Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mapping the Freedmen's Bureau

Today I am copying a press release about a new interactive website that will be a wonderful resource reconstruction records research. Toni Carrier, is the founder of the Lowcountry Africana website and Angela Walton-Raji is the author of the African-Native American Genealogy blog. Both are excellent researchers and innovators.

New Website Helps Researchers Locate Reconstruction-Era Records for African American Genealogy, History
Did you know that the majority of Freedmen's Bureau records are now digitized and available online for free? Did you know that there are also digitized images of the records of other institutions that served newly-freed African Americans during Reconstruction, such as the Freedman’s Savings and Trust?

Angela Walton-Raji and Toni Carrier have built a new website called "Mapping the Freedmen's Bureau - An Interactive Research Guide" (www.mappingthefreedmensbureau.com) to assist researchers in locating and accessing records of the Freedmen's Bureau, Freedmen's hospitals, contraband camps and Freedman's Bank branches.

Researchers can use the website's interactive map to learn which of these services were located near their area of research interest. If the records are online, the map provides a link to the records that tell the stories of newly-freed former slaves in the United States. The site also maps the locations where African Americans who served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) fought in battle.

The goal of this mapping project is to provide researchers, from the professional to the novice, a useful tool to more effectively tell the family story, the local history and the greater story of the nation during Reconstruction.

The free website “Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau – An Interactive Guide” is available at http://www.mappingthefreedmensbureau.com.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

New South Carolina historical newspapers

Several new SC titles went live this week on Chronicling America.  They are almost all from Camden and the date range is 1836-1891.

The titles include: Semiweekly Camden Journal (1851-1852); Camden Journal (1836-1852, 1864 & 1866-1891); Camden Daily Journal (1864); Camden Confederate (1864-1865); Journal and Confederate (1865); The Tri-weekly Journal (1865); The Weekly Journal (1865); Camden Weekly Journal (1865-1866)

One title went up from Bamberg, The Bamberg Herald (1899-1916).

The next group should be live shortly and will include: The Bamberg Herald (1917-1922); The Lexington Dispatch (1873-1917); Lexington Dispatch-News (1917-1918)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Richland Library obituary index

We haven’t talked about the Richland Library obituary index in a while and, recently, we have added some interesting features.

The main bulk of the million record+ index is still, of course, The State newspaper obituaries and death notices, indexed from 1891 to 2013.  However, since we are always seeking job security we have expanded our indexing to include marriage records for earlier newspapers.  These newspapers all published statewide information.

The Columbia Daily Union was a reconstruction republican newspaper in Columbia, SC.  It published from January 1, 1872 – July 31, 1877.  Republican newspapers advocated for equal rights among the races and favored the reconstruction government.  They published white and black marriages and obituaries.  Before you get too excited remember that these nineteenth century notices give very limited information and only notices for elite society were published, your sharecropper ancestors will not be in these records. The marriage notices generally provided the maiden name of the woman. The death notices don’t provide much more than a date of death.  For African American researchers this will still be a rich resource.  For example, 244 obituaries were indexed for the 1873 Columbia Daily Union, 41 were African Americans. We have indexed through 1874.
The Columbia Daily Register is another Columbia, SC nineteenth century newspaper that we are indexing. While it is not a republican publication it does provide marriages and obituaries for African Americans, as well as, whites.  For example, in 1882, 131 obits indexed out of 968 were African American.  We also indexed marriages for this publication which published from July 28, 1875-December 3, 1898. We have completed through 1894.

The Palmetto Leader was Columbia, SC’s early twentieth century black newspaper and it published from 1925-1965ish. Microfilm exists for issues between 1925 and 1957 with a lot of big gaps like the WWII years which are completely gone.  However, it does provide lots of vital statistic information including births, marriages and deaths.  We have indexed all of them from about 1930-1957.  1925-1929 has been indexed for deaths only but we will go back at some point and grab marriages and births.  The information is generally very limited but still could be a valuable resource. 

The Southern Indicator is an earlier black newspaper and is digitized on Chronicling America. In fact, all microfilmed SC black newspaper publications prior to 1923 have been digitized on Chronicling America. However, as we discovered, the republican newspapers can also be a valuable resource for black researchers. Very few of those have been digitized. 

Remember this is an index only.  It makes librarians very cranky when we are asked where the full-text is when it is clearly labeled an index.  We provide free scans of records to Richland Library card holders because they pay our bills.  There is a small fee for non- library card users.

Searching works best with last name first.  There is a browse feature under the search tab for alphabetically listings.  If you would like to search a name by year you can search by: any field and limit by: obituaries only then type in a name and year like this shealy 1880.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

2 lessons from my DNA experience.

Once my dad’s DNA results became available I quickly received a message from someone interested in one of the branches. He shared a 4th great grandfather (1774 to 1821) with my father.  His ancestor was a son of that 4th great grandfather as was mine.  That meant my direct ancestor had a brother.  Dolt! It shouldn't have surprised me but it did because I never checked the pre-1850. I stopped with the 1850 discounting the earlier head of household-only census.

