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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

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29. Tuesday Tip: Search Reconstruction records to learn more about an emancipated ancestor

African American History Monument on The State House grounds
Columbia, South Carolina
Many Reconstruction Era resources can help you identify the following important information about your ancestor:  former slave owner’s identity, land ownership, military experience, occupation, family life, and more.  

Search the local library for books about Reconstruction.  Search the local university libraries and the local archives.  Search "Reconstruction" at Google Books as well as the name of your ancestor along with the county
and state where he lived.

During Reconstruction, most newly emancipated African Americans became Republicans and the white farmers (Red Shirts) who were mostly Democrats sorely persecuted the former slaves.  This is an excerpt of one of Beverly's testimony which I found:



Columbia, S. C, December 22,1876. Beverly Vance (colored) sworn and examined.

By Mr. Cameron : Question. Where do you live ?—Answer. I live in Abbeville when I am at home. Q. What township or precinct -?—A. I live in Cokesbury township. Q. What is your age?—A. I am forty-four. Q. Are you republican ?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. How long have you belonged to the republican party ?—A. Ever since the emancipation.

Q. Where were you on the day of election ?—A. I was at the ballotbox at Cokesbury precinct.
Q. Yon may state whether or not there were any armed democrats at that polling-place on the day of the election.—A. Well, there were men armed there with pistols.

Q. You may state whether or not they had guns when there.—A. Yes, sir; they bad guns. Some had double-barreled shotguns in their wagons, I suppose, I will say, in from thirty five to one hundred yards of the polling place; they had some of these old muskels, old Army guns, about three hundred yards from there, in Mr. Conner's store.

Q. What else did the democrats have there that day ?—A. Well, sir, they had a good deal of whisky, and one thing and another around there. They had a barrel of whisky in about fifty yards, in Mr. Conner's store, and then they had some jugs in their wagons where they camped tbe night before. There was a good, large crowd of them camped there, and they had a barrel of whisky and a big supper, and was eating and drinking the night before the election.
Q. You may state whether or not the whites threatened the republicans before the election in any way.—A. O, yes, sir; they did that a great deal in every direction, 1 suppose, three months before the elec tion. Myself was threatened the night before the election. I had to have a body-guard around me the whole night. We laid out the whole night. We were expecting them. They had sworn they would kill me.

I also found Beverly in  a 1869 Militia Enrollment for South Carolina and on a 1868 SC Voter's Registration in Abbeville County.  See US Reconstruction Era records help to document ancestor's and link to slavery.

Each type of record will vary according to geographical location.  Here are the results I received from searching Google for South Carolina Reconstruction records:  Click here.  This search led to several great resources that I did not know existed.

If we are to have any hope of finding out more about an ancestor who lived during slavery, we must uncover all we can to document them between 1865 and 1877.

Sources:  THE MISCELLANEOUS DOCUMENTS OF THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FORTY-FOURTH CONGRESS IN SIX VOLUMES; SC Department of Archives and History; Hurrah for Hampton!: Black Red Shirts in South Carolina during Reconstruction,  By Edmund L. Drago


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