Welcome to the Restore the Ancestors Project!


This project is a collaboration between Fold3 (Formerly Footnote.com), the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, FamilySearch and Lowcountry Africana, to digitize every surviving estate inventory for Colonial and Charleston South Carolina from 1732 to 1872, as well as selected Bills of Sale for the same period, in a FREE collection.

When the project is complete, the names of more than 30,000 enslaved ancestors from Charleston and surrounding counties will be restored to history in a free online collection, preserved for generations to come.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pieces of the Puzzle: Thomas Fenwick Drayton Purchases 26 Slaves from Estate of Mary M. McUen

While indexing her 10 pages, Karen Meadows-Rogers discovered a document that further illustrates:


  • The treasures waiting in these extraordinary records
  • How these documents pull the pieces of the puzzle together
  • Why indexing matters

Karen discovered the record of the estate sale of Mary Middleton McUen. On Feb 11, 1851, auctioneer Alonzo J. White sold 106 enslaved ancestors to 14 buyers. Thomas F. Drayton purchased 26 slaves on that day.

As you may already know, for the past three years, Lowcountry Africana has been gathering documents to restore the lineages of slaves on Drayton family plantations in SC, FL, GA and TX.

Thomas Fenwick Drayton owned the Fish Haul Plantation on Hilton Head Island, SC. It came into his ownership very late in the Drayton family slaveholding history, when his wife Emma Catherine Pope inherited the plantation in trust for her minor children.

After three years of searching, we have found only a scant few documents that shed light on Fish Haul Plantation and the enslaved community there.

Angela Y. Walton-Raji found USCT Pension Applications at NARA. The USCT veterans in these documents stated that they had been enslaved on Fish Haul Plantation by Thomas F. Drayton and had previously been owned by the Pope family.

Letters the Drayton family wrote to the U.S. Government after the War stated that the plantation and the slaves there previously belonged to the Pope family.  In the 1860 Census Slave Schedule, Thomas F. Drayton appears holding slaves in trust for his minor children.

We had no idea Thomas Fenwick Drayton ever owned slaves himself, until Karen discovered this record. All of the documents discovered so far concern slaves owned by the Pope family before they were bequeathed to Thomas Drayton in trust for his minor children.

This document changes our understanding of the enslaved community on Fish Haul Plantation, and we never would have found it, had Karen not indexed it. The single index entry on the microfilm for the record of this sale states "McUen, Mary M."

This document not only reveals the names of enslaved ancestors in Mary McUen's estate, it also reveals that they were caught up in an estate settlement that changed their lives. It also reveals that there was more than one former slaveholder associated with each of the families that were sold that day. All of that detail came out of Karen's indexing.

To view the Footnote Page we've built around this document, you can follow this link: Sale of 106 Slaves in the Estate of Anne Middleton McUen, Charleston, SC, 1851.

So many thanks to Karen Meadows-Rogers for bringing important new information to the search for Drayton family documents!

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