Monday, May 30, 2011

Genealogy fun with South Carolina Quakers

Last week I talked to a couple of people about Quakers in South Carolina. Since I started working at the Friends Historical Collection in January, we've had a few people from out of town come in to research their family history (I'm not the only one who takes genealogy vacations!). This time, a lady had found references to her ancestors in Hinshaw (the popular and handy Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy) and other books and wanted to find primary records from Bush River Meeting.

I've always been fascinated by the Bush River records, and I got the chance to learn more about them. The originals are in our collection, but they were in a fire many years ago, so they're brown and brittle and look like the Dead Sea Scrolls. We have many records from the 1700s that have been preserved and are in decent shape, but the Bush River records haven't been restored, yet, and they're so fragile we don't even touch them. Somehow, at some time past, somebody made a photocopy of them. I pulled those for our visitor, but the years she was looking for were missing.

I racked my brain, trying to remember something from the inventory I've been working on. Finally, on the second day, I found transcripts of the records — and they included all of the years.

I don't know much about Laura Worth, but she is my hero. She helped William Hinshaw write the first volume of the Encyclopedia, the one that included North and South Carolina. As part of that work in the 1930s, she transcribed — by hand — many old Quaker records.

On Friday, I talked to Bill Medlin, author of Quaker Families of South Carolina and Georgia (1982), who now lives in Indiana. His book, out of print for many years, lists many members of Wateree meeting and I wanted to know how he found their names. (My previous posts about the lost Fredericksburgh/Wateree meeting minutes are here and here.) For the book, which he hopes to reprint sometime in the future, Bill used the same techniques I was planning to use: look through the records of other meetings for mentions of Wateree and its members. He encouraged me, but cautioned that not all of his information came from Hinshaw, who only gleaned genealogical extracts. Reading through other meetings' minutes sounds pretty overwhelming, I thought.

Bill confirmed that the Fredericksburgh minutes were received at Bush River in the early 1780s, so they disappeared after that date. He and another genealogist had advertised a reward for those records, with no results, and the other man had searched for them for about 40 years.

The good news is, Bill is currently working on a book about Bush River.

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