Friday, October 31, 2014

Finding Ancestors in 18th Century Records

Charleston Battery
Colonists kept detailed records.  This practice dates all the way back to ancient Egypt and South Americans with the use of hieroglyphics.  If you can discern some of the drawings of the hieroglyphics, you can certainly make out the old English and Latin to a certain degree.  At the beginning of the 18th century many vessels were delivering cargo into Charleston, South Carolina. To learn who some of the London merchants were one needs to examine the oldest deeds. Sure, the 1600s and 1700s regale with script which is difficult to decipher. Unfortunately the schools have done away with the fancy cursive writing.  My generation had a taste of the fancy f's and double s's, a practice which gave me some heads-up in reading old documents.  The beautiful script is like drawing. Also, if it weren't for that dark India ink used by the colonials, there would be few words to read. From the Charleston deeds of 1703 (found in the will books), one learns that the names of the most active London merchants were: Ben Nicoll, John Crosse, Giles Green.  Here is an interesting note: "Elizabeth, the relict of Joseph Paletta" received a certain cargo from Edmund Bellinger. There was a great deal of activity spelled out in the old deeds, from captains and their vessels delivering cargo with the details spelled out in contracts to names of relatives and tradesmen in London. During the early 18th century, trade flourished from London to the American Colonies and the West Indies.  These were the days when pirates were hijacking vessels on the open seas and such activities were written into the records of the London Board of Trade as well as county records.  To understand, it is important to read all of the county documents (wills, estates, deeds, powers of attorney, marriage contracts, etc.) which survived. During the early 18th century, there were several major ports of entry to consider - New York, Boston, Charleston and Savannah.  It is unknown whether all of the ship manifests listing names of passengers exist in the colonies. Captains had to conform to British rules and regulations of trade in England as well as in the colonies and did not always deliver their manifest to local authorities in a timely fashion. Usually, a search of 3 months or so after the date is indicated.  Although many have been transcribed, we still do not have all of the immigration records into the colonies.  If you had an 18th century ancestor in the Georgia colony, you should also research Charleston records.  Then oneSouth Carolina Pioneers is adding old wills and documents dating from 1671 to the website. The term Know all men by these Presents was used as the beginning of wills, marriage contracts, powers of attorney, indentures, divisions of estates, deeds and so on.  The recognition of those words should be helpful in discerning other words.
has to dig further, specifically in records from the port of origin.    Meanwhile, to make it a little easier for the historian and genealogist,

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