News Release

Town of Hilton Head Island Logo

Town of Hilton Head Island, Heritage Library and University of South Carolina Beaufort Launch Heirs’ Property Family Research Project

August 12, 2021

The Gullah Geechee Culture and Land Preservation Task Force for the Town of Hilton Head Island along with the Heritage Library of Hilton Head Island and the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) launched the Heirs' Property Family Research Project.

Operating from USCB's Hilton Head Island campus, the project will help families conduct genealogy research that may assist them in clearing title to heirs’ property and obtaining valid land deeds.

"Setting up this project was one of the recommendations in our Gullah Geechee Culture Preservation Project Report and was among those Town Council adopted when we prioritized the recommendations," said Sheryse DuBose, the Historic Neighborhoods Preservation Administrator for the Town of Hilton Head Island. "There are several Gullah Geechee families on the Island that need help navigating heirs’ property issues. This is just one way we are trying to guide them."

"Over the years, we have become aware of the heirs' property situation families face and we already have worked with some families on their histories. Our partnership with the Town is a more formal process and we are certainly glad to help those families that need our services," said Barbara Catenaci, Executive Director of the Heritage Library. "We have the resources and a group of well-trained volunteers available to lend their time and expertise to those families that are anxious to settle heirs' property matters."

Heirs' property is land that has been passed down from the original deed holder to future generations without benefit of a formal will or probate. Although the family members know the land is theirs, their claim has not been established by the county, thus leaving the family without a title. This land is restricted from development and vulnerable to exploitation, no matter who lives there or who pays the taxes. 

Families seeking assistance must be referred to the program through the Town's Historic Neighborhoods Preservation office. There is no cost to participate. Volunteers will help family members delve into census records and other documents and create a family tree using online genealogy tools. 

The University of South Carolina Beaufort has provided office space to the Heritage Library at the University's Hilton Head Island campus since the campus opened in 2019. 

"In 2018, during planning for our new Hospitality Management campus, USCB offered to help the Heritage Library expand its public services and provide a home for the heirs' property project. USCB is to honored to assist this valuable program, which will benefit our native Islander community," said Dr. Charles Calvert, Hilton Head Island Campus Dean.  

Heritage Library volunteers involved with this project are Hilton Head Island native Murray Christopher, Linda Piekut, Rosemary Staples, Rick Bart and Grinnell Griffin, who all have extensive experience doing family research and deed validation. 

For more information, contact Sheryse DuBose at 843-341-4683 or, or Barbara Catenaci at 843-686-6560 or

Carolyn Grant , Communications Director