Medical ledger documenting 19th century Athens freedmen now freely available in the Digital Library of Georgia

CONTACT: Deborah Hakes, dhakes@georgialibraries.org

ATLANTA — A Reconstruction-era medical ledger detailing the names of hundreds of African American freedmen has been digitized and made freely available online through the Digital Library of Georgia. The project is a partnership between Georgia HomePLACE, the digitization unit of the Georgia Public Library Service; and the Athens-Clarke County Library, headquarters of the Athens Regional Library System.

The medical ledger, created by Dr. Joseph Barnett Carlton (1822-1881), is an excellent resource for researchers and genealogists seeking to identify and locate African Americans following the end of the U.S. Civil War. A leather-bound volume of hand-lettered pages, the ledger contains the names, diagnoses, and medications sold to freed African Americans by the physician. Entries are dated 1867-1872 and provide the first and last names of patients along with the date of treatment. 
“This ledger is an incredible piece of history,” said Athens Regional Library System Executive Director Valerie Bell. “It offers us a rare glimpse into the lives of African American Athenians in the years immediately following the Civil War and Emancipation, which is valuable both to family history researchers and students of history and medicine. We are so pleased to partner with HomePLACE to make this treasure more accessible for everyone.”
Included in many entries are the illness for which the patient was treated and the cost for the treatment and any medicine. Payments made towards the bill are documented along with the dates of the payments and the date when the account is paid in full. One interesting entry shows that Dr. Carlton treated a young patient on Christmas day in 1872.

Dr. Carlton was a physician for 35 years. He served as surgeon of the Toombs Regiment, C.S.A., and was a graduate of the University of Georgia and the Medical College in Augusta. Dr. Carlton also served in the Georgia House and Senate.

“The Carlton ledger of Freedmen is an expressly cherished piece in our collection at the Athens-Clarke County Library,” says Ashley Shull, archives and special collections coordinator of the Athens Regional Library System. “This item will connect the family histories for many people within our community.”  

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Georgia HomePLACE encourages public libraries and related institutions across the state to participate in the Digital Library of Georgia. HomePLACE offers a highly collaborative model for digitizing primary source collections related to local history and genealogy. HomePLACE is a project of the Georgia Public Library Service, a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. HomePLACE is supported with federal Library Services and Technology Act funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Georgia Public Library Service. Visit www.georgialibraries.org

Athens Regional Library System serves the residents of Athens-Clarke, Franklin, Madison, Oconee and Oglethorpe counties with 11 library branches. The system offers an extensive collection of resources and provides access to evolving technology in addition to programs and events for children, teens and adults. Headquartered at the Athens-Clarke County Library, the Athens Regional Library System was named Georgia’s Public Library of the Year in 2017. Learn more at www.athenslibrary.org

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