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Freedmen's Bureau Records ~ Reading the Descriptive Pamphlet Can Lead You to Treasures

Related Records Screen Capture

FamilySearch has digitized all 106 reels of microfilm of the NARA micropublication Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910).

We dare say that there is scarcely a collection more significant for breaking through the 1870 brick wall than Freedmen's Bureau records. The records in this collection were made at the dawn of freedom, and can help you locate your SC ancestors in the period between 1865 and 1870 (the first year that the US Census recorded African American ancestors by name).

Before you dive into the collection "South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872," taking a few minutes to read the descriptive pamphlet (reel guide) would be time well-spent. A close reading of the descriptive pamphlet can point you towards records you might miss by simply reading the titles of the reels in the new collection.

After you have identified and combed the richest records in this new record set, you may feel that you have exhausted the research possibilities. At that point in your research, the descriptive pamphlet could well become your best friend in your quest to leave no stone unturned.

Why? Because there are hidden treasures in this enormous body of records. And you can find them by reading the descriptive pamphlet closely.

Accessing the Descriptive Pamphlet for This Collection

There are two ways to access the descriptive pamphlet online. Within the collection at FamilySearch, the descriptive pamphlet is the first reel listed in the collection. There, you can browse the guide page by page.

If you wish to have the descriptive pamphlet open in another window, download the pamphlet for offline use or search the pamphlet, you can access the pdf version available here on Lowcountry Africana, in our Research Library.

Information in the Descriptive Pamphlet

Let's take a closer look at the descriptive pamphlet to see how it is organized, and what information it contains.

First Thing First: History of Freedmen's Bureau Operations in South Carolina

The first portion of the descriptive pamphlet outlines the history of Freedmen's Bureau operations in South Carolina. Here you can learn about the duties of the bureau and how these duties were divided among the various departments within the bureau.

Knowing which branches of the bureau generated records, and for what purpose, can not only help you identify records of interest within the collection, but can also help you identify related record sets and next steps if you find a record of interest.

Example: Property Dispute

For example, let's say you found a record in the collection concerning a dispute between an ancestor and a former slaveholder over ownership of an item of personal property, and you would like to know where to look for more information about the settlement of the dispute.

From the descriptive pamphlet we learn that between May and September of 1865, Assistant Commissioners of the Freedmen's Bureau adjudicated cases between African Americans themselves, and between African Americans and whites.

In September 1865, military courts were given responsibility over all cases involving African Americans, and state courts were to handle cases involving whites. After the South Carolina Legislature adopted a measure in October 1866 recognizing freedmen’s rights and making African Americans' testimony admissible in state courts, all cases involving freedmen were turned over to state courts.

This background information can help us infer that if a dispute between an African American ancestor and a former slaveholder was settled before October 1866, records of the settlement may be in Freedmen's Bureau records. If the case was not settled before October of 1866, further records concerning the dispute may appear in records of the South Carolina state courts rather than in Freedmen's Bureau records. Knowing the history of the bureau's operations in South Carolina has in this instance opened a window to next steps and new research possibilities.

Records Description

Now we have some background on the bureau, so what's in this record set exactly? Here's where you find out.

Here we learn that the records consist of volumes and unbound records, and there follows a description of which records are contained in each. We also learn that some of the records for South Carolina created in 1862-1864 are included in this series. An important research tip in this section of the pamphlet is:

Some of the volumes contain more than one type of record, reflecting a common recording practice of clerks and staff officers in that period. On roll 32, for example, the Register of Letters Received, Vol. 1 (95), also contains a register of complaints. Researchers should read carefully the records descriptions and arrangements in the table of contents to make full use of these records.

Related Records

Pay close attention to this section of the pamphlet, for here are your research "next steps."

Related Records Screen Capture

In this section of the reel guide, we learn about related record sets available from the National Archives that supplement the records in this collection.

Table of Contents

Now that you have a solid background on the historical context, ready to dig into the records? This section of the descriptive pamphlet is where you can do just that, to identify which reels you would like to view. The Table of Contents lists in detail what is on each reel of the collection.

Below is an example of a page within the descriptive pamphlet (please click on the image to view larger). At the top of the page is the information for reels 62 and 63, Berkeley District. The pamphlet describes the contents of each reel and how the records are arranged, then follows detailed information about specific record types.

Reel Guide Screen Shot

The order the records are listed in is the order in which they appear on the microfilm.

We recommend reading every word of the descriptive pamphlet, to make the most of these records!

