Monday, February 23, 2009

Historic South Carolina African American Records to Be Published Online

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: The following was just received from our friend Toni Carrier of the Lowcounty Africana project. Please address all inquiries to Toni Carrier,

Lowcountry Africana and The South Carolina Department of Archives and History today announced plans to digitize and publish freely online more than 25,000 historic documents of interest to researchers of African American genealogy and history.

Under the new agreement, Colonial and Charleston, South Carolina estate inventories dated 1732-1867 will be digitized and indexed in detail, including the names of more than 30,000 slaves. Inventories of estates in early South Carolina probate records often listed slaves in family groupings. They also detail the material possessions so important for researchers of social and cultural history. "South Carolina has one of the richest sets of early government records of any of the original states,” said Charles Lesser, Senior Archivist at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.” This new cooperative effort will revolutionize access to an especially important segment of those records," concluded Lesser.

More than 14,000 South Carolina bills of sale, most of them bills of sale for slaves, will also be digitized for online viewing. These documents, dating from 1773 to 1872, are already indexed on the South Carolina Archives website but have not yet been digitized.

"Digitizing these records will open new avenues for African American genealogy research by forming, in many cases, a seamless paper trail from Emancipation to the 1700's," said Toni Carrier, Founding Director of Lowcountry Africana. "And Charleston's role as a port of entry during the Atlantic Slave Trade means that many thousands of African Americans have at least one ancestor who came from, or through, South Carolina."

When complete, the index and digital images of the documents will be available for free on Lowcountry Africana (, and within the On-line Records Index for the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (

Anyone may volunteer to help index the records by visiting, Lowcountry Africana's new, central Internet home for free records of African American genealogy and history. Afriquest will officially launch at the end of February but volunteers may sign up now to participate.

Copies of the microfilms of the original historic documents were donated by FamilySearch International.

For further information, please contact Toni Carrier at

About the South Carolina Department of Archives and History
The Department of Archives and History is the official repository for South Carolina's state and local government records. Their Online Records Index already provides free index access to over 300,000 documents and digital images of some 100,000 pages of South Carolina public records.

About Lowcountry Africana
Lowcountry Africana is an all-volunteer research project and free website devoted to the family and cultural history of African Americans in the rice-growing areas of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida; home to the rich Gullah-Geechee cultural heritage. The Magnolia Plantation Foundation of Charleston, SC sponsored the development of Lowcountry Africana.

Their new Afriquest database will be international in scope and will be a free, central Internet database of records of African American genealogy and history. Afriquest will officially launch the February 28, 2009.

About FamilySearch
FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrons can access FamilySearch services and resources free online at or through over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.