Birth Registers From Historically Endangered Georgia Nursing Home For Expectant African American Mothers Now Available Freely Online

The Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia, and the Digital Library of Georgia have worked together to digitize and present online the birth registers of the mothers and babies born at the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home between 1949-1971. 

This nursing home, located at the home of state-certified midwife Mrs. Beatrice (“Miss Bea”) Borders (1892–1971), was the first and only professional birthing center in the rural South where African American women were allowed by local doctors to receive midwife delivery for their newborns during segregation, Jim Crow depression, and medical deprivation in the 20th century. 

“Miss Bea” and her assistants oversaw over 6,000 births and provided a safe place for African American mothers who had nowhere else to go.

These birth records were recorded in mid-century composition notebooks and contain essential genealogical information. 

Depending on the volume, some entries include the mother’s name, the date she entered the facility, the time of the birth, the baby’s weight, the baby’s gender, and whether there were any complications such as stillbirths. Some entries include additional genealogical information such as occupation, age, and address, birthplace, number of children in the family, and the name of the father.

Melissa Jest, program coordinator for African American Programs at the Georgia Historic Preservation division of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs says: 

“The digitization and cataloging of the records from this Black-owned/operated business present an opportunity for students and researchers to learn about this historically significant place and the people who entered its doors. 

It is our hope that this project will bring awareness to Mrs. Borders and will build support for the physical preservation of where she did her work.

The Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia survives as a very rare example of a professional birthing center run by Mrs. Borders, a state-certified midwife.  Increased access to the business records and related documents generated between 1941 and 1971 will assist hundreds of people researching their genealogy and roots in Mitchell County, Georgia.”

View the entire collection online

###

About the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011 and named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2021, the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia was the private residence and nursing center for a third-generation African American midwife Beatrice Borders (1892-1971), in Camilla, Georgia who provided safe, patient-focused health care for expectant African American mothers during segregation in the 20th century. Learn more at beasbabies.org.  

About the Digital Library of Georgia

Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia is a GALILEO initiative that collaborates with Georgia’s libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions of education and culture to provide access to key information resources on Georgia history, culture, and life. This primary mission is accomplished by developing, maintaining, and preserving digital collections and online digital library resources. DLG also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper microfilming project. 

Visit the DLG at dlg.usg.edu.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/DigitalLibraryofGeorgia/ 

Twitter: @DigLibGA

Selected images from the collection:

Image courtesy of Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home
Title : Book O, 1957 Deliveries
https://dlg.usg.edu/record/gwnh_gwnh_book-o-1957 
Description: Birth register completed by Beatrice Borders, an African American state-certified midwife who established the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia, a professional birthing center that served African American women during segregation in the twentieth century. This register accounts for 26 deliveries that took place in 1957. It also lists the “Ga. B. Williams Nursing Home” street address at 176 Dyer Street, Camilla, Georgia.

Share

How I Built A Funeral Program Collection for African Americans in Atlanta

Funeral program for Mr. Stanley Maddox

It all began with a one-sided friendly competitive thought – if Augusta could do it, so could Atlanta.  

This immediately came to mind after reading an article in Georgia Library Quarterly written in 2009 by Dottie Demarest, then the genealogy and local history librarian at the East Central Georgia Regional System (now the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library), about the Eula M. Ramsey Johnson Memorial Funeral Program Collection. 

In the article, Ms. Demarest spoke about how a single donation from Gloria Ramsey Lucas, the niece of Eula Johnson, of nearly 200 programs in 2005 became the beginning of the Library’s African American Funeral Program Collection.  The collection has since grown to more than 1500 programs dating back to the 1930s. After reading the article, I was excited that such a collection existed and had been digitized and made available through the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG). I was also inspired, knowing that we, the royal we, could create a similar collection in Atlanta.   

Funeral services for Miss Lucy Craft Laney, Thursday, October 26, 1933, 3:00 p.m., McGregor Hall. Lucy Craft Laney is Georgia’s most famous female African American educator. This is the oldest funeral program in the Eula M. Ramsey Johnson Memorial Funeral Program Collection, from which the African American funeral programs from the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System collection is based.

It was then that the African American Funeral Program Project, as I call it, was born.   

The goals for the project were to collect African American funeral programs and donate them to the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History where they would be preserved, and people would have access to them for many years to come.  The goal for the programs was to have them digitized and added to DLG and in May 2020, that dream became a reality.  Now, several thousand funeral programs collected and housed at the Auburn Avenue Research Library are available for everyone to see.  What started as a friendly competitive thought has now become another resource for researchers as well as scholars (I am one of the latter) who are interested in the individuals and local communities represented in the individual documents. The Atlanta funeral programs collection could possibly provide the information needed by a family historian (like myself) working to piece together their family’s story.  This collection will always mean a lot to me, not only because I helped to start it but also because members of my own family are featured in the collection.  My uncle Stanley Maddox, whom I never got a chance to meet, passed away as a child.  A press release for the collection happened a day after the 50th anniversary of his death and I thought what a fitting way to commemorate that day.   

Funeral Services for Mr. Stanley Maddox, Second Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Markham Street at Northside Drive, Monday, June 1, 1970, 2:00 P.M., George W. Baker, Officiating. Stanley Maddox is the author’s late uncle.

The work continues, as there are more programs to process and to collect.  

I hope that others will be inspired by this collection and create one in their own area.   

If you cannot start a collection, check your local area or your ancestral research area to see if a collection already exists and contact them to see if they are taking donations.   

As for digitized collections, in additional to the Atlanta collection, there are a few more African American funeral program collections in Georgia, including the Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center Digital Archive collection at Georgia Southern University, the African American funeral programs from the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System and Funeral programs from the Thomas County Public Library System collections, both of which are available through DLG.   

–Tamika Strong

Reference Archivist, Georgia Archives

Wesley Chapel Genealogy and Historical Research Group

Share