We enjoy sharing our photos of the beautiful Lowcountry scenery on Instagram. We've just added a new batch of photos taken at the gorgeous Botany Bay Nature Preserve on Edisto Island. Below are a few samples, many more await you on Instagram:Come see more on our Instagram page!
LCA Main Blog
Welcome to the Lowcountry Africana blog!
USCT Bounty Claims and the Information They Contain
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 in 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.
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 DocumentsTo view bounty claims and related documents within the new FamilySearch collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872, browse to "Claim Division" records.
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
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
Witnesses to his identity were Sandy Black and James Gilliard. They had known Israel Singleton for seven years.
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.
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.
 "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.
 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.
 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.
 "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.
In one of the happiest developments in African American genealogy in South Carolina this year, 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 new 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 new collection. To follow all of Lowcountry Africana's posts for this significant new 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.
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.
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.
Following the contract terms is the signature page. Here the names of the Freedmen who entered into the contract are listed.
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 new collection. To follow all of Lowcountry Africana's posts for the new 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.
 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).
 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).
Perhaps the most significant event in African American genealogy in South Carolina in 2013 came at year's end, when FamilySearch 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 new 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 new 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.
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 RecordsPay close attention to this section of the pamphlet, for here are your research "next steps."
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.
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!
By Toni Carrier
This page contains many photo galleries (we didn't want to leave anything out!). Please allow a few moments for the galleries to load.
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!
Finds in FamilySearch Freedmen's Bureau Records ~ Reel 21, Georgetown Medical Officer Rations Requests
A Rich Find for Georgetown Research
As you might imagine, we've spent the last two days poring over the films in the new collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872 on FamilySearch. This new collection 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
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
 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.
 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 29 Dec 2013.
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 newly-digitized 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
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 newly-digitized 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 newly-digitized records, please see Accessing and Navigating the New FamilySearch Collection South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872.
 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.
 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.
You can view the entire Moncks Corner rations list by following the link below:
Accessing and Navigating the New FamilySearch Collection "South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872"
FamilySearch Has Digitized Freedmen's Bureau Records for South Carolina
Social networks are abuzz today with the happy news that FamilySearch has digitized all 106 rolls of the microfilm 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 new collection of 118,737 images, which spans the years 1865-1872, is one of the most significant for tracing formerly enslaved ancestors in South Carolina, and its digitization is perhaps the most significant event for South Carolina researchers this year.
Accessing and Navigating the Records
Below are steps for identifying the records within the new collection that are of interest for your research.
Step 1 ~ Determine Which Office or Subordinate Field Office Was Nearest to the Location(s) You Are ResearchingBvt. Maj. Gen. Rufus Saxton, who directed the “Port Royal Experiment,” was appointed Assistant Commissioner for South Carolina in 1865. By 1867, several sub-districts had been created with Sub-Assistant Commissioners responsible for operations in their assigned locations. Sub-districts contained one or more Field Offices. The records within M1910 are arranged by Field Office, so it's important to know which Field Offices were closest to your area of interest. Field Office locations in South Carolina were:
- Abbeville courthouse (agent)
- Aiken (subassistant commissioner–bureau district of Anderson)
- Aiken (subassistant commissioner–Edgefield district)
- Anderson courthouse (acting subassistant commissioner–Anderson district)
- Barnwell (subassistant commissioner–Barnwell district)
- Beaufort (contraband department)
- Beaufort (hospital)
- Beaufort (subassistant commissioner)
- Berkley district
- Camden (subassistant commissioner)
- Charleston (health department superintendent)
- Charleston (hospitals)
- Charleston (subassistant commissioner–6th subdistrict)
- Cheraw (agent)
- Chester (subassistant commissioner)
- Columbia (acting assistant commissioner–District of Columbia)
- Columbia (hospital)
- Combahee Ferry (agent)
- Darlington (acting assistant commissioner)
- Darlington (acting assistant surgeon)
- Darlington (subassistant commissioner)
- Fairfield district
- General collecting agent (Columbia, SC)
- Georgetown (hospital)
- Georgetown (subassistant commissioner)
- Grahamville (agent)
- Greenville (subassistant commissioner)
- Hilton Head
- Horry district (erroneously catalogued as Honey district)
- Hopkins Turnout (acting assistant surgeon)
- Johns Island (acting assistant surgeon)
- Kingstree (subassistant commissioner)
- Laurensville (subassistant commissioner)
- Legareville (acting assistant surgeon)
- Manning (agent)
- Marion (subassistant commissioner)
- Moncks Corner (subassistant commissioner)
- Mount Pleasant (acting subassistant commissioner)
- Newberry (agent)
- Orangeburg (acting subassistant commissioner)
- Orangeburg (hospital)
- Rice Hope Plantation
- Richland district
- St Paul's Parish
- Summerville (hospital)
- Summerville (subassistant commissioner)
- Sumpter (acting subassistant commissioner)
- Union district
- Unionville (subassistant commissioner)
- York district
Step 2 ~ Use the Reel Guide (Descriptive Pamphlet) to Select Records You Wish to View
Once you have identified the Field Offices of interest to your research, you are ready to view the reel guide (descriptive pamphlet) to select the microfilm reels you wish to view.
The reel guide (descriptive pamphlet) for NARA M1910 provides an in-depth look at what each of the 106 microfilms contains.
The descriptive pamphlet is the first microfilm in the collection on FamilySearch. If you would like to keep the descriptive pamphlet open in another window, download it for offline use or search the guide, you can access it in pdf format here in our research library.
Below is an example of a page within the reel guide (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 guide describes the contents of each reel and how the records are arranged, then follows detailed information about specific record types.
