Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Free Online Records Cast Historic Light on South Carolina

SALT LAKE CITY—FamilySearch, a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization in charge of the world’s largest genealogy repository, announced today rich new online resources that will certainly be of interest to South Carolina residents, Civil War buffs, and family historians with Southern roots. FamilySearch’s free resources consist of new historic records and image collections and anin-depth online help center (wiki) for South Carolina genealogy resources. The information can be found at FamilySearch.org. The announcement coincides with the National Genealogical Society’s 33rd annual family history conference in Charleston this week.

FamilySearch’s newest South Carolina collections are South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964, and South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes, 1671-1977. Probate and estate records typically include wills, bonds, property inventory, and court petitions.

“These types of records are extremely valuable to genealogists because they may be the only known source of an ancestor’s death date, name of a spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their place of residence,” said Mary Lynn Sharpe, FamilySearch project manager.

The new collections include hundreds of thousands of digital images of the original historic documents that can be browsed online at FamilySearch.org using a digital viewer.

“For example, let’s say your ancestor was Jasper Crooks, and you knew he lived in Oconee County South Carolina,” said Sharpe. “A review of the historic probate records online will reveal that his wife, Sallie Crooks, petitioned the court for permission todivvy up his estate. The records show Jasper Crooks’ death date was November 1, 1897, and personal property deemed most valuable at the time—right down to the mouse grey mule, old two horse wagon, 4 rocking chairs, 3 padlocks, wash pot, and a corn sheller.”

Also in FamilySearch’s free online collection of South Carolina records are South Carolina Deaths (1915–1955) and Civil War Confederate Service Records (1861–1865)—the two collections comprise millions of searchable records.

FamilySearch has also introduced a South Carolina section to its free online research wiki. Using the information from the wiki, patrons can quickly find out what other historical records exist by county and where. There are also links to free online genealogy courses and a free forum for asking personal research questions. The help services are supported by volunteers.

And, in a separate announcement this week, FamilySearch announced that the Civil War Era records project was just launched. Volunteers will be indexing millions of historic records from the Civil War period to help family history sleuths gather the pieces of their family stories that extend to that period. There is also a FamilySearch Civil War wiki page where specialists are contributing online content dedicated to regiments and states.

In the last year, FamilySearch, with its growing base of volunteers, has published almost 500 million historic records online—free for the public to search or view. Fueled by technology and the popularity of genealogy, interest in family history continues to grow. And with that growth comes an ever-increasing demand for access to information and historic records needed to fill in the next branch of someone’s family tree.

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 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. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in SaltLake City, Utah.