24 November 2010

What Makes You Feel All Warm and Fuzzy?

Volunteering my time and skills to get records online that are free and available to all. No, it's not the only thing that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but that's a whole different post.

There are indexing projects going on all over the place. I have volunteered my time to huge projects like the World Archive Project and the FamilySearch Indexing Project. I have also worked on smaller, more record specific endeavors like the Missouri State Archives Online Death Certificates 1910 to 1959 and Brigham Young University's Immigrant Ancestor Project.

Currently, all my volunteer time has been devoted to a very special and unique project - Restore The Ancestors Project. Working with the records of this project has opened a whole new world to me. The world of colonial South Carolina covering the years 1732 to 1872. Not having any ancestors of my own from this area, I had never explored or conducted research in this area of the United States. These estate inventory records are so fascinating and many of them recorded in such detail I felt like I was almost there back in time. It is also a bit emotionally disturbing indexing the names of enslaved men, women and children who have a dollar value attached to them along with pieces of furniture and livestock.

Some of the records tell you a story. One that I came across involved a female slave that had appeared in an estate inventory. She apparently ran away but was caught and detained until someone came for her. The entries following the inventory are detailed expenses that have been presented to the court for payment by the estate. Expenses such as room and board for the slave during the time she was incarcerated. Travel time and expenses for the party sent to pick her up and the bounty money for capturing her.

Another record shows the estate inventory of John Carmille, butcher, of Charleston Neck which lists the names of Carmille's enslaved wife Henrietta and their children. Further research reveals that Carmille had petitioned the South Carolina Senate in 1823, seeking to emancipate Henrietta and her children. The case eventually reached the South Carolina Supreme Court and Henrietta and her children were allowed to live as free people.

This project is a collaboration of four organizations:

The South Carolina Department of Archives and History - They hold the original records and have provided access to them and permission to place them on the Internet.

FamilySearch donated the copies of the microfilms to be digitized.

Footnote.com contributed the time and expense to digitize the films and host the collection on their site which is free to search and view.

Lowcountry Africana coordinates the volunteers who index the records and has created individual pages for each plantation indexed. These pages contain information about the owners and the names of all the slaves and provide a link to the actual image of the estate record

Why are these records unique and important?

This collection of records includes every surviving estate inventory for Colonial and Charleston South Carolina from 1732 to 1872, as well as selected Bills of Sale for the same period. Because of Charleston’s role as a port of entry during the Atlantic Slave Trade many thousands of African Americans may have ancestors who came from, or through, South Carolina. For anyone conducting African American genealogy research the names of the slaves from these records will assist in forming a seamless paper trail from Emancipation back to the 1700s.

The call went out asking for volunteers to index just 10 pages. No long time commitment here, just 10 pages. A few of you answered the call, but more volunteers are needed. Toni Carrier, who is the volunteer coordinator, told me that only about 1/3 of the records have been indexed and annotated. 4600 pages have been indexed and 184,000 annotations are now searchable.

So how about it? There is no pressure on how long it takes you. Depending on the information contained on the pages you are assigned, 10 pages will probably take about 30 minutes of your time. Give back to the genealogical community the gift of your time. To volunteer click HERE.

Have I done my 10 pages? I have. In fact of those 4600 pages and 184,000 annotations, I have done over 400 pages and 10,550 annotations!


  1. That is awesome! Your time and effort, and that of everyone working on this project, is greatly appreciated.I don't have ancestors in that area but those that do are lucky to have this project.

  2. Wow, Sheri you have gone above and beyond the call and have brought to light so many ancestors so they will no longer be hidden by time!

    Thank you for what you do!


  3. Great work, Sheri. Your energy is amazing and your donated time makes us all richer!

  4. Great work, Sheri. Your energy is amazing and your donated time makes us all richer!

  5. I said I was going to sign up in November, and so I did! Thank you for the link to get me started and for your dedicated service to this project.