AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum
Treasure Trove of Documents Found in Maryland
Slave sales and Valentines: 400 years of family's documents found in Md. plantation's attic
CENTREVILLE, Md. (Associated Press) -- For four centuries, they were the ultimate pack rats. Now a Maryland family's massive collection of letters, maps and printed bills has surfaced in the attic of a former plantation, providing a firsthand account of life from the 1660s through World War II.
"Historians are used to dealing with political records and military documents," said Adam Goodheart, a history professor at nearby Washington College. "But what they aren't used to is political letters and military documents kept right alongside bills for laundry or directions for building a washing machine."
Goodheart is working with state archivists and a crew of four student interns to collect the documents, which were found stuffed into boxes, barrels and peach baskets.
"Look at this: 'Negro woman, Sarah, about 27 years old, $25,'" Goodheart says, reading from a 19th century inventory. "It was as though this family never threw away a scrap of paper."
The documents include maps, letters, financial records, political posters, even a lock of hair from a letter dated Valentine's Day, 1801. There's a love poem from the 1830s (in which a young man graphically tells his sweetheart what he'd do if he sneaked into her room on a winter's night), along with war accounts and bills of sale from slaves and crops.