I just returned from a research trip to Chesterfield and Darlington Counties in South Carolina, and then a visit to Savannah. The research portion had its highs and lows, but all in all it was a good time. I wanted to write a little about my adventures and give you some tips on planning a trip out of state for research.
We drove most of the day on Saturday (this was a 600+ mile trip). On Sunday, we drove around to cemeteries. I found my great-great-great-great grandfather’s family cemetery sitting about 50 yards into a pine forest. It was fenced and relatively well taken care of. We visited numerous cemeteries that day, and had a great time.
Day two, the small research library had hours on Monday from 1pm to 5pm. I had called two weeks in advance to make sure those were the correct hours. I told the volunteer who answered that I would be driving 600 miles and was assured that somebody would be there. Nobody was there. It was locked up with a sign on it that said “We’ll return at 1 o’clock.” Except nobody returned. So I went to the library in the same small town and was told that the research library makes their own hours. I sent them an e-mail later that evening to voice my disappointment at finding them closed after being assured they would be open and how far I had drove to get there. I did get a reply “Sorry for the inconvenience.” Oh, well. Moving on! I won’t be going back to that location any time soon! Funny note to this day. We stopped in a fabric store and during conversation with the owner, I discovered he was a distant cousin. We share the same ancestor who was buried in that little family cemetery I had located the day before! Small world!
Day three, we traveled to the state archives. It was a bit disappointing to find that most of the information I hoped to find was part of a “burned county”. Thank you, General Sherman. You might be considered a hero in some parts of the country, but I am not a fan. Burning those old wills from the 1700 & 1800’s really helped resolve the War Between the States, huh? With nothing else to look for in the archives, we headed on to Savannah.
Day four, we headed to Bonaventure Cemetery. If you ever get to Savannah, you must go visit this place. It is absolutely beautiful. Despite the interference from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the cemetery is like a peaceful painting. Old elaborate markers framed in looming oak trees with Spanish moss dripping from the limbs and hovering over the graves. Just gorgeous! I’ve added a few pictures to my “Favorites” section. Once we left here, we headed into downtown and jumped on a trolley for the tour. Another must if you visit. The city was beautiful, clean, and genuinely friendly. We finished our day with an early supper at Paula Deen’s restaurant. Yummy! It was like a trip back in time to family gatherings at my great aunt’s home in south Alabama. If you find fault with this place, you have never ate good Southern cooking!
Day five, we headed home. Looking back, I am not sure what I would have done differently. I know if the future I wouldn’t waste a day trying to go to a research library that didn’t open, and I now know that the archives will not be able to help me. (Again, thank you General Sherman). But I did get to find Noel Johnson’s grave, and I visited many other cemeteries. I guess don’t get your expectations too high when planning a trip out of state and always have a back-up plan. I would be furious if I had drove that far only to find the research library closed and that was my only planned stop. But we made the best of it and had a good time. If you are planning such a trip, research the area ahead of time so you can find something to do if your first plan falls apart. I have some good memories from this trip that will last a lifetime and if you take such a trip I hope you have the same experience!