Sure enough I found them in the 1810 and 1820 federal census.  Not only did I find the 2 brothers but I found a third brother and 3 sisters. I may not have had names but I had an age guesstimate and knew how many to look for.  All of a sudden I had some new research opportunities.  Then I found I had another research mistake. 

Let’s see if I can explain this…the grandson of my dad's direct ancestor (one of the 3 brothers) married my father's great grandmother whose mother’s maiden name was the same as his great grandmother's married name (death certificate info). I assumed a transcription error.  Big mistake!  As I followed the 3rd brother into the 1850 census I found his daughter was the same age and had the same name as my ancestor’s mother.  It turned out that the granddaughter of one brother married the grandson of another.  While 9 times out of 10 there is a transcription error this time it was correct.

Thanks to the DNA generated connection I learned a couple of valuable lessons. 
1. Do not discount the pre-1850 census 
2. Never assume a transcription error

I love it, the clearer it becomes the murkier it gets! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Columbia City Minutes now online and searchable

The historical minutes of Columbia's City Council, spanning January 1883 to December 1911 are now digitized on South Carolina Digital Library. Through the efforts of volunteers at Richland Library's Walker Local and Family History Center the handwritten entries are in the process of being transcribed to allow for full-text searching. The volume that includes 1883-1886 is now complete and available for searching

Columbia City Minutes

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The DNA bug

The DNA bug has hit me.  DNA results have expanded my tree and broken down a huge brick wall.  It has also identified gaps in my research.  My DNA learning curve is enormous and I have much more to learn.  Getting started, however, was hard.  I didn't want to spend the money but my aging parents alerted me to the passing of time.  I chose the DNA services of a large company (very large…the largest!) because it was cheap and easy.  I don’t regret the choice.  In fact, I am glad I started with them although I am anxious now to try other services. 

The service they offered provided good basic information.  However, it wasn't the information I thought I was going to get. That made me research what other, more knowledgeable, people were writing about the different services.  Now I understand the difference between autosomal, mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA tests.  Yeah! Step one completed.

So the large company I used for my parents DNA analysis used an autosomal test.  This means that the DNA comes from both of their parents, not just the male or female side. Close relatives share a lot of autosomal DNA.  The results diminish with successive generations.  However, there are enough results to spend years researching where they lead. 

I learned quickly that the autosomal DNA results were only compared with others who have chosen that company for the same service.  What’s a girl to do to get a wider pool of comparison?  Well stay tuned because I am still figuring that out.  Remember I am just beginning but I am reading a lot about raw DNA data and uploading it into other sites to expand my search.

The whole idea of trying something new is to learn from it.  DNA testing is a tool just like the census or death certificates.  I still learn new stuff about the census and I use it every day. Where would my research be without it?

While I get together with my friend Anita to understand the raw DNA data better I am going to put together my thoughts about the DNA experience.  It is making me a better researcher and I will tell you why.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Looking for the dead

This morning I woke up thinking that it is a good day for another review of publicly available SC vital statistics.  Let's get down to work.

Divorces:  Not legal in South Carolina between 1879-1948.  See individual county probate courts for records.  Current divorces (from about 2000-present) may be listed in local newspapers.

Marriages: Statewide records begin in 1911.  Individuals counties may have earlier records.  See online listings on this page.  Also, check the Richland Library obit index. We have been adding marriages. Currently covers the Columbia Daily Register from 1875 - 1891 and the Palmetto Leader 1925-1952.

Births:  SC statewide birth certificate records begin in 1915. They are not a public document.  There is a 100 year delay before the first birth certificate becomes public. That will be in 2016.

Deaths: SC statewide death certificates began in 1915.  There is a 50 year delay so we currently have 1915-1963 publicly available. Spartanburg and Charleston County have earlier county death indexes. Charleston County is available in Ancestry. Spartanburg's are available on the Spartanburg County Library website (see the link to the right). Searching SC statewide death certificates can be a challenge.  Here are the ins and outs.

1. Ancestry has digitized SC death certificates from 1915-1960.  They are indexed by the name of the deceased.

2. Family Search has digitized SC death certificates from 1915-1943 and an index only for 1944-1955.
They are indexed by name of the deceased and by the parents name. Because the indexing is so much better I often search for a death certificate on Family Search and then go to Ancestry for the digital copy.

3. The SC Department of Health & Environmental Control has a keyword index for 1950-1963 (bottom of the page).  It is the only place that has an index for 1961-1963.  Every January a new year is added.

Death certificates that are not digitized can be accessed at the SC State Archive (SCDAH).  Use the index to find the date of death and the certificate number.  It will save you a step at the SCDAH. Death certificates are also available at the Greenville Library for $5.00.

The obituary indexes may also be helpful. See the list on this page!