Making an Active Historic Church’s History Available Online

The Digital Library of Georgia recently worked with Susan Yarborough to add a collection of documents from Saint Paul’s Church, Augusta, Georgia. Founded in 1750, Saint Paul’s is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and the first church and formal institution established in Augusta. The DLG collection includes church registers from 1820 to 1937, minutes of the Vestry from 1855-1923, early church histories, and miscellaneous documents related to the church and diocese history.

Yarborough, chair of the church’s History Committee, notes that Saint Paul’s is still an active church. “Our archives are part of the church’s daily life and play a role in our governance, building maintenance, and even our worship. At the same time, we have a responsibility to the larger community to make available those resources with historical significance.”

“The earliest entries in the oldest Saint Paul’s register are more than two centuries old. Our historic materials are valuable but also fragile. They’ve held up beautifully because they are not regularly handled. Digitization is the best way to make it possible for historians to examine these precious records.”

“The early church registers record baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and funerals of church members, including enslaved and free people of color. Many history queries we get at Saint Paul’s have to do with genealogy. So having the registers hosted by DLG allows genealogists and family historians to go directly to the source. They can also explore more than one family name at a time. Plus, they have almost unlimited access, which would not be possible otherwise.”

“At Saint Paul’s, we are so pleased that DLG saw the potential of this material and awarded us the subgrant to digitize and host it.  Many local institutions do not have the expertise or funding to make their historical documents widely available. I really appreciate the way DLG simplifies the sub-grant application process. They provide guidance with model applications and on-line coaching, and DLG staff are happy to answer questions by phone or email.”

“Best of all is the satisfaction of knowing that Saint Paul’s materials are now freely available to teachers, students, and public library users. DLG helps bridge the digital divide for those who rely on schools and public libraries for their research needs. It is so important for people’s understanding of their lives and worlds to have access to information about their family and community histories.”

Parish register, 1820-1868 (page 50 of PDF)
St. Paul’s Church of Augusta Collection
Holding Institution: St. Paul’s Church (Augusta, Ga.)
https://dlg.usg.edu/record/spcag_spcagc_spc14

Yarborough has selected Page 122 from the Parish Register of Saint Paul’s Church for 1864 (this is page 50 of the PDF available for Parish register, 1820-1868), which shows the baptismal records for Rose, a daughter born to Cyrus and Mary, the slaves of Mrs. Elizabeth Bowen, who is serving as baptismal sponsor. Two rows below is the baptismal record for Elisa Jane Beard (colored), daughter of Thomas P. and Carolina Beard, who were free persons of color. In 1868, Thomas P. Beard would become the first African American from Augusta to be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives.

Further down the same page is the baptismal record of Col. Archibald Willingham Butt (1864-1912), a military aide to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William H. Taft, who died on the Titanic when it sank. He is recorded as having threatened to kill any man who tried to board the lifeboats before the women and children were rescued. Yarborough adds: “That’s probably folklore, but it is a thrilling story.” Circumstantial evidence suggests that Col. Butt was gay. Augusta’s Butt Memorial Bridge, which routes 15th Street over the Augusta Canal, is dedicated to his memory.

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Historical aerial photography indexes that chronicle changing land use in all of Georgia’s 159 counties from the 1930s to 1990s are now available freely online.

Along with our partners at the University of Georgia Map and Government Information Library (MAGIL), the Digital Library of Georgia has made the Georgia Aerial Photography Index Collection available at https://dlg.usg.edu/collection/gyca_gaphind, now providing online access to more than 1200 indexes produced by U.S. government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS). Indexes covering all 159 Georgia counties are available with coverage ranging from the 1930s to the 1990s. The Georgia Aerial Photograph Index Collection provides access to digital versions of all Georgia county indexes in MAGIL’s physical collection. Previously-digitized indexes of select counties in the State of Georgia, along with approximately 50,000 black and white photographs, are available in the Georgia Aerial Photographs database.

Aerial photography depicts the physical and cultural characteristics of land at a specific time. The images can provide insights into various fields from ecology and geography to history, archeology, and urban planning. In addition to aiding in the mapmaking process, aerial photographs can be used to settle legal issues such as property disputes and even identify ancestral sites for people researching genealogy, according to the National Archives website https://www.archives.gov/research/cartographic/aerial-photography.

“MAGIL’s aerial photography collection is heavily used by researchers looking for everything from the existence of the old family farm to the first appearance of a bridge to the development of an intersection over time,” said Valerie Glenn, the head of UGA’s Map and Government Information Library and Federal Regional Depository Librarian. “By making these indexes available through the Digital Library of Georgia, we are greatly improving access for those users interested in how Georgia land has or has not changed and providing them the ability to conduct preliminary research on an area without having to travel to Athens.”

Allison Haas has used these materials in her research, working for EDR/Lightbox. “Daily I use materials from the Map and Government Information Library for historical property research on commercial real estate sites as part of the environmental due diligence process,” Haas said. “Historical aerial photographs are key elements in the reports we provide to our clients. Quick turn around on these reports is very important. Online access to this collection has improved workflow and helps get the reports to our clients quickly.”


Selected Images: 

Dekalb County, 1938: Aerial photography index
https://dlg.usg.edu/record/gyca_gaphind_dekalb-1938
[attachment: gyca_gaphind_dekalb-1938-00001.png (page 1)]

Dekalb County, 1938: Aerial photography index



Glynn County, 1981: Aerial photography index
https://dlg.usg.edu/record/gyca_gaphind_glynn-1981
[attachment: gyca_gaphind_glynn-1981-00001.png (page 1)]

Glynn County, 1981: Aerial photography index



About the University of Georgia Map and Government Information Library (MAGIL)

The Map and Government Information Library (MAGIL), a unit of the University of Georgia Libraries, acquires, organizes, and provides access to cartographic and government information. It is located in the sub-basement of the Main Library on North Campus.

The UGA Libraries serves as Georgia’s regional depository for documents published by the Federal government as well as the official depository for documents published by the State of Georgia. Its collections also include select international and United Nations documents. Cartographic resources include maps, aerial photography and remote sensed imagery, atlases, digital spatial data, and reference materials, with a particular emphasis on the state of Georgia. 

Maps and government documents have been an integral part of the University of Georgia Libraries for more than 100 years. For more information, read about the history of MAGIL. 

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