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Saturday, August 8, 2015

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Fueling my own finds while indexing


It turns out I am even fueling my own finds! Yesterday, while I indexed, I kept downloading batches from where my ancestors lived in Abbeville County, SC.  I was so amazed last night as I indexed the fifth batch of Freedmen's Bureau labor contracts while participating in the Worldwide Indexing Event  from August 7 to August 14th. The last image of the batch was a contract between D. W. Aiken and freedpeople working on his land in 1867.


I recognized Aiken right away from mentions of him made by my great great grandfather, Beverley Vance (1832-1899), in testimonies he gave when he appeared before the SC Senate in 1876.  The life of D. Wyatt Aiken (1828-1887)  is well documented. He was a Democrat who served in the Confederacy as well as a SC Congressman. 

Beverley's connection

Aiken was friends with the former owner of Beverley Vance, SC State Representative, J. K. Vance.  From Beverley's testimonies, I learned Aiken was a neighbor living also in Cokesbury, Abbeville County, South Carolina during Reconstruction. I am researching everyone that would have known Beverley to learn more about him. I even was able to read the journal of Aiken's wife, Virginia Caroline Smith Aiken, in the South Caroliniana Library a few years ago. 

I have been unable to locate any Freedmen's Bureau records for Beverley thus far.  I had not seen the labor contract above. I do not recognize any of the freedmen listed on the contract, but some of their surnames look familiar. Who would have guessed I would be indexing a record so close to home? In some way I do not feel it is a coincidence. I believe it is just a reminder to not give keep searching and to keep faithful that I will learn more.

I am so fortunate to have several historical references to Beverley. His senate testimonies alone help me to glean so much about him and my family. Here is one of the testimonies that mentions Aiken:

He received many threats on his life for being a strong leader. Another great man,
Senator B. F. Randolph was murdered in October of 1868 in the same area wherRandolph had made a trip to Cokesbury to campaign. Beverley served as a constable in this same area. 

These were very violent and troublesome times for the freedmen. Beverley was obviously well versed judging from his testimonies, owned land, voted his conscience, and was seen as a leader.  To me it is a miracle that he even survived the time period. 


My first day of participating in this event was an incredible experience. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity that indexing gives us to literally #FuelTheFind.  Where would we otherwise be once we exhausted the records readily available to us? Indexing helps to:

  1. teach us about record types that exist
  2. find that next bit of information to glean more about our ancestors
  3. have an opportunity to help someone else, and that feels good!

Without historical records, we are merely telling fables.  I hope everyone takes the opportunity to give back by indexing during this week and beyond this week! 


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