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Going in Depth ~ SC Freedmen's Bureau Labor Contracts

BallWmJLaborContract1910-620316Cover

FamilySearch has digitized all 106 microfilm reels in the NARA series Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910). This digital collection is titled South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872.

This post is one of a series of posts with research tips for getting the most from this collection. To follow all of Lowcountry Africana's posts for this significant collection, please bookmark the index page here. Each post we add will automatically update to the Table of Contents in the upper right sidebar on that page.

In this post, we will look at Freedmen's labor contracts and the information they contain.

Labor Contracts

The regulation of written labor agreements between planters and freedmen was a major concern of the Freedmen’s Bureau. In South Carolina, some 8,000 contracts were signed, and nearly 130,000 freedmen worked under labor contracts between the years 1865 and 1866. The terms of the contracts were variable, but most labor contracts called for freed ancestors to receive housing, rations, medical attention, fuel, and a portion of the crop.1

Arrangement of Labor Contracts

Labor contracts on a single microfilm span several years. If you find a labor contract for your ancestor, there may be labor contracts for several more years on that reel of microfilm. The earliest labor contracts made in 1865 sometimes list first names only, but by reading on in the microfilm you may find contracts for subsequent years that list surnames of ancestors.

Anatomy of a Labor Contract

As with other records in this series, both the front and back of each page of a labor contract were photographed for the microfilm. If an inscription was written in a margin, the page was rotated and photographed again from that orientation.

The cover page lists the parties in the contract, location, date and occasionally, remarks. Within the record series, many documents are grouped together by the first letter of the last name of the planter, but are not in strict alphabetical order within that subset. It is best to read through all of the frames for the first letter of the former slaveholder's name before declaring your search unsuccessful.

Cover Page of Labor Contract Between W.J. Ball and Freedmen, 1866

Cover Page of Labor Contract Between W.J. Ball and Freedmen, 1866

There follows a statement of the terms of the contract, outlining the responsibilities of planters and Freedmen, and how the year's crop was to be divided. Most contracts were for one calendar year. The terms of many labor contracts were not far removed from what was required of enslaved ancestors - work days were long, Freedmen could not leave the plantation or have visitors without permission and possession of firearms or alcohol was prohibited.

Detail from Labor Contract Between W.J. Ball and Freedmen.

Detail from Labor Contract Between W.J. Ball and Freedmen (Please Click On Image to View Larger)

Following the contract terms is the signature page. Here the names of the Freedmen who entered into the contract are listed.

Detail from Labor Contract Between W.J. Ball and Freedmen (Please Click On Image to View Larger)

Detail from Labor Contract Between W.J. Ball and Freedmen (Please Click On Image to View Larger)

I Have Found an Ancestor Here. Now What?

If you find an ancestor in a labor contract or any other Freedmen's Bureau record in this collection, this record set should be on your research radar for intensive research.

Why? Because this means the Freedmen's Bureau may have been operating in the area where your ancestor lived. This means that any of the other records for the Field Office nearest your ancestor may hold treasures for you.

If you find an ancestor in a labor contract, rations list or other record within the collection, there may have been a sub-agent responsible for creating every type of record the bureau kept, for the area where your ancestor lived.

I Have Found More Than One Record for My Ancestor. Now What?

If you find more than one record for your ancestor in this new collection, the records for that particular Field Office should be on your reading list for browsing frame by frame.

We learned from the previous post on reading the descriptive pamphlet thoroughly that it was a common practice for agents to record more than one record type in a bound volume. The title of a bound volume therefore may not reflect the full contents of that volume. An example is this volume for Barnwell District labeled "Letters Sent" on the cover. Reading frame by frame, we found 5 different record sets in this bound volume. 2

Unbound records may be unarranged. The descriptive pamphlet notes whether records were arranged or unarranged when the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) received them. Unarranged records may have been catalogued as miscellaneous records, which are often overlooked.

If you have found more than one record for your ancestor within the records for a Field Office, reading through the records for that Field Office frame by frame is the only way you can be assured that you have exhausted all research avenues in this new collection.

About This Post

This post is one of a series of posts with research tips for getting the most from this collection. To follow all of Lowcountry Africana's posts for the FamilySearch collection South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872, please bookmark the index page here. Each post we add will automatically update to the Table of Contents in the upper right sidebar on that page, so you can be sure you never miss a post.

References Cited

[1] United States, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, Decriptive pamphlet for Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910).

[2] United States, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910).

