Original article posted Monday, June 3, 2013 10:46 am, Statesville Record & Landmark
View original article here
By John Hamlin
Since Iredell County’s establishment in 1788, the register of deeds has kept records documenting transfers of property from one person to another.
Until December 1865, when the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the recently reunited states, that property may have been a person himself.
The records of those transactions have been preserved, but nearly 150 years later there still was no way to separate the people who were bought and sold in Iredell County from the farms and homes.
To help lift those enslaved people from the pages of the record books, Register of Deeds Matt McCall and his office are working to create an index to all slave transactions recorded in Iredell County, which will soon be made available to the public online.
“By coincidence, we will complete this project near the Juneteenth holiday, but the timing could not be more appropriate. Many African-Americans come to our office looking for their family history. Unfortunately, the trail typically runs cold prior to the 1900s,” McCall said in a press release.
“Hopefully this index will be a way for someone to bridge the gap between their ancestors. It will also serve to remind us of a time when injustice took place in the land of the free.”
In addition to helping black residents of Iredell County trace their roots, McCall said the records offer insight into an important, albeit painful, chapter in American history.
“It’s part of our history, and it’s definitely not our finest moment, but we should always remember it and understand it did take place here — in our county, in our towns,” McCall said.
“And just because it’s unpleasant doesn’t mean we should forget it. We should learn from it.”
The tedious job of sifting through the county’s entire recorded history was made feasible by the work of R.C. Black, who distilled the massive volumes of cursive handwriting into a set of typed abstracts. In their free time, McCall had his deputies scan the abstracts for slave transfers, which they are compiling into an index.
The new index will be a great new resource for the Genealogical Society of Iredell County, President Mike Trivette said.
“We have quite a few folks come through that either are black or their family owned slaves, and they’re looking for the past,” he said.
“Anything that helps in tracing genealogy back is important, and I’m glad they’re doing this.”
Compared to other parts of the antebellum South, Trivette said Iredell County was home to relatively few slaves.
“There weren’t that many folks in Iredell County who owned large numbers of slaves because there weren’t that many who were wealthy enough. It’s almost an untruth that there were that many big plantations in this area,” he said.
“But there were a lot of people who owned one to five, but very few owned more than 10 slaves,” Trivette said.
To contact the register of deeds, call Matt McCall at 704-872-7468, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For help tracing your family’s roots through Iredell County, email the Genealogical Society of Iredell County at email@example.com or call 704-878-5384.