Friday, February 1, 2008

Research Help for Non-Native Residents

Sample article from the Society's February 2001 Update newsletter.
Think you can’t find genealogical info here in Camden if you are from somewhere else? “Boy was I wrong!”

By Billie Jones

In 1997, while my mother and I were visiting my sister in Texas, my niece asked my mother, her grandmother, questions about her ancestors – who they were and where they came from. Realizing we had names of several generations but very little other information, my mother and I decided to take on a project of searching for some answers.

The timing was perfect. I had just "retired" and needed something to do so I would have an excuse not to do housework. After discussing the several known lines, we decided to begin on my maternal grandfather’s line. Surely they were not as many Courseys to research as Rabun, Hughes and Smith. [An error in judgment we have since learned]

We began with a piece of paper found in my grandmother’s Bible I received upon her death. She had listed her parents and grandparents and those of my grandfather, Odell Coursey b. April 24, 1892, Johnston, Edgefield Co., SC. His parents and grandparents were listed with a notation that his grandfather, John Franklin Coursey was a Civil War soldier.

Knowing that my grandfather was born in Edgefield County, we traveled to Edgefield to the Thompkins Library. As novices, we began to get our feet wet in the sea of information, finding few facts but learning a little about the how-to’s.

After our trip, which provided us with some other surnames and family lines connected to the Courseys, I decided to visit the State Archives to see what they had. Wanting to find out more, I began looking up census records.

One day, after several trips to Columbia, I decided to visit our local Camden Archives and Museum. I had visited it before with my children to view the exhibits in the Museum, but really had no confidence that I would find any information to help me with my Edgefield County families. After all, this is Kershaw County, and we only arrived here in 1969. BOY WAS I WRONG!

Since that first visit, I have spent hours in the Camden Archives researching. I found that their collections contain much info, not just on Kershaw County, but on other areas of South Carolina, as well as other states that I am researching. And by far, the staff and volunteers are the most helpful of any of the libraries that I have visited.

The first thing my Mother and I did was to read the back issue of every Quill from the Old Edgefield Genealogical Society. The Archives has them on file, as well as issues of other genealogy society newletters.

Not long after I started researching seriously and had visited the State Archives for census records, the Camden Archives received copies of the microfilm of all of the SC counties 1790-1920. They also have index books for 1790-1870. And as a result of a recent contribution by Dallas Phelps, the Camden Archives now has all of the Edgefield Co. Cemetery books.

I found that the State DAR Library is housed in the Camden Archives, and found information from SCDAR Traveling Library proving relationship in an Edgefield County and Virginia line. Instead of traveling to Columbia or Edgefield, I can review abstracts of deeds in the DAR Collection. A book Edgefield Death Notices and Cemetery Records by Carlee McClendon is also a part of the DAR collection that I have used extensively.

As I was entering data into a computer file at the Archives to share my findings with other researchers, I also made a list of books at the Archives that I want to look into, filling four legal pages front and back. I don’t think I will live so long as to research all of the information found in this library that might lead to information on my many SC families.

So, I have found that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Although I still love to take trips to visit cemeteries, and get full copies of wills, I have found a real treasure right here at home – The Camden Archives and Museum, Camden, SC.

The Camden Archives and Museum, 1314 Broad Street, is open M-F from 8-5 and on the first and third Sundays monthly, 1-5.

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