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SC Freedmen's Bureau Records: USCT Bounty Claims

USCT Bounty Claims and the Information They Contain

Above: Announcement of Additional Military Bounties, Charleston Daily News, 12 Nov 1866

Announcement of Additional Military Bounties, Charleston Daily News, 12 Nov 1866 1

Bounties were monetary or material incentives paid for enlisting in the military, or rewards for service in the military. Soldiers, veterans or their survivors may have collected bounties for service in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) or the United States Navy in the Civil War. During its operation from 1865-1872, the Freedmen's Bureau acted as the agent for the payment of bounties to USCT veterans in South Carolina. 2

In order to collect a bounty, soldiers, veterans or their heirs filed an application known as a bounty claim. Among the records in the new FamilySearch collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872 are several types of documents related to the payment of bounties. Registers of bounty claims filed, the bounty claims themselves and registers of bounties paid may hold valuable information concerning your ancestor's residence prior to 1870 and their service in the military.

Did Your Civil War-Era Ancestor Serve in the Military?

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System hosted by the National Park Service is a free searchable database of the names of those who served in Union or Confederate forces during the Civil War. Here you can search to see if your ancestor served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) or the US Navy during the war. Search forms for soldiers and sailors are separate, so be sure to search both for your ancestor's name.

Soldiers and Sailors Search Form


Soldiers and Sailors Search for Sailors

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System website also offers information on the histories of Union and Confederate regiments and links to related information about significant battles, prisoner of war records and cemetery records. 3

If your ancestor served in the USCT or US Navy during the Civil War, there may be bounty claim records in the new FamilySearch collection that will further your research.

Bounty Claims and Related Documents

To view bounty claims and related documents within the new FamilySearch collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872, browse to "Claim Division" records.

Claim Division Tutorial

The bulk of records concerning bounty claims appear there, however correspondence concerning bounty claims is scattered throughout the new collection, and some registers of bounty claims may have been filed in miscellaneous records.

Let's look at a few examples of documents related to bounty claims.

Register of Bounty Claims, Reel 23

Reel 23 of the Claim Division records contains four registers of bounty claims. This is a good place to start looking for records for your ancestor. The registers overlap in dates and are similar in content, however each may contain unique information so it is best to browse through all four volumes. Of these, volume four is the most comprehensive as it notes the disposition of claims (allowed or not allowed). For each entry in volume four, there may be a bounty claim preserved on reel 24 of the collection. 4

Bounty Claims, Reel 24

Below is the bounty claim of Israel Singleton, who served in the US Navy during the Civil War (please click on images to view larger). 5

Singleton Israel US Navy Battery Wagner Survivor Bounty Claim Reel 24 P2 Singleton Israel US Navy Battery Wagner Survivor Bounty Claim Reel 24 P3

A bounty claim may contain the following information:

  • Branch of the military the veteran served in
  • When, where and for how long a term of service he enlisted
  • Rank held
  • Duty stations
  • Date of discharge
  • Date of the bounty claim
  • Testimony of two witnesses as to identity of the claimant, including how long they had been acquainted with the claimant, and the nature of their acquaintance
  • Post office location for return correspondence
  • Signatures of claimant, Notary and witnesses
Here we learn that Israel Singleton enlisted in the United States Navy 9 Dec 1862, for a term of three years. During his service as a Landsman he served on two vessels, the Restless and the Vermont.

Singleton Israel Bounty Claim Reel 23 top

Witnesses to his identity were Sandy Black and James Gilliard. They had known Israel Singleton for seven years.

Singlton Israel Witnesses

Occasionally an introductory letter or narrative accompanied a bounty claim. In Israel Singleton's claim, an accompanying letter reveals a remarkable story of his service. The letter states that Israel Singleton served in both the United States Navy and the United States Colored Troops. After he was discharged from the Navy on July 31, 1864, he enlisted in the United States Colored Troops.

   
Enclosure, Bounty Claim for Israel Singleton, 1867

Enclosure, Bounty Claim for Israel Singleton, 1867

I Found A Military Bounty Claim for My Ancestor. Now What?

