South Carolina Emigration and Immigration

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The People

About 80 percent of the settlers of colonial South Carolina were of English origin. Many of them came by way of Barbados and other colonies rather than directly from England.[1] A group of Dutch settlers from New York came to South Carolina in 1671. Another smaller group was of French origin, mostly descendants of Huguenots, who came to the area beginning in 1680. More numerous were the Scottish dissenters, who were brought in beginning in 1682, and the Germans, who arrived during the eighteenth century. Blacks constituted a majority of the population from early colonial times until 1930. Indian wars drove most of the native Americans from the state, but there are still a few Catawba Indians in York County.

Several histories chronicle these Atlantic World links:

Settlement Patterns

The earliest settlements were on the coastal plain low country of South Carolina. Pushed by a desire to escape the Revolutionary War and pulled by a desire for land, settlers eventually poured into the Piedmont up country. Townships in eighteenth-century South Carolina were established as residences for foreign protestants of various nationalities. Many immigrants were of Ulster Scots, German, and Welsh descent.[2] In 1770 the population of South Carolina was less than 50,000; by 1790 it had reached 140,000.

Overland migration routes in and around early South Carolina.
Early migration routes:[3] Savannah River · Augusta and Cherokee Trail · Augusta-Savannah Trail · Augusta-St. Augustine Trail · Camden-Charleston Path · Catawba and Northern Trail · Catawba Trail · Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail · Charleston-Savannah Trail · Cisca and St. Augustine Trail (or Nickajack Trail) · Coosa-Tugaloo Indian Warpath · Fall Line Road (or Southern Road) · Fort Charlotte and Cherokee Old Path · Fort Moore-Charleston Trail · Great Valley Road · King's Highway · Lower Cherokee Traders' Path · Lower Creek Trading Path · Middle Creