Find Out.
November: "Unearthing Treasures" Seminar, South Carolina Historical Society
On November 9th, we presented a seminar at the South Carolina Historical Society titled "Unearthing Treasures: Tracing Your African American Ancestors at the South Carolina Historical Society." This is the first African American genealogy seminar the South Carolina Historical Society has presented, and we were honored to be a part.
This seminar was very special for a number of reasons. The collections at the South Carolina Historical Society are among the richest and most significant for African American genealogy research in SC. The plantation journals, maps, plats and photographs in the holdings of the South Carolina Historical Society can open research windows for breaking through the 1870 Brick Wall and discovering the names and life stories of enslaved ancestors. Some plantation records such as the Ball Family Papers are virtually seamless from the early 1700s up to, and in some cases beyond, Emancipation. The LCA team was excited about sharing the rich resources at SCHS with family historians.
The seminar was limited to 30 participants, to enable archivists and LCA team members to work more closely with attendees. We spent the morning discussing research methods and plantation records, enjoyed a nice lunch, then devoted the afternoon to individual research in the South Carolina Historical Society's holdings.
In the days leading up to the seminar we worked with individual attendees to learn their areas of research interest and help identify collections of interest for them to view. As a result, we were able to fill out call slips ahead of the seminar and give them to attendees when they arrived, to help them hit the ground running during the individual research time after lunch. And our genfriend Bernice Bennett blessed us by retrieving a USCT pension file for a seminar participant. He, and we were so grateful to Bernice!
I presented on plantation records, Paul presented on maps and plats and Ramona presented on the visual collections at the South Carolina Historical Society. As a result of keeping the seminar size small, archivists were able to pull at least one archive item for each attendee.
This first seminar of its kind at the South Carolina Historical Society had a few glitches (parking issues, technical difficulties) but we emerged with many ideas to improve the research experience for the next seminar, in 2014. These include paring the seminar size down to 20 participants, grouping attendees and assigning a dedicated assistant for each group for individual research time, and sending out detailed parking information ahead of the seminar. We hope to make the second seminar an even higher quality research experience for attendees! The date for the second seminar will be announced in the coming month, so please stay tuned for more info.
November: Field Trip to Johns Island
We were so excited to learn that Mr. William Perry had decided to journey again from Washington, D.C. to attend the South Carolina Historical Society seminar. The week before the seminar, Paul discovered some very rich land records for Mr. Perry's ancestors Shem and Moll Ford of Johns Island. The South Carolina Historical Society had a plat among the holdings that was very significant for Mr. Perry's research as well.
Thanks to these discoveries and Mr. Perry's gracious invitation, we accompanied him on a field trip to Johns Island the following day, where we met his family elders and learned more about his family's history.
The land described in the records and plat is still in his family today, including the family cemetery, which his family maintains. The cemetery is so peaceful, situated on a bluff overlooking a marsh. Some of the burials there date to the 1830s, and Mr. Perry's family is blessed to have preserved a rich and detailed oral history of the cemetery. It was an incredible day we were grateful to be a part of.
November: Launch of The Slave Dwelling Project Website
Joe's project was blessed this year by the incredible contributions of Patt Gunn of Savannah. After participating in an overnight stay with the Slave Dwelling Project on Ossabaw Island, Patt resolved to become more closely involved with Joe's preservation efforts, and to help him establish the infrastructure he needs to take the Slave Dwelling Project to a new level.
Thanks to Patt's tireless efforts, this year the Slave Dwelling Project became a 501-c3 nonprofit organization, announce the Slave Dwelling Project Conference to be held in Savannah in September, and received their first major grant. The website is a natural extension of the project's growth. Please visit the site often to keep up with the latest Slave Dwelling Project happenings!
November: Symposium: The Lives of Enslaved Women at Redcliffe Plantation
November 23, Ramona presented at "The Lives of Enslaved Women," a symposium at Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site in Beech Island. SC. James Henry Hammond, the former owner of Redcliffe Plantation, held more than 200 enslaved women between the years of 1831 and 1865. The symposium examined the lives of enslaved women as revealed in the Hammond Family Papers, and underscored the importance of remembering these enslaved women and interpreting their history.
November: Launch of the Lowcountry Roots Travel Blog on LCA With Guest Blogger Thomas Macentee
On November 6, we launched the new Lowcountry Roots Travel blog on Lowcountry Africana. We are grateful to Genealogy Ninja Thomas Macentee (CEO and Founder of High Definition Genealogy and Geneabloggers) for guest blogging to launch the Lowcountry Roots Travel blog with a bang.
December: FamilySearch Digitizes SC Freedmen's Bureau Records!Just when we thought Christmas was over, FamilySearch digitized all 106 reels of Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910).
The New FamilySearch Collection, titled "South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872" is not yet indexed but you can now access all 106 reels online in a free collection. We've created an index page for posts about this significant new online record set. We're developing a series of posts to look in-depth at the various types of records in this collection, and the information contained in each. All articles we post will automatically update to the Table of Contents in the upper right of the sidebar of this page: New FamilySearch Collection ~ South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872.
Onward to 2014
Yes, 2013 was our busiest year yet, but without a doubt it was one of the best. We can't wait to see what 2014 has in store!
We are so grateful to our sponsors Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and Drayton Hall for making all of our work in the Lowcountry possible. Happy New Year and Happy Ancestor Hunting from the crew at Lowcountry Africana!