If you find a bounty claim for your ancestor, other Civil War service records available on FamilySearch, Fold3 and Ancestry.com await your further research:

  • 1890 Veterans Schedules on FamilySearch: Census schedules listing veterans and widows of veterans
  • Civil War Service Records for United States Colored Troops on Fold3: These records may document the soldier's name, rank, details about his service, birthplace, place of enlistment, discharge date and place and often a physical description.
  • Civil War and Later Veterans Pension Index on Fold3 and Ancestry.com: index cards for pension applications of veterans who served in the U.S. Army between 1861 and 1900. You can search by name, or browse by regiment number.
  • Civil War "Widows' Pensions" on Fold3: approved pension applications of widows and other dependents of Civil War veterans
  • Freedmen's Bank Records on FamilySearch and Ancestry.com: Many USCT veterans opened accounts at The Freedmen's Savings and Trust (Freedmen's Bank) when they received bounty payments. The USCT company and regiment are often listed, as well as the names of a veteran's parents, spouse, children and siblings. Freedmen's Bank records may also include information on the depositor's birthplace, residence, occupation and employer.

References Cited

[1] "Discharged Soldiers: $100 Bounty." Classified Advertisement, Newspaper Advertisement, The Charleston Daily News, 12 Nov, 1866, Page 4. Chronicling America, Database Online at the Library of Congress, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, Accessed 11 Jan 2014.

[2] Descriptive Pamphlet for Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA microfilm publication M1910, 106 rolls). Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration, 2005.

[3] Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, Database Online at the National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm, Accessed 12 Jan 2014.

[4] Descriptive Pamphlet for Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA microfilm publication M1910, 106 rolls). Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration, 2005.

[5] "South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-36668-14620-6?cc=2127881&wc=M9HH-DX9:80296183 : Accessed 13 Jan 2014), Claim Division > Roll 24, Registered Bounty Claims, Aug 1866-Oct 1870 > Image 171 of 178, Bounty Claim of Israel Singleton.

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Finds in FamilySearch Freedmen's Bureau Records ~ Reel 21, Georgetown Medical Officer Rations Requests

A Rich Find for Georgetown Research

The FamilySearch collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872 is the digitized version of Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910).

We've made some pretty rich finds by browsing through the volumes, and the latest find is on Reel 21: a volume of rations requests filed by the Georgetown Medical Officer from November 1865 to March 1866. The 498-frame volume preserves individual rations requests for elderly, infirm and orphaned freed people in Georgetown, SC.

If your research is focused on Georgetown, be sure to read through this 498-frame volume on Reel 21!

Example ~ Rations Request for Children of Sam Mitchell

Below is an example of a rations request that is rich in genealogical information. Here, Acting Assistant Surgeon Henry F. Heriot requests rations for Roselle Mitchell (age 9), Gabriel Mitchell (age 4) and Phyllis Mitchell (infant), children of Sam Mitchell who died while serving in the USCT:1

Rations Request for Children of Sam Mitchell

Above: Rations Request for Children of Sam Mitchell, Georgetown, SC, ca. 1866. Source: South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872, Database Online at FamilySearch.org, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-36669-12463-95?cc=2127881&wc=M9HH-DLT:n1176355678, Accessed 29 Dec 2013.

Service Record ~ Samuel Mitchell

Samuel Mitchell was 23 years old when he enlisted in the United States Colored Troops April 24, 1865 in Beaufort, SC. He was assigned to Company G, 104th USCT. June 13, 1865 he was promoted to Corporal. By June 25 he was sick in the Beaufort, SC camp hospital. In early August he was transferred to the David's Island Hospital in New York, where he remained a patient until October 3, when he was discharged for disability.2

References Cited

[1] South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872, Database Online at FamilySearch.org, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-36669-12463-95?cc=2127881&wc=M9HH-DLT:n1176355678, Accessed 19 Mar 2015.

[2] Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served the United States Colored Troops: 56th-138th USCT Infantry, 1864-1866, Database Online at Fold3.com. Record for Samuel Mitchell, Co. G, 104th USCT. http://www.fold3.com/image/273/302687358/, Accessed 19 Mar 2015.

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Going In Depth ~ A Look at Some of the Richest Record Types in SC Freedmen's Bureau Records

Rations Lists (AKA Register of Destitutes): Lists of Elders By Plantation, Before 1870

Rations lists (sometimes labeled "Register of Destitutes," "Register of Those to Whom Rations Were Issued," etc.) are among the richest records in FamilySearch's collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872.

When General Rufus Saxton assumed responsibility for the operation of the Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina, one of his immediate concerns was providing food, clothing and medical relief to thousands of freedmen and white refugees left destitute by the war. On many plantations, elderly and infirm freedmen and orphaned children were in immediate need of food relief. By mid-summer of 1865, Saxton had distributed more than 300,000 military rations in South Carolina to alleviate widespread hunger. Agents recorded the names and ages of those to whom rations were distributed. 1 As artifacts of the bureau's operations in South Carolina, rations lists are especially valuable as they preserve the names of ancestors who were age 50 and older on many plantations.

