Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New indexing for Freedmen Bureau records

The email just arrived to my inbox from FamilySearch News announcing new added collections . The most important for us is an indexed collection from the Freedmen Bureau records.  This collection is: Freedmen Bureau Hospital and Medical Records, 1865-1872.  The collection consists of 86,000+ images of patient lists from all the Freedmen Bureau hospitals. However, my test searches found that 66,000+ of the records are from South Carolina and 40,000+ seem to be from Richland County.  There also a bunch from the Beaufort Hospital. So this is a bonanza for SC researchers.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Elijah Willis and Accessible Archives

Beginning genealogy classes come with the territory if you are a local history librarian.  In my classes at Richland Library I always provide tutorials for accessing library genealogy databases from home.  Accessible Archives is my favorite, 24/7 database (only available with a Richland library card). It doesn’t have the census or vital statistics information but it other resources, including a historic newspapers collection, unavailable anywhere else.

When I demonstrate a database I always have a search prepared so that we don’t waste a lot of time looking for a relevant search results.  With Accessible Archives I always do a search for Elijah Willis in the historic African American newspaper collection. Willis is a white Barnwell County plantation who has a remarkable story that appears in several articles in 1855.

I search for Willis in the African American historic newspapers collection because I want to emphasize the value of not categorizing resources by race.  A resource is a resource it doesn’t necessarily have color.  Willis, as it turns out, is covered in the pre-Civil War African American newspapers because he married one of his South Carolina slaves.  He traveled with her and their six children to Cincinnati where he drafted a new will that would provide manumission for her and their children.  While in Ohio, one year after the new will was created, Elijah dropped dead of a heart attack.  The Willis family in South Carolina sued to have the widow, Mary Amy, and children returned to South Carolina as the Willis family property.

It is a great story and every time I conduct the search I want to research the family and find out what happened to Mary Amy and her children.  Well, imagine my surprise when someone left the July 29, 2015 edition of the Barnwell People Sentinel on my desk and there was an article about an Elijah Willis family reunion in Barnwell. The guest speaker was Robert H. Stuckey who recently wrote a fictional account of the Elijah and Mary Amy story called, “A Complicated Legacy.” (People Sentinel article)  

What a wonder!  I am delighted to know that someone else found the story and wrote about it.  Gotta get it and maybe work on a new search.

Monday, June 29, 2015

HeritageQuest Online goes beyond borders with international content

International genealogy information will soon be available through HeritageQuest, a database available remotely through libraries.  Since being bought by Ancestry HeritageQuest has made vast improvements in its indexing and content including the addition of the complete US census with Ancestry's every name indexing.  US city directories were also added with keyword search capabilities. 

While the HeritageQuest database selections are not as extensive as Ancestry they are a great free alternative to With the addition of international data HeritageQuest becomes a more viable tool for genealogical research.  Here is the link for more information.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

South Carolina Genealogy Society annual workshop

Welcome news! It looks like this year the SCGS workshop is going back to its roots.  Several speakers are South Carolina Department of Archives and History experts.  Some are retired archivists like Chuck Lesser and Alexia Helsley but a new member of the archives, Eric Foley, is speaking as well as director Dr. Eric Emerson. 

After years of staff reductions this is a good sign that the archives staff is getting back into the education business. 

As users we can't take advantage of their resources unless we know about them and understanding their usefulness to our research.

I hope you will be able to attend July 10 and 11 at the SC State Archives in Columbia, SC.  Here is a link to the syllabus.

Friday, April 24, 2015

South Carolina Historical Newspapers for all SC residents

The Richland Library obituary index is a great resource for South Carolina obituaries but unless you have a Richland Library card the bulk of the full text is not available.  However, if you live anywhere in South Carolina I have very good news for you.  The South Carolina State Library recently made the South Carolina Historical Newspaper portion of NewsBank available to anyone with a SC State Library card! Happily, anyone who resides in South Carolina can get a SC State Library card. 

You will need to provide your driver license number as proof of residency. It takes about a week to get the card and then you will have access to a digitized version of The State newspaper from 1891-1990. I always check the Richland Library index for a date then go to Newsbank database for the full text. Of course there is a lot more than obituaries to look up: marriages, births, social events…it’s all in there.  Plan to be up very late!

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Online Resources for South Carolina

Did anyone notice that FamilySearch added South Carolina Confederate Home applications to their published collections?  Yes, the SC Department of Archives and History has indexed all, and digitized some, of this collection. FamilySearch has everything digitized including the applications of the women inmates, who were allowed to enter in 1925.  The Confederate Home and Infirmary, in Columbia, SC, was open to 2 residents from every SC county from 1909-1958.  The application includes the following information: name, age, residence, occupation, relationship (if female), unit, dates of service and closest relative. It is not searchable but it is organized alphabetically so it is not difficult to search. 

Another new resource that popped up is the WPA Inventory of SC Church Archive. Available through the SC Digital Library this resource covers forty-two of South Carolina’s forty-six counties (surveys for Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, and Georgetown are not extant). The questionnaires gathered information on African-American and white churches in both rural and urban areas, including address, date organized, building description, construction date, and, of primary importance, listings of any known church records.

As I mentioned below HeritageQuest has updated their site and it is now available. It features all of the US federal census with an every name index and nationwide city directories.  If cost prohibits you from using Ancestry then this will be a wonderful free tool for you.  The census and city directory searching is exactly what you will find on Ancestry. Check your public library for access information.

Monday, February 2, 2015

It's about time - HeritageQuest

The long awaited improvements to HeritageQuest are around the corner. We should expect a new release this spring according to the vender, Proquest. Be prepared to update your browsers if you haven't in awhile.  Here's more information:

In the coming months, HeritageQuest Online (HQO) will be materially improved and enhanced with a much richer content set and a more powerful, intuitive interface.
It is anticipated that the improved HeritageQuest Online, powered by Ancestry, will become available in Q1 2015.
What to Expect
For the initial launch on the Ancestry platform, here are some of the new enhancements and content that HQO will include:
  • Complete 1790-1940 U.S. Federal Census with images and every-name indexes for all years
  • Additional census records such as Mortality and Non-Population Schedules, Indian Census Rolls, and more
  • Expanded collection of genealogy and local history books and city directories with an all-new user interface, thumbnail images and hit highlighting
  • Complete Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land record collection (NARA M804)
  • Freedman’s Bank Records with full-page register view
  • Periodical Source Index Archive (PERSI), 1800-2009
  • U.S. Serial Set Memorials, Petitions and Private Relief Actions
  • All-new research aids
  • Interactive census maps
  • And more
The product will have a more modern look and feel by moving to the Ancestry platform.
Additional Information
  • All-new image viewer with more functionality
  • Grayscale or color images
  • ADA Section 508 compliance
  • Same authentication methods, including:
    • Static IP address
    • Referring URL
    • Barcode
    • Embedded username/password
New Browser Requirements
  • HeritageQuest Online will be optimized to perform best on current versions of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 or newer (we recommend IE 11+).  This gives libraries the most up-to-date security, as well.
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 or older will no longer be supported.  The new HeritageQuest Online may work in discontinued operating systems (such as Windows XP) and browsers, but we will not guarantee compatibility or make fixes.
  • Useful Microsoft Support information about each version of Internet Explorer can be found at