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Feb 14, 2018

Reconstruction Era Voting Records: Search for Your Ancestors in Senate Testimonies

Blog 45 Senate Testimony

US Senate Testimonies: Beverly Vance (1832-1899) Testified Before Robert Smalls, and Others


Blog 45 Senate Testimony
Testimony of Beverly Vance,


More Ways to Document Your Ancestors in Voting Records

After publishing “Look for Your Ancestor in South Carolina Voting Records”, we were notified that Kershaw County has voting records from 1865. We are now looking for existence of voting records by county for 1865, 1868, 1872, 1876. Some records may no longer exist, but knowing that our ancestors voted is important.

One way you can tell whether an ancestor voted would be if he was called on to testify before the senate. These testimonies are given by Republican and Democratic voters. In some cases, you might find where a Democrat testified against a Republican. If he speaks about your ancestor, of course, the picture he paints would not be one of valor. Testimonies can be found by searching at Google Books and HathiTrust Digital Library.

You will want to enter you search in the following way: in the search bar: “County, South Carolina,” “First Name, Last Name.”

If you do not find him, page through the section of these book where testimonies are taken for the county he was living in. Get a feel for the way life was for neighbors. Some African American were pressed into voting Democratic. Men were there from both sides on that voting day. They had guns, Democrats warned the Republican voters that they would shoot them or starve them out if they were to vote Republican that day.

The beauty of these testimonies is that they give somewhat of a snapshot of their lives during these times. If you find your ancestor among these records, please share because other African Americans can piece together their history in this way. Our struggles are similar, although the events are different. Read South Carolina African Americans–Major events in Reconstruction Politics to get a feel for politics during the different years.

By sharing Beverly Vance’s experience, for example, it helps anyone who had family in Abbeville County, South Carolina in those days. It can also be helpful for residents of South Carolina:


William Burnside Anderson July 3, 1871 Abbeville, SC – Beverly was mentioned in a testimony by a person who was not African American that voted Republican. This would have happened in 1870. He mentions that Beverly was a person they were going to kill [1].

Guy Taylor 1876 Cokesbury, Edgefield, SC – African American Democratic voter. Spoke against Beverly. Barred from going to the African American church [2]

Richard Roman 1876 Abbeville, SC – An African America Democrat. Hated by Republicans. Women were mostly Republican. He said Beverly’s honesty and truth was pretty tolerably fair [3]

J. M. Cochran 1876 Abbeville, SC – A Democrat. Says Beverly is regarded as a very bad man, and unreliable [4].

Asbury Green 1876 Abbeville, SC –African America Democrat. Sang a song about killing a Republican. Mentioned Beverly [5].

Beverly Vance December 22, 1876 Cokesbury, Abbeville, SC – African American voter at Cokesbury. Tells of persecution. Gives several names of Democrat planters who caused suffering [6].

Beverly Vance 1876 Cokesbury, Abbeville, SC – Interviewed by Robert Smalls. African American voted Republican. Mentions threats. Mentions D. Wyatt Aiken. Mentions Samuel Vance [7].

I have been researching this topic for years. When I first started researching Beverly Vance (1832-1899) I did not even know his name. I am letting you know about this resource so that we can have a collective history. You could have an ancestor among these testimonies. Look and share his story with us so we can make sure his story is known.


Sharpen the Saw

Can you find any evidence that your ancestor was called to testify in Columbia, South Carolina before the US Senate? Let us know on the post in the Facebook Group for this article!


References Cited

[1] Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Forty-Second Congress 1871-’72: online<> clipped 13 February 2018 (Washington: Government Printing Office. 1872.), 291

[2] United States. Congress. United States Congressional Serial Set. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1817.

[3] United States. Congress. United States Congressional Serial Set. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1817.

[4] United States. Congress. United States Congressional Serial Set. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1817.

[5] United States. Congress. United States Congressional Serial Set. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1817.

[6] United States. Government Printing Office. United States Congressional Serial Set. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1817.

[7] South Carolina. General assembly. Committee of investigation for Third congressional district. [from old catalog]. Evidence Taken by the Committee of Investigation of the Third Congressional District Under Authority of the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina. Columbia, S.C.: J. W. Denny, printer to the state, 1870.