NGS Research in the States Series: South Carolina


“Let there be no illusions: Southern genealogy is difficult–especially in remote areas and among ‘plain folk’ who resisted paper trails as fiercely as they did meddling governments. Add to this problem a legion of burned courthouses. … In truth, evidence does often exist; it just come in forms one does not expect and is found through research methods one hopes to avoid.”


This Issue: NGS Research in the States Series: South Carolina; written by Janice Walker Guilmore.


“Many genealogists, both professional and amateur, find research in South Carolina daunting. Sometimes referred to as ‘the black hole’ of genealogical research, South Carolina does present challenges. The state suffered heavy count record losses at the close of the Civil War and the late advent of circuit districts caused many of our upcountry ancestors to forego the recording of instruments or the filing of lawsuits, crating a clear dearth of records for that area.”

On a positive note, this guide will help you around as many obstacles as possible by providing a clear list of available resources. Each resource type is described along with specific sources and how to access those materials. For example, under the heading Land Records, you will find the following:

“Land records are the crown jewel of genealogical resources in South Carolina–which has, arguably, the most complete set of any of the North American colonies. From the first settlers, who received headrights, to the present day, land has been plentiful and cheap; and as a result most free South Carolinians from any period created land records. There are four important types of land records…”

In the guide, the land records description continues with more specifics on available records and where to find them. Each section is handled in like manner. Plenty of specific information on what records are available an where to find them.

About the Series

Beginning in 1987, the National Genealogical Society began publishing a series of state guides in the organization’s magazine, the Quarterly. These guides were later re-issued as special publications designed to support genealogical research in each state. Eventually those guides became outdated and out of print. The current set of guides represents a refresh of those publications, updated and improved for today’s traditional and digital research resources.

About the Author

Though born raised in Oregon, Janis Walker Gilmore has lived in South Carolina for 25 years. She began working with genealogy in 1986, but got far more serious about Genealogy in 2006 when she began coursework at the National Institute for Genealogical Research, the Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy, and the Institute for Genealogical Research. She also earned a certificate through Boston University Genealogical Research courses.

More About the State Guides (from the Introduction)

“Readers should be aware that every effort has been made to include current web addresses throughout the publication and all were verified immediately prior to release…”

“Two research facilities used by many genealogists are the Family History Library (FHL) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Most genealogists are familiar with teh abbreviations used for these two facilities and they are used in these publications. Otherwise the use of abbreviations and acronyms is kept to a minimum.”

Table of Contents

Early History and Settlements

  • Topographical and Cultural Divisions
  • Early Government of the Colony

Archives, Libraries, and Societies

  • South Carolina Department of Archives and History
  • South Carolina Library, University of South Carolina
  • South Carolina Historical Society
  • Other Respositories
  • State and Local Genealogical and Historical Societies

Major Resources

  • Atlases, Gazetteers, and Maps
  • Bible Records
  • Biographical Sources
  • Business and Organizational Records
  • Cemetery Records
  • Census Records
    • Colonial Censuses
    • State Censuses
    • Federal Censuses
  • Church Records
  • County or Other Jurisdictional Formation
    • Dates of Major Jurisdictional Change
  • Court Records
    • Grand Council/His Majesty’s Council
    • Court of Chancery (Later the Court of Equity)
    • Courts of Common Pleas (Civil) and Court of General Sessions (Criminal)
    • Court of Ordinary (Probate)
    • Court of Appeals (Supreme Court)
    • Jurisdictional Maps
    • Federal Courts
  • Directories
  • Ethnic Records
    • African Americans
    • French Huguenots
    • Germans
    • Irish, Scots, and Scots-Irish
    • Native Americans
  • Genealogical and Historical Periodicals
    • Institution Records
    • State Mental Institution
    • Department of Corrections
  • Land Records
    • Land Grants: From the Colony or State to the Private Owner
    • Mesne Conveyance: From Private Owner to Private Owner
    • Land Memorials
    • North Carolina Grants in South Carolina
  • Military Records
    • Colonial War
    • Revolutionary War
    • War of 1812
    • Indian Wars
    • Mexican War, 1846
    • Civil War, 1861-1865
    • Spanish American War, 1898-1899
    • World Wars
  • Naturalization and Immigration Records
  • Newspapers
  • Probate Records and Wills
  • Reconstruction
  • State Records
  • Tax Records
  • Vital Records
    • Birth, Death and Marriage Records Prior to State-wide Registration
  • Voter Records
  • Women
  • Conclusion

These guides are an excellent resource for state by state research. Available guides, including NGS Research in the States Series: South Carolina are available from Family Roots Publishing.

Other guides in series reviewed to date (in alphabetical order):

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