Rations Lists and the Information They Contain

The example below is from a rations list recorded in Moncks Corner, Berkeley District, SC. In this list, name, gender, age, race, plantation, city or district, infirmities and remarks were recorded for each person who received rations. 2

Rations List Moncks Corner 1866 NARA1910REEL89cropped

Above: Sample Page from Register of Destitutes for Moncks Corner, SC in 1867. Source: Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872 (NARA Record Group 105) M869, Reel 89

Rations lists are especially important resources for African American genealogy research for a number of reasons.

Rations Lists Provide Clues to Your Family's Location Before 1870

The information recorded in rations lists varied by Field Office location, but most included the place of residence for those who received rations. Some lists include the Field Office location only, while others list the plantation of residence for rations recipients. If you do not have pre-1870 records for your ancestor or have not located them in the 1870 US Census, rations lists can provide important leads for focusing your research on a specific location.

Rations Lists Sometimes Contain the Names of Ancestors Not Listed in the 1870 Census

Because of their advanced age in 1867, some of the elders in the example above may not have lived until 1870 and thus would not have been listed in the 1870 US Census. Indeed, this record may be the only surviving record that lists some of these ancestors by first and last name.

Rations Lists Can Help You Add Another Generation to Your Family Tree

If you find an elder in a rations list with the same surname and on the same plantation as one of your known ancestors, it is certainly worth investigating to determine if that elder belongs in your family tree. A good place to start investigating is in wills and estate inventories for the slaveholding family that owned the plantation, as family relationships were sometimes noted in probate documents.

Rations Lists Can Provide Clues to the Final Slaveholder and Plantation

If you find a known ancestor listed in a rations list where the plantation is noted, this may be a clue to help you discover that ancestor's final slaveholder. To investigate the possibility, you will need to learn the name of the owner of the plantation, then examine 1850 and 1860 US Census Slave Schedules to determine if the plantation owner is listed as a slaveholder. If the plantation owner is listed in the 1850 or 1860 US Census Slave Schedules, examine the schedule to see if an enslaved person of the appropriate age and gender for your ancestor is listed.

If there is an enslaved person of the appropriate age and gender listed, that family should definitely be on your research radar as a possible final slaveholder for your ancestor. You can dig deeper by examining wills, estate inventories and bills of sale for the slaveholding family to see if your ancestor's first name is listed in any of those documents.

More Records Await!

Rations lists are just one example of the rich records that await in FamilySearch's collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872. The rations list in this example lists the names and locations of hundreds of elders who were age 50 and above in 1867, on 112 plantations in the Moncks Corner, SC sub-district. Thanks to FamilySearch we now have free Internet access to rations lists from every sub-district in SC!

For advice on locating rations lists in the records, please see Accessing and Navigating the FamilySearch Collection South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872.

References Cited

[1] United States Congress and National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC. 2005 Descriptive Pamphlet for Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872, NARA Record Group 105, Micropublication M1910.

[2] Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. 1867 "Register of Destitutes, Moncks Corner, South Carolina."Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872, NARA Record Group 105, Micropublication M869, Reel 89.

Related Reading

You can view the entire Moncks Corner rations list by following the link below:

Freedmen's Bureau Register of Destitutes (Rations Lists) by Plantation, Moncks Corner Sub-district, SC, 1867

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Genealogist Nicka Smith Shares Reasons to Listen or Be Listened To!

A Special Guest Post by Nicka Smith
Two Generations

Today, Friday, November 28 is StoryCorps' 7th annual National Day of Listening! Each year, StoryCorps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

In honor of the National Day of Listening, genealogist and photographer Nicka Smith shares 5 reasons why you should interview a loved one or be interviewed yourself!

Technology Will Always Change, But the Crux Your Story Won't

We change technology like we do our socks. This has caused our world's life cycle to speed up as well. While all the change around us continues, the central themes of our life's stories won't and are being preserved during the National Day of Listening.

The World Wants to Hear From You

Social media has made having a voice online something that is common place. On the other hand, few outlets (outside of podcasting) have chosen to utilize and document with just the power of the recorded voice. Try talking instead of just using your fingertips to share your perspective with the world.

