ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Documents that are more than 400 years old can be found in the Archives of the Diocese of St. Augustine. They may reveal the truth about the people of America's Oldest City.
"I call it box city," Sister Catherine Bitzer smiled. She is with the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Augustine and led historian Susan Parker to a locked door, full of boxes. "They're the oldest archives in the Continental USA of baptisms, marriages, and burials records," she said.
They date to the 1500's and were written by priests in St. Augustine.
"There are some pages with holes ... They look like lace," Parker explained.
Parker is using these very old documents, written in Spanish, to write a book about the different cultures of Colonial St. Augustine.
In these holey pages is the information about all races who were in St. Augustine: Natives, Whites or Europeans, and Africans.
"You would have the same type of information about a baptism for a governor's son as you would for a baptism of a slave's son," Parker said.
Escaped slaves fled north on the Underground Railroad, but slaves also went south to Florida where the Spanish gave them freedom.
Parker is finding out the personal information about little-known people of America's Oldest City.
"I'm taking these marriages and trying to follow what seem to be couples, created by the runaways. It's not a precise science, but I'm trying to follow them through baptisms when they have children," she said.
The documents Parker is studying were written here in St. Augustine, but they survived a trip to Cuba and back when the Spanish went there. They also took a trip to the University of Notre Dame and back. The documents were sent there in the 1940's to be protected during World War II.
"It's amazing we have them," Parker said and Bitzer nodded in agreement.