African American Resources for South Carolina
|South Carolina Wiki Topics|
|South Carolina Background|
|Local Research Resources|
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Online Resources
- 3 Research Strategy
- 4 History
- 5 Resources
- 5.1 Biographies
- 5.2 Cemeteries
- 5.3 Census Records
- 5.4 Church Records
- 5.5 Emancipation Records
- 5.6 Funeral Homes
- 5.7 Genealogies
- 5.8 Land and Property
- 5.9 Oral Histories
- 5.10 Other Records
- 5.11 Military Records
- 5.12 Newspapers
- 5.13 Probate Records
- 5.14 Reconstruction Records
- 5.15 School Records
- 5.16 Slavery Records
- 5.17 Vital Records
- 5.18 Voting Registers
- 6 Archives and Libraries
- 7 Societies
- 8 References
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 Research 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
- The Midlands
- Olde English District
- Ninety-Six District
- Pee Dee
- 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.
- Discover Freedmen - this site searches all of the Freedmen's Bureau record collections on FamilySearch altogether (and redirects there)
- Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872
- U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1846-1867 ($)
- Afrigeneas: African Ancestry in South Carolina - online South Carolina African American collections
- 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 Deaths 1915-1943
- South Carolina Deaths 1944-1955
- South Carolina Library: Manuscript Division
- South Carolina Slave Trader's List
- A Bibliography of African American Family History at the Newberry Library
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:
- estate records
- land records
- local histories
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:
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 
- 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.
- A. B. Caldwell, ed., History of the American Negro: South Carolina Edition (Atlanta, Ga.: A.B. Caldwell Publ., 1919). 757 pages of laudatory biographical sketches and portraits.
- Motes, Margaret Peckham. Free Blacks and Mulatto's in South Carolina 1850 Census. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing co., Inc. Publisher's website.
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 FamilySearch.org. 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
The place to start free African American studies is:
- Paul Heinegg, Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware] at http://freeafricanamericans.com/ (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:
- Heinegg, Paul. "'Other Free' Heads of Household in the 1790 South Carolina Census, by County," Free African Americans.com. Extracts from census arranged by enumeration districts.
- Heinegg, Paul. "'Other Free' Heads of Household in the 1800 South Carolina Census, by County/District," Free African Americans.com. Extracts from census arranged by enumeration districts.
- Heinegg, Paul. "'Other Free' Heads of Household on the 1810 South Carolina Census, by Family Name," Free African Americans.com.Extracts from census arranged by enumeration districts.
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).
- The Never-ending Road: American Roma (Gypsy), Travellers, & "Others": Early Native American Indian Remnants & Other SC Ethic Groups.
- Lowcountry Africana (@LCAfricana) is dedicated to documenting the family and cultural heritage of African Americans in the historic rice-growing areas of South Carolina, Georgia and extreme northeastern Florida.
- 150 Years Later, Collier, Melvin J., pub. 2011. Available here: 150 Years Later. This resource will be very useful for identifying research techniques and historical documentation available for discovering ancestors who were former slaves. Specific resources often overlooked are cited and are useful for research in Abbeville County, SC. Methods for identifying ancestors migrating to Mississippi prior to 1865 have also been cited.
Land and Property
- Records of southern plantations from emancipation to the great migration. Series C, Selections from the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina; Ira Berlin; Ariel W Simmons; South Caroliniana Library; Bethesda, MD: LexisNexis, ©2004
- At various libraries (WorldCat) A genealogical index to the guides of the microfilm edition of Records of Ante-bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War / compiled by Jean L. Cooper; [Bloomington, Ind.]: 1stBooks, ©2003.
- Lowcountry Africana: South Carolina Plantation Slave Records on Footnote.com
- Restore the Ancestors Indexing Project: SC Estate Inventories on Footnote.com.
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.
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:
MILITIA ENROLLMENTS OF MEN BETWEEN THE AGES OF 30 AND 45 FOR ABBEVILLE COUNTY
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.
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.
The following newspapers are freely accessible online.
- The Afro-American Citizen - Charleston, 1899-1902
- The Charleston Advocate - Charleston, 1867-1868
- The Georgetown Planet - Georgetown, 1873-1875
- Missionary Record -Charleston, 1868-1879
- The Rock Hill Messenger - Rock Hill, 1896-1921
- South Carolina Leader - Charleston, 1865-18??
- The Southern Indicator - Columbia, 1903-1925
- The Free Citizen - Orangeburg, 1874-1876
- The Free Press - Charleston, 1868-186?
- The People's Recorder - Columbia, 1893-1925
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.
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.
- Hurrah for Hampton!: Black Red Shirts in South Carolina during Reconstruction By Edmund L. Drago (Google Books)
- The Miscellaneous Documents of the Senate of the United States...1877 (Google Books)
- Congressional serial set By United States. Government Printing Office (Google Books) See also Angela McComas, Congress and My Family History (12 minute online video) FamilySearch Research Classes Online, and Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center, 2010.
- Evidence taken by the Committee of Investigation of the Third Congressional...(Google Books)
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:
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. 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:
- DiscoverFreedmen - the search on this site will utilize all of the Freedmen's Bureau records on FamilySearch, including:
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau Claim Records,1865-1872
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau Hospital and Medical Records, 1865-1872
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau Labor Contracts, Indenture and Apprenticeship Records, 1865-1872
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau Ration Records,1865-1872
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau Records of Persons and Articles Hired, 1865-1872
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau, Freedmen's Court Records, 1865-1872
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau, Land and Property Records, 1865-1872
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau, Records of Freedmen's Complaints, 1865-1872
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau, Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education, 1865-1872
Other FamilySearch collections not included:
- United States Freedmen's Bureau Miscellaneous Records,1865-1872
- United States Freedmen's Bureau, Records of Freedmen, 1865-1872
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau, Records of the Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1872 Images only. These reports primarily contain statistical and historical information.
- 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.
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
- South Carolina Slave Trader's List
- Miscellaneous records, 1771-1868 (images) - includes bills of sale of slaves and manumissions for South Carolina
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.
- United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872
- U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1846-1867
- South Carolina Voting Registers after the Civil War list African American males separately. They may be the first African American record after slavery.
Archives and Libraries
Museums with African American Collections
- Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, Charleston
- Old Slave Mart Museum, Charleston
- Penn Center, St. Helena Island
- Slave Relics Museum, Walterboro
International African American Museum
Clemson Area African American Museum
Calhoun Bridge Center
214 Butler Street
Clemson, South Carolina 29631
South Carolina Historical Society Archives
205 Calhoun St.
Charleston, SC 29401
- Megginson, W. J. African American Life in South Carolina's Upper Piedmont, 1780-1900. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2006.
- 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.
- "African American Records: Freedmen's Bureau," "African American Heritage," National Archives, accessed 11 May 2018.