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New Research Could Help Preserve Gullah Geechee Lands

FILE - A live oak with Spanish moss in the South Carolina Lowcountry
Timothy Brown
FILE - A live oak with Spanish moss in the South Carolina Lowcountry

A new genealogy research project in South Carolina could help preserve vulnerable coastal land belonging to Gullah Geechee families.

The Heirs' Property Family Research Project in Hilton Head Island will assist families with research that could help them obtain valid deeds for land that has been passed down to multiple family members without a will.

Organized by the town's Gullah Geechee Culture and Land Preservation Task Force, the Heritage Library of Hilton Head Island and the University of South Carolina Beaufort, the project aims to help Black Americans known as Gullah or Geechee. These slave descendants retained much of their African heritage passed down from ancestors who grew up isolated on coastal islands off North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Some of the Gullah Geechee land is particularly vulnerable, project organizers said in a statement, because of the way it was passed down without a formal will.

Volunteers with the free program will tap into census records and other documents to create family trees. Sheryse DuBose of the task force says the project could aid several Gullah Geechee families to secure titles for their land.