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South Carolina is one of the first states to join the Union. In fact, in 1788 it became the eighth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. It’s governmental seat was originally Charleston, but Columbia became the new governmental seat in 1790.

The first attempts at colonization of what is now South Carolina started in 1526. At that time, Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon came to the area from Hispaniola with 500 colonists aboard his 6 ships. Of those colonists, only about 150 survived and later went back to Hispaniola. Later, in 1562, a group of Huguenots came to the area. They were led by Jean Ribault. They founded Charlesfort and also named Port Royal. Jean Ribault went back to France to get supplies and his men mutinied. They constructed their own ship and used it to sail back to France. After 1570, there were no major attempts at settling South Carolina for almost 100 years.

Getting Started with South Carolina Genealogy and Family Trees

The Best Way to Look for South Carolina Genealogy Research – Rich with history and diverse cultures, the State of South Carolina receives a lot of attention from genealogists. Whether someone seeks information about their Native American, African American, or historical heritage, there are going to be plenty of resources available.

Contemporary Approaches for South Carolina Genealogy – Public records that can be found in many locations are the most available resources on the Internet as well. You must understand how to search for them, however, and using the following categories is going to be very useful in your search for South Carolina genealogy information:

  • State Records – this group will include probate information, birth certificates, cemetery information, death records, deeds, estate information, genealogical folders, land records, maps, marriage details, military or veterans information, newspapers, private manuscripts, state census information, surname lists and more. These are available as online and offline resources for South Carolina genealogy.
  • Local Records – traditionally, state research requires a visit to a county clerk’s office or website. From there you will often find yourself visiting and researching in small local libraries, historical societies, local genealogical societies, and school or college libraries for South Carolina genealogy information. These are items that are usually offline and viewable by appointment or special arrangement.
  • Vital Records – these are the birth, marriage, divorce and death records from county, state, and national archives. They include newspaper items, military records, immigration and naturalization details, cemetery or obituary information, census records, and passenger lists and records as well. These tend to be available as online or offline resources for South Carolina genealogy.

Common Tactics for South Carolina Genealogy – When you are seeking details for a South Carolina genealogy project, you should know that it is possible to a large amount of your research from home. Though classic research meant heading to libraries and archives, many organizations and archives have been digitized and put on the Internet. Not all of them have done this, and this means that an effective first step in research for South Carolina genealogy is to find out which records are available online, which are not, and how to go about getting all of them.

Convenient Tools for South Carolina Genealogy – Once you begin using sources for South Carolina genealogy work, you learn which have the most information for your needs. We believe these are some of the best tools for South Carolina genealogy:

  • Office of Vital Records, SC DHEC, 2600 Bull Street, Columbia, SC 29201; Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/south_carolina.htm .
    This is where anyone can order birth, death, marriage and divorce records via a written request or even online.

Additional state and local records can be found at the:

  • South Carolina State Archives, 8301 Parklane Road, Columbia, SC 29223; Website: http://archives.sc.gov/genealogy/ .
    The genealogy resources here are immense, and include census records, county probate records, county land records, county equity court records, and state death certificates, newspapers, place name research, military information, colonial records, and much more.

The websites identified below provide very targeted and state-specific details to those in search of facts for South Carolina genealogy research.


South Carolina Ethnic Group Research

In 1670, the first ships brought African Americans to South Carolina. The slave population made up the majority of the state’s population from around 1708 until the time of the Revolutionary War. As of the 1820 U.S. Census, African Americans again made up the majority of the state’s population, a position that they held for the next 100 years or so. They were skilled watermen, herdsmen, and agriculturists, allowing South Carolina’s planter society to thrive.

1867 and 1868 were very significant years for African Americans in South Carolina. They gained the vote and, as the majority in the state, they had significant pull for the first time. Those voter registration lists contained lists of freed slaves, which are valuable for researchers.

Many records pertaining to African Americans in South Carolina still exist today. Some of those records include: Free Persons of Color, Slave Lists, Plantation Records, Family Records, Personal Records, Bills of Sale, Account Books, Indentures

Many collections of those documents exist. Some are housed at the College of Charleston, Winthrop College, and the University of South Carolina. Others can be found at the South Carolina Historical Society and the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Each county kept different records regarding slaves and freed African Americans. Some of the best informational sources for researchers are the property and estate records for each district or county.

  • Kenneth M. Stampp, Professor Emeritus, University of California at Berkeley offers one of the best discussions of antebellum plantation records as the introduction to “Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution Through the Civil War,”
  • African American Genealogical Research. Rev. ed. Columbia, S.C.: Department of Archives and History, 1997.
  • “Naming, Kinship and Estate Dispersal: Notes on Slave Family Life on a South Carolina Plantation, 1786–1833,” William & Mary Quarterly, 3d Series. 39 (1982): 192-211.
  • South Carolina’s African American Confederate Pensioners, 1923–1925 (Columbia, S.C.: Department of Archives and History, 1998).
  • The Many Faces of Slavery (Columbia, S.C.: Department of Archives and History, 1999), discusses manumission, contracts, maroons, religion, miscegenation, and family relationships.
  • James Rose and Alice Eichholz, Black Genesis (1978; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003).