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.


  • The South Carolina Department of Archives and History holds the original records and has provided access to them and given their kind permission to place them on the Internet
  • FamilySearch International donated the copies of the microfilms to be digitized
  • Footnote.com contributed the time and expense to digitize the films and host the collection
  • We in the research community, for our part, can index the records to make them fully searchable.
These documents have only been available on microfilm in the past, at three locations in South Carolina, or on order through Family History Centers.

They have never been indexed.

Each ledger that was microfilmed had index pages, which listed only the name of the person whose estate was inventoried. There are tens of thousands of names in these records that have never been indexed anywhere, including the names of more than 30,000 enslaved ancestors.

This is the entire run of surviving estate inventories for Colonial South Carolina (which encompassed all Districts in the state) and Charleston, South Carolina, for the years 1732-1872. If ever an enslaved ancestor was listed in a surviving estate inventory in Charleston, the record is right here in this free Footnote Collection.

There are not only inventories of estates in the collection, but also records of sales of estates. These documents recreate the paper trail for generations of enslaved families in South Carolina.

Volunteer Aaron discovered a record of 1,648 slaves in the estate of Nathaniel Heyward. The single index entry for this document reads "Heyward, Nathaniel." Aaron volunteered to index 10 pages and made this remarkable discovery.

Our volunteers are rediscovering the paper trail for the African American history of Charleston, but anyone with South Carolina ancestry may also find documents in this collection to further their family research.

Records for the years 1839-1864 are already posted on Footnote.com and can be browsed, to see instructions for browsing the collection, please click here
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