The order the records are listed in is the order in which they appear on the microfilm.
Hint: Reading the reel guide thoroughly can enhance your research in a number of ways. The guide presents a detailed history of the operations and organization of the Freedmen's Bureau in various regions of South Carolina. Knowing the history of operations in your research area can help you pinpoint records of interest you might otherwise overlook.
A close reading of the reel guide can also alert you to records you may want to view that may not be apparent from perusing the record titles alone. By reading the reel guide closely, we stumbled upon a treasure - Reel 9 of the collection contains a 90-page ledger of Freedmen and planters who received rations in every sub-district in South Carolina. As the volume is within records titled "Medical Officer," we would not have discovered this volume by perusing record titles.
Step 3 ~ Accessing the Digitized Collection
After you have identified the reels of interest to you, you are ready to access the records and dive into your research! You can access the collection here on FamilySearch (link opens in a new window so you can keep this page open as well).
The collection is not yet indexed, but you can read each reel frame-by-frame anytime, right from home. We hope this quick guide will help you identify records of interest and navigate the new collection! Next, we will look specifically at different record types within this collection, and the information they contain. Happy ancestor hunting from the crew at Lowcountry Africana!
FamilySearch this week digitized all 106 rolls of the microfilm 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 new collection of 118,737 images is one of the most significant for tracing formerly enslaved ancestors in South Carolina. The 106 rolls of microfilm span the date range of 1865 to 1872.
Freedmen's Bureau records are an invaluable resource for learning where your ancestors were prior to 1870 and can often provide clues for discovering an ancestor's final slaveholder. Among these records are labor contracts, rations lists, land warrants, military bounty claims, letters received and sent, applications for restoration of property to former slaveholders, transportation requests, hospital records and more.
When used in conjunction with the 1869 South Carolina state census, 1868 voter registrations and 1869 militia enrollments, these records can help you learn a lot about where ancestors were, and what they were doing, prior to 1870.
You can access this free collection here. We will be developing a series of blog posts about this new collection. Topics will include navigating the records, types of records and the information each contains, and how to use these records to corroborate family oral history and break through the 1870 brick wall.
The records are also a valuable source of primary documents for educators to use in the classroom.
We're very excited about this collection being digitized. It is not yet indexed but you can access all 106 rolls of microfilm from home. We look forward to exploring these records with you! If you find a treasure, please share it here in the comments. We would love to hear how your research in these records is going.
You can view the reel guide for this collection here in our research library. The guides provide an in-depth look at what each microfilm contains, to help you select which films you would like to view.
Happy Ancestor Hunting from the Crew at Lowcountry Africana!
You can now more smoothly record and share your ancestor’s story with the tools and advice shared here. With careful planning and the right tools, you can feel the satisfaction that comes with preserving your family history for future generations.
If you have tried before and felt that the technology that you used complicated the process or if you really did not know what to do with your file after production, you do not need to feel that way this time when you sit down this Thanksgiving to record. Using the following tips and strategies, you won’t be caught by these three obstacles that would otherwise cause you grief.
1.Figure Out Which Tools Suit You Best.
You do not really need expensive equipment. You probably are already holding the most convenient device to record the interview – your smart phone or iPhone. The following apps can be downloaded to your device:
Tape A Talk
Tape-a-Talk: I have used this app several times successfully. The sound quality was great each time. Even if you will not be with you the person that you want to interview this Thanksgiving, all you have to do is call them from your Android device after you begin your recording with Tape-a-Talk. Hang up, and stop the recording. It will be saved as an .mp3 file on your device. Oh, did I mention this app has a free version?
Tape-a-Talk Screenshot by Robin Foster
Audio Memos Screenshot by Robin Foster
StoryCorps: StoryCorps has partnered with SoundCloud making it possible for you to log in here using your Facebook account or your SoundCloud account where you can then record your interview right from your web browser using the SoundCloud app. You can then upload the interview to the Wall of Listening where you are invited to share your story. Be sure to have a photo of you and the person you interview to upload with your recording. Post the link to your interview on the National Day of Listening: Lowcountry Wall of Listening Facebook page too!
StoryCorps Screenshot by Robin Foster
If you conduct a long distance interview, use Skype to record it. Keep in mind that someone may have to help your interviewee set up the technology ahead of time. If this technology is a bit of a leap for you, you may consider using a digital recorder or a laptop and a HD webcam.
2. Sound Quality
Be sure you and your relative are positioned close enough for your voices to be picked up clearly. If either of you have a soft voice, you may consider using a separate microphone that is compatible with the device you will use to record.
Keep the microphone far enough away to prevent distorted sounds, and make sure it is kept still and does not brush against clothing or other objects. Record in a quiet place, but make sure your voices do not echo. Do a test run beforehand to make sure everything works properly and you are comfortable using the technology.
3. Sharing the File
You will not want your interview to just sit forever on your device. You will probably want to share it with others if you were given permission to do so. You may choose to share in more than one way. Video formats are best converted to .mp4 or .wav files (Windows Media Player). Sound files are most commonly .mp3. Here are a few ways to share:
- - Save on CD
- - Upload the interview to StoryCorps
- - Share videos on YouTube or Vimeo (Sometimes videos need to be converted to .mp4 or .wav or other formats to share them. You can do this with Windows Movie Maker which comes automatically on a PC)
- - Create a DVD (Photoshop Elements)
- - Upload the file to Dropbox or Box, and e-mail a link to the file to family members
Now you have some planning before the big day. I hope these ideas help you to be ready for your Turkey Day interview! Please let us know how things went in the comment section below.