Tidal marshes in the coastal areas of South Carolina, Georgia and extreme northeast Florida lent themselves to rice cultivation. Plantation owners would seek out slaves from Africa’s Windward Coast—Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Liberia—where rice was indigenous.
The traditions of these Africans make up the rich Gullah-Geechee culture, and their lives are the focus of Lowcountry Africana
, a free Web site that launched last Saturday with research guidance and records.
Its Lowcountry Lives link serves up life stories (hosted on project partner We Relate
, a genealogy wiki) of Lowcountry ancestors. Right now, stories cover slaves from Drayton family plantations and their descendants.
An online Research Library has a reading room (which links to off-site articles), resources for teachers, and links to free African-American databases on the historical records site Footnote
, another Lowcountry Africana partner (most of Footnote’s records are by subscription or pay-per-view).
The Search Records link takes you to the Lowcountry Africana Community in the AfriQuest
database (also hosted by We Relate, AfriQuest will launch June 19 with a range of user-contributed records).
There, you can browse records or search by name, place and/or keyword. Matches link to source information and images or transcriptions. For example, the 1871 Freedman's Savings and Trust Record listing for Ceasar Smith linked to a transcription showing his birthplace, residence, age, occupation, family members’ names and more (naturally, you still want to find the original record).
The records also include bounty claims (shown below) and other documents from Freedmen’s Bureau field reports, as well as wills, estate inventories, Southern Claims Commission records and papers from Drayton family records.
You can submit your own records to Lowcountry Africana, too (click Help on the Submit Items page