Your Descendants Are Hungry For Your Perspective

Think of your recording as an audio time capsule. You're descendants will be eager to know about the world as it was when you lived and what you thought about it. This is something few of us have from our ancestors.

Develop Your Interviewer's Skills

Time and effort is essential when deciding to interview someone, especially if it's recorded. Provide a unique opportunity for your interviewer by giving them the ability to hone their skills on you.

It's Fun!

There are few times outside of applying for a job that a person will ever be interviewed. Consider yourself the celebrity of the day during the National Day of Listening by documenting your life.

About Nicka Smith

Nicka Smith is a professional photographer, speaker, and documentarian with more than 14 years of experience as a genealogist. She has extensive experience in African ancestored genealogy, reverse genealogy, and family reunion planning and execution. She is also an expert in genealogical research in the Northeastern Louisiana area, sharing genealogy with youth, documenting the ancestral journey, and employing the use of new technology in genealogy and family history research.

Nicka has diverse and varied experience in communications, with a background in publications, editing, graphic design, radio, and video production. She has edited and designed several volumes of family history that include narratives, photos, and genealogical information and has also transferred these things to an online environment.

Nicka is a board member of the California Genealogical Society (CGS), a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), former chair of the Outreach and Education Committee for the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC), and former project manager for the Alameda County, CA Youth Ancestral Project where more than 325 youth have been taught the value of family history. Nicka is also the family historian and lead researcher for the Atlas family of Lake Providence, East Carroll, Louisiana.

To learn more about Nicka Smith and her work, please visit her website Who Is Nicka Smith?

About StoryCorps' National Day of Listening

Each year, StoryCorps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

Once your recording is complete, you can post it to StoryCorps' interactive Wall of Listening. Then share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Please be sure to post to our Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook to tell us who you interviewed!

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Five Reasons to Listen

A Special Guest Post by Angela Walton-Raji
Two Generations

How many times do we recall Thanksgiving events from years gone by? We can remember our elders who were at the dinner, and in many cases they prepared the meal that we all enjoyed. Then time passed and they were gone. We miss them, we wish they were still with us, and we wish we had asked the questions we never got to ask. And there are so many questions that could be preserved or stories to pass on, and things to be thankful for today, if only we had asked the right questions then.

So as the National Day of Listening is upon us—the day after Thanksgiving, perhaps we, who will be the elders to future generations, can pay it forward and share stories, traditions, thoughts , beliefs and history with the next generation right now. Here are five reasons to celebrate and participate in, the National Day of Listening. So let’s speak to the elders in the home and hear them.

Share the Stories Before They Are Forgotten

1) Participation in the National Day of Listening allows you and a loved one to share the stories before they are forgotten. Remember the time that grandma’s cake won the prize at the fair? Or there is the story of how one of the relatives followed his calling to become an artist and not the engineer everyone thought he should be. And how many can really tell the story of the gr. uncles who were taken prisoner in the Civil War, and who escaped from N. B Forrest? These stories capture the imagination of the children, instill self-esteem in the young, and continue an important legacy for future generations.

Learn the Meaning of Family Traditions

2) Participation provides opportunity to explain the meaning of the traditions that we celebrate. On some holidays there is a tradition of always having a certain kind of dish to the holiday meal. Beyond the expected dish a certain dish is always included which could be Pawpaw’s favorite ambrosia, Grandma’s dressing, or Daddy’s sweet potato pie. Beyond just the mere enjoyment of the food, explaining why the family always includes something as a tradition establishes a sense of continuing a legacy. Ask your subject about those traditions and how they came to be.

Share Wisdom With Future Generations

3) Participation presents a platform upon which ideas and thoughts can be shared. It is not uncommon to ask oneself what a departed loved one would think if they were there today. Participation in the National Day of listening provides the platform where you can share what they think. Your descendants will have a chance to know and not left to wonder what their ancestors thought. And participation allows the interviewee to share thoughts and emotions for the next generation to hear, and to learn from.

Share Personal Beliefs With the Next Generation

4) Participation in the National Day of Listening allows the speaker to share their personal beliefs with the next generation. Many people wonder what the ancestors believe in, from their religious faith, to their thoughts of what the future may hold. Participation in the National Day of Listening answers that question. Find out your subject’s primary motivation and share his/her insights, and beliefs for the listeners. By getting answers to these questions now, you have given the next generation the gift of an answer before the question is even asked.

Preserve History for Future Generations

5) Participation presents the opportunity to preserve history for future generations. Many will have questions about what the past was like. Their past will be a part of the next generation’s ancestral past. And some of those questions that they will answer now, will be answered by you in the future. Your participation in the National Day of Listening will keep the stories told today a part of the future. So speak to someone, listen to their story, and preserve the story they tell.

About Angela Walton-Raji

A founding member of AfriGeneas.com, Angela Walton-Raji is a genealogist, educator, lecturer and author specializing in information for beginners, via daily and weekly online genealogy chats on AfriGeneas. As host of the weekly African Roots Podcast, a number of instructional videos and as an expert consultant on video documentaries, Ms. Walton-Raji combines her skills as a genealogist with a warm on camera personality that brings comfort to her viewers through her instructional videos on YouTube, while providing them with useful information. She is a published author, host of blogs My Ancestor's Name, African-Native American Genealogy and The USCT Chronicle.

About StoryCorps' National Day of Listening

Each year, StoryCorps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

Once your recording is complete, you can post it to StoryCorps' interactive Wall of Listening. Then share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Please be sure to post to our Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook to tell us who you interviewed!

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5 People Give 5 Reasons to Celebrate the National Day of Listening, Day 2: Joseph McGill

Portrait Of Happy Senior Couple At Home

Each year, StoryCorps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a family member, friend or loved one about their life. This Friday, November 28, is the 7th annual National Day of Listening.

Lowcountry Africana is a proud national sponsor of StoryCorps' National Day of Listening. This year, we asked 5 colleagues to share 5 reasons to celebrate this new national holiday.

     

Yesterday, Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers weighed in with his post "Family Stories: Eat Them Up This Thanksgiving and All Year Round."

Today, Joseph McGill of the Slave Dwelling Project shares his 5 reasons to celebrate the National Day of Listening by gathering those family stories!

5 Reasons to Celebrate the National Day of Listening

A Special Guest Post By Joseph McGill

1. As African Americans, it is essential that we celebrate and implement National Day of Listening because a system that enslaved our ancestors and denied them an education made us more reliant on oral history. Some of that historic oral tradition that has been passed down through generations still lives with some of our elders.

2. We are not far removed from the days of segregation. Elders, especially those who are well travelled have stories of challenges they faced in a segregated country that proclaimed liberty and justice for all.

3. I would wager that every African American family was affected by the great migration of African Americans from the south to the north. Engaging those in their reasoning for leaving the south is rich information. What if any segregation they faced in the north is also a good conversation to have with them?

4. How many of our African American elders thought that they would live to see and African American President of the United States? That question alone would generate some interesting responses.

5. Lastly, a lot of our history ends up in graveyards. As an historian, I hear often; “I wish I would have interviewed her/him before he/she died.” Don’t be a victim of procrastination. Make it so!

About Joseph McGill

Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, spends the night in former slave dwellings across the country, to raise awareness of the need to preserve the places where African American ancestors lived while enslaved. You can learn more about the Slave Dwelling Project by visiting their website and Facebook page.

About StoryCorps' National Day of Listening

Each year, StoryCorps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

Once your recording is complete, you can post it to StoryCorps' interactive Wall of Listening. Then share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Please be sure to post to our Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook to tell us who you interviewed!

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Family Stories: Eat Them Up This Thanksgiving and All Year Round

A Special Guest Post by Thomas MacEntee
In honor of StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening on Friday, November 28, here’s some advice from Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers on the treasure that is a family story.

Stop and Listen to the Stories Being Told

Multi Generation Family Celebrating Thanksgiving

Cleaning, cooking, getting beds ready for overnight guests. Shopping, making calls, checking weather forecasts. Worrying if there will be enough food or concern about not having enough chairs. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the busy work of any holiday including Thanksgiving. And when all is said and done, we forget to sit back and enjoy not just the company of others, but their stories. This holiday weekend, set aside time for storytelling and story listening as family and friends gather together.

 

Listen with All the Senses

While I love to write, I never set out to be a “writer” when it came to forging a career. Well, not a writer in the sense of telling and conveying family history through stories. In my chosen field, technology, I excelled at technical writing which is dry, boring and somewhat formulaic. As I caught the genealogy bug, I realized I needed to call upon a different set of skills in order to effectively capture family stories. So as I sat and listened to relatives and recorded their telling of stories, I took notes related to what I call “the sensory factors.”

On my notepad I’d have words like “smelled like rotten eggs” or “the sound made me jump,” scribbled here and there. Or as the person was speaking, I’d jot down follow-up questions such as “What color was the sky during that wildfire?” or “What did you taste?” etc. Highlighting what a person saw, smelled, heard and more can greatly help bring a story to life.

Understand that Stories Unfold and Evolve

Have you ever heard two or more versions of a family story? Even from relatives who witnessed an event? Often, our experiences are influenced by our own perceptions, beliefs and past experiences, tempered by what elements we remember of the event.

Record all versions of that story. Ask questions for clarification. There’s nothing wrong with Aunt Margaret telling the story of killing her first turkey and following it up with her husband’s story of “what really happened” as he remembered it. And be open to the fact that down the road you may discover facts that support or refute the story that Tom Turkey ran around the yard for a full hour with his head cut off!

Gather Ye Stories While Ye May

This last bit of advice is the most important: collect those family stories now. There will never be a better time than the present. Don’t wait for “the right moment” or to purchase some new fancy piece of technology to record an interview.

Use whatever it takes and realize that an opportunity deferred can often turn into an opportunity lost. How many of us regret not having an older relative relate a family story only to find that person not sitting at the Thanksgiving table the following year?

As family historians, we, of all people, know the treasures held within a family story. This holiday weekend, set a place at the table for storytelling. You’ll be surprised at what might be served up and you’ll feast on the leftovers for years to come.

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

About Thomas Macentee

Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. He is the author of Preserving Your Family's Oral History and Stories available at Amazon.

About StoryCorps' National Day of Listening

Each year, StoryCorps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

Once your recording is complete, you can post it to StoryCorps' interactive Wall of Listening. Then share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Please be sure to post to our Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook to tell us who you interviewed!

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“Love Is Progress, Hate is Expensive:” The Esau Jenkins Bus Send-off to the Smithsonian Museum

   

Esau Jenkins Bus

CONTACT Paul Saylors

Preservation Society of Charleston

(843) 722-4630 psaylors@preservationsociety.org

Corie Hipp

(843) 327-2213 corie@coriehipp.com

EVENT “Love is Progress, Hate is Expensive” The Esau Jenkins Bus Send-off Sunday, June 1, 2014 from 4 PM until 6 PM, FREE to the public Corner of Calhoun and Concord Streets, across from the SC Aquarium

CHARLESTON, SC - On Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 4:00 PM on the corner of Calhoun and Concord Streets, at the proposed site for the International African American Museum and in conjunction with Piccolo Spoleto, the family of late civil rights activist Esau Jenkins and the Thomas Mayhem Pinckney Alliance of the Preservation Society of Charleston will host an event to celebrate the departure of a portion of his iconic VW bus to its new home in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

Sponsored by Fielding Home for Funerals, the Jenkins Family and the Preservation Society of Charleston, the event will feature the Mt. Zion Spiritual Singers; reflections on Jenkins and the civil rights movement in Charleston; photographs and articles pertaining to Jenkins’ life and work; and light refreshments.

Esau Jenkins (1910–1972) was a civil rights activist who was born on Johns Island, SC in 1910 and lived most of his life there. With very little formal education, he became a businessman and civil rights leader. Jenkins founded the Progressive Club in 1948, which encouraged local African Americans to register to vote, through the aid of Citizenship Schools, a topic he was educated in by his attendance at Highlander Folk Center in Tennessee. In 1959, he organized the Citizens’ Committee of Charleston County dedicated to the economic, cultural and political improvement of local African Americans. With a personal motto of “Love is Progress, Hate is Expensive” (seen on the back of his bus) Jenkins prospered his community, helping to found the Community Organization Federal Credit Union and serving on many local boards and committees. The father of a large family, he died in 1972, and after his death many institutions, programs and a bridge were named for him.

The Thomas Mayhem Pinckney Alliance is committed to supporting the Preservation Society of Charleston in identifying and preserving historic African American “built environments” in the Lowcountry. This includes those sites built by, occupied by and utilized for activities significant to the African American experience. Thomas Mayhem Pinckney Alliance Chair and Preservation Society Board Member, Julia-Ellen Craft Davis says “the bus on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is important because it represents national recognition of the work of Esau Jenkins who is a role model for working selflessly with others to meet a need in a community.” The alliance includes Dr. Millicent E. Brown, Alphonso Brown, Julia-Ellen Craft Davis, Corie Hipp, Ray Huff, Minerva King, Ramona LaRoche, Dr. Ade Ofunniyun, Leila Potts-Campbell, and Paul Saylors.

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