African American Resources for South Carolina

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African American family, Beauford, SC

Introduction[edit | edit source]

This Wiki page describes research strategies, and major sources of information about African American families from South Carolina. As you read this Wiki page, also study the African American Genealogy Wiki pages, which will help you understand more strategies, and the contents and uses of other African American genealogical records.

Many resources exist that document the lives of African-Americans. Visit this page often to learn about proven strategies and records which will help document African-American progenitors who lived in South Carolina.


  • Atlantic Coastal
  • Plain Blue Ridge Mountain
  • Grand Strand High Hills of Santee
  • Lake Murray Country
  • The Lowcountry
  • Metrolina
  • The Midlands
  • Olde English District
  • Ninety-Six District
  • Pee Dee
  • Piedmont
  • Sandhills
  • Sea Islands
  • The Upstate - The Upstate is also known as The Upcountry and comprises the states: Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson, Pickens, Cherokee, Oconee, Union, Laurens, Greenwood, and Abbeville.See Upstate S.C. Black Heritage Researching.

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

  • 1846-1867 U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1846-1867 at Ancestry ($)
  • 1861-1872 United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872 at FamilySearch
  • 1865-1874 Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874 at FamilySearch
  • 1915-1943 South Carolina Deaths 1915-1943 at FamilySearch - How to Use this Collection
  • South Carolina Deaths 1944-1968 at FamilySearch
  • African American Digital Bookshelf - a growing list of digital books on FamilySearch and other websites
  • Afrigeneas: African Ancestry in South Carolina - online South Carolina African American collections
  • African American Death Records Database
  • Census Records
  • Discover Freedmen - this site searches all of the Freedmen's Bureau record collections on FamilySearch altogether (and redirects there)
  • Slave Data Collection
  • The Andrea Files
  • Learning Center: Most Overlooked Record-Types in South Carolina
  • Road Trip! Through SC Civil Rights History "Road Trip! Through South Carolina Civil Rights History is an interactive Web site designed to help teachers and students learn about the people, events and importance of the civil rights movement in South Carolina from the 1940s to the early 1970s."
  • South Carolina Department of Archives and History Online Records Index (SCDAH)
    Search for these specific records: Freedmen's, freeholders, negro, manumissions, arrest warrants, marriage licenses
  • South Carolina Library: Manuscript Division
  • South Carolina Slave Trader's List
  • A Bibliography of African American Family History at the Newberry Library
  • Upstate Black Heritage Mainpage

    Research Strategy[edit | edit source]

    Genealogical records may not document the names of ancestors per se, but they help to educate us about what life was like for them.

    Associates background information. Research the lives of those with whom an ancestor socialized, worshiped, played, and worked. Search

    South Carolina Department of Archives and History

    repositories for photographs, maps, biographies, journals, histories, and records that document the lives of your ancestors and their associates.

    Geographical background information. It is important to research the geographical area and history of landmarks such as schools, churches, and businesses that an ancestor may have frequented.

    Tracing the slave owner. The oral history of many African Americans reveals the former slave owning family. Sometimes further information can be gleaned about an ancestor by researching these families in conjunction along with African American ancestors. Research each member of the family group for possible clues. The following record-types have proven useful:

    • wills
    • estate records
    • biographies
    • land records
    • journals
    • local histories

    Confederate Records

    Confederate Compiled Service Records. During the Civil War, slaves served as cooks, body guards, and they had other duties. Servants were also left behind to keep the plantation running while the owner was absent. Researching the Confederate Compiled Service Records of former plantation owners may reveal more about the plight or whereabouts of an ancestor during this time period.

    Confederate Citizens File

    The Citizens File is a collection of Confederate records documenting the involvement of citizens and businesses that provided support to the Confederate government.

    Amnesty Papers. When Andrew Johnson pardoned Confederates at the end of the Civil War on May 29, 1865, some had to apply for amnesty because they were not granted amnesty in the proclamation issued. The records containing these applications are often referred to as the Amnesty Papers.

    To learn more about these three types of Confederate records which can be used to identify or verify plantation owners, see:

    1. Confederate Compiled Service Record
    2. Confederate Citizen Files
    3. Amnesty Papers 1865-1867

    History[edit | edit source]

  • Number of Slaves in South Carolina[1]
    1860 1850 1840 1830 1820 1810 1800 1790
    402406 384984 327038 315401 258475 196365 146151 107094

    South Carolina African American History and Resources has timelines and lessons on topics like slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Twentieth Century.

    • Bethel, Elizabeth Rauh. Promise Land: A Century of Life in a Negro Community. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981. FHL 975.733/P1 H2b
    • Bryant, Lawrence Chesterfield. South Carolina Negro Legislators: a glorious success ; state and local office holders; biographies of Negro representatives, 1868-19102. Orangeburg:South Carolina State College [1974]
    • Helsley, Alexia Jones. South Carolina's African American Confederate pensioners, 1923-1925 (Columbia, South Carolina: Alexia J. Helsley, c1998), 140 pages. Listed alphabetically by the person's last name, each entry includes "the petitioner's name, his address, the outfit with which he served, the captain or other officer under whom he served, his length of service," the name of the person who signed the affidavit, and other relevant information included on the applications for pension. At various libraries; FHL 975.7 M2he
    • Koger, Larry. Black Slave Owners; Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Co., c 1985 FHL 975.7 H6k
    • Catalog of the Old Slave Mart Museum and Library. Charleston, South Carolina. 2 Vols. Boston: G.K.Hall and Co., 1978.
    • Burton, Orville Vernon. In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina. United States: University of North Carolina Press Chapel Hill, 1985.

    Resources[edit | edit source]

    Biographies[edit | edit source]

    Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

    Some African American Cemeteries Were Once Used by the Enslaver

    Fairview Cemetery Restoration: Reverend L. S. Burnett, The Dial, Mason, Minister

    Census Records[edit | edit source]


    • Motes, Margaret Peckham. Free Blacks and Mulatto's in South Carolina 1850 Census. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing co., Inc. FHL book 975.7 X2m 1850. Online at: Ancestry ($).

    1868 Agricultural Census

    This census exists at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History for the following counties in SC:
    Abbeville, Anderson, Barnwell, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Darlington,
    Edgefield, Fairfield, Georgetown, Greenville, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens,
    Lexington, Marlboro, Newberry, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland,
    Spartanburg, Sumter, Union, Williamsburg, and York.

    1869 South Carolina State Population Census

    The 1869 South Carolina State Population Census is available at It was the first census taken that lists the African American head of household by name. No other members of the household are named, however, it can be beneficial if an ancestor was not able to be located on the 1870 United States Census.

    This index lists the number of children from 6 to 16 by race and gender, number of males over 21 by race, and number of persons of all ages by race and gender. Each of the following counties are available:

    Abbeville, Anderson, Barnwell, Beaufort, Charleston, Chester, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Edgefield, Fairfield, Georgetown, Greenville, Horry, Lancaster, Laurens, Lexington, Marion, Marlboro, Newberry, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland, Sumter, Union, Williamsburg, and York.

    This record is missing for the counties of Kershaw, Oconee, and Spartanburg. See Document your ancestor before 1870 using 1869 SC State Census.

    Free People of Color

    Number of Free People of Color in South Carolina[1]
    1860 1850 1840 1830 1820 1810 1800 1790
    9914 8960 8276 7921 6826 4554 3185 1801

    The place to start free African American studies is:

    • Paul Heinegg, Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware] at (accessed 22 October 2010). About 2,000 pages of family histories based on colonial court order and minute books 1790-1810 census records, tax lists, wills, deeds, free Negro registers, marriage bonds, parish registers, and Revolutionary War pension files.

    Heinegg has also prepared these lists:

    1875 Agricultural Census

    This record exists for the following townships in SC:
    Aiken (Silverton Township), Beaufort (Lawton, Pocotaligo, and Bluffton
    Townships), Charleston (Sullivan s Island and Moultrieville Townships),
    Clarendon (New Zion and Midway Townships), Darlington (Colfax, Fludd, and
    Grant Townships), Marlboro (Bennettsville, Brownsville, Red Bluff, and Hebron
    Townships), Newberry (Stoney Battery, Cannon, Caldwell, Maybinton, Hellen, and Newberry Townships), and Sumter (Middleton and Statesburg Townships).

    Church Records[edit | edit source]

    Furman University, James B. Duke Library

    Wofford College, Sandor Teszler Library

    City Directories[edit | edit source]

    U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

    Emancipation Records[edit | edit source]

    Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]



    Genealogies[edit | edit source]

    Land and Property[edit | edit source]

    Plantation[edit | edit source]

    Law and Legislation[edit | edit source]

    Oral Histories[edit | edit source]

    The following interviews with former slaves, notes on folklore, and articles on prominent African Americans and African-American organizations were compiled by the Works Project Administration (WPA) between 1936 and 1937. The Federal Writer's Project can give the researcher great insights into the life and struggles of ancestors and their contemporaries.

    Even though you may not find your ancestor named among these records, a study of those interviewed from the same geographical area where your ancestor lived may reveal important clues such as:

    • slave owner names
    • names of formerly enslaved people who remained friends or married into your family
    • places of worship
    • accounts of historical events (earthquakes, emancipation, marriages, etc.)

    The language and subject matter found in some interviews can be quite disturbing.It is important to remember that this first generation of formerly enslaved people had varying views. Some embraced freedom, and some struggled with it and the challenges they faced.Stay focused on ways to document people and events using census records and death records.Fleshing out the life of an interviewee using historical records can possibly reveal more clues to document your own ancestor.

    Search by County
    Abbeville Colleton Lexington
    Aiken Dorchester Marion
    Allendale Edgefield Newberry
    Anderson Fairfield Oconee
    Bamberg Florence Orangeburg
    Barnwell Georgetown Richland
    Beaufort Greenville Saluda
    Berkeley Greenwood Spartanburg
    Charleston Hampton Sumter
    Chester Lancaster Williamsburg
    Chesterfield Laurens York

    Other Records[edit | edit source]

    FamilySearch Historical Records

    Military Records[edit | edit source]

    Civil War (1861-1865)

    See South Carolina in the Civil War for information about South Carolina Civil War records, websites, etc. with links to articles about the South Carolina regiments involved in the Civil War. The regimental articles often include lists of the companies with links to the counties where the companies started. Men in the companies often lived in the counties where the companies were raised. Knowing a county can help when researching the families of the soldiers. See United States Colored Troops in the Civil War to learn about the regiments and units that served from South Carolina.

    The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System allows name searching for soldiers. The result set gives the regiment for each soldiers. Then you can check the regiment page to determine counties. Often knowing the counties that had men in a regiment will help you determine if a soldier was your ancestor.

    1869 Militia Enrollments

    See the Online-Index at South Carolina Department of Archives and History to access the Militia Enrollments of men between the ages of 30 and 45. Enter you male ancestor's last name and then first name, and suggestions will appear below the box as you type his name. Enter the county where your ancestor was living at this time, and click "search" leaving all other fields blank. Online images are available for these records. Notice in the following example, the men are listed in alphabetical order, and they are not separated by race:

    This record is useful for documenting African American male ancestors who were born between 1824 and 1839.

    World War I

    The goal of the 371st Historical Society, located in Columbia, SC,is to unite with descendants of the 371st, 369th, 370th and 372nd Infantry Regiments. The Society collects, preserves and maintains artifacts, books, films, papers, photographs, relics, video disks and other articles touching on the past history of the 371st Infantry Regiment its allies and affiliates and of Black Soldiers who served in the Military Services of the United States. Visit 371st Historical Society, World War I.

    Newspapers[edit | edit source]

    Be aware that even though your ancestor may have lived in a different part of South Carolina, newspapers often covered people and events from surrounding areas. Search for the name of your ancestor (friends and family) and any organizations or institutions with which they were affiliated.

    Chronicling America

    The following newspapers are freely accessible online.

    Richland County Public Library

    The Richland County Public Library has The Palmetto Leader on microfilm, an African-American newspaper. It contains articles submitted by individuals and churches from many counties across the state. Only the obituaries have been indexed, and the index is available online.

    Probate Records[edit | edit source]

    Reconstruction Records[edit | edit source]

    The following are a wealth of resources which may be used to understand the era of Reconstruction. These resources also lead to actual testimonies given my African Americans and former slave owners. The sworn Congressional testimonies provide a great deal of oral history about specific individual experiences and events.

    Freedman’s Bank[edit | edit source]

    An excellent source is the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (visit the African American Freedman's Savings and Trust Company Records page to learn more). This company was created to assist African American soldiers of the Civil War and freed slaves. Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company signature cards or registers from 3 March 1865 to 25 July 1874 may list the name of the depositor, date of entry, age, birthplace, residence, complexion, name of employer or occupation, wife or husband’s name, death information, children’s names, name of father and mother, brothers’ and sisters’ names, remarks, and signature. Early books sometimes contained the name of the former master or mistress and the name of the plantation. Copies of death certificates were sometimes attached to the entries. The collection is organized alphabetically by state, then city where the bank was located, then date the account was established, then account number.

    Online collections of Freedman's Bank records:

    Freedmen's Bureau[edit | edit source]

    The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was created by the US government in 1865 until 1872 to assist former slaves in the southern United States. The Bureau created a wide variety of records extremely valuable to genealogists. Such documents include censuses, marriage records, and medical records. These records often include full names, former masters and plantations, and current residences.[2] For 1865 and 1866, the section on abandoned and confiscated lands includes the names of the owners of the plantations or homes that were abandoned, confiscated, or leased. It gives the county and location, a description of the house, the number of acres owned, and the number of cabins of former slaves. These films do not appear to contain the names of former slaves.

    To find Freedmen's Bureau records:

    • More collections are available in the FamilySearch Catalog. Search for "FREEDMEN - SOUTH CAROLINA" in the Subjects search bar to find.

    Visit the African American Freedmen's Bureau Records page to learn more about utilizing these records.

    School Records[edit | edit source]

    Records for extinct African American schools can also be found at the South Caroliniana Library on the campus of University of South Carolina.

    Record types include:

    • Documents generated by the school
    • Student report cards
    • School histories
    • Newspaper clippings

    See list of Extinct Schools

    Slavery Records[edit | edit source]

    National Archives

    Vital Records[edit | edit source]

    Birth[edit | edit source]

    Marriage[edit | edit source]

    The Freedmen's Bureau (1865-1872) was created by the US government to assist former slaves in the southern United States. One of their responsibilities was to record the marriages (past and present) of the former slaves. These records can be found in the collections below and include the lists of marriages that occurred previously, marriage certificates, and marriage licenses. The information contained on the records may include the name of the husband and wife/groom and bride, age, occupation, residence, year or date of marriage, by whom, number of children, and remarks.

    Death[edit | edit source]

    Divorce[edit | edit source]

    Voting Registers[edit | edit source]

    Archives and Libraries[edit | edit source]

    Museums with African American Collections

    International African American Museum
    Phone: 843-872-5352

    Clemson Area African American Museum
    Calhoun Bridge Center
    214 Butler Street
    Clemson, South Carolina 29631
    Phone: 864-654-2944

    Societies[edit | edit source]

    South Carolina Historical Society Archives
    205 Calhoun St.
    Charleston, SC 29401

    References[edit | edit source]

    1. 1.0 1.1 Ninth Census of the United States: Statistics of Population, Tables I to VIII Inclusive (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1872), 60-61. Digital version at Internet Archive; FHL Book 973 X2pcu.
    2. "African American Records: Freedmen's Bureau," "African American Heritage," National Archives, accessed 11 May 2018.