There’s a lot of work to be done is our Special Collections, and we’re always grateful to have help from beyond the library. This semester we’re proud to host an intern from the College of Charleston’s History Department who has initiated a important and much-needed project. Since the middle of August, Rebecca Schultz has been transcribing data from the earliest known birth records kept by the City of Charleston, which date back to November of 1887. Prior to that time, the records of births in the city were kept by individual churches and families, but not by the local municipal government. These records, entered by hand on neatly printed pages, fill twenty-two volumes. The earliest volumes include both white and non-white births (identified as black, colored, or mulatto), but from 1894 until 1926 (when the records end), they are segregated into separate volumes of white and “colored” births. Having been in “storage” for many decades, these records are virtually unknown to historians and genealogists. No transcriptions of or indexes to this material yet exists.
After discussing potential projects back in August, Rebecca, a senior history major at the College, decided that she wanted to focus on the “colored” births in an effort to collect data on black midwives in late-nineteenth-century Charleston. Besides the birth dates, children’s and parents’ names, and address, we are fortunate that these records also include the names of the women (and a few male physicians) who practiced midwifery in Charleston’s black community more than a century ago. After transcribing thousands of birth records in the course of this semester, Rebecca will have amassed an impressive set of data that could serve as a basis for an unprecedented study of this topic.
This project is truly a mutually-beneficial arrangement: the library’s Special Collections Department gets some extra help in its effort to facilitate better access to a significant set of under-utilized records; Rebecca Schultz gets some hands-on experience with old records, and a collection of data that could lead to a publishable article; and the public will certainly benefit from the wealth of genealogical data that will be unleashed by Rebecca’s work. Thanks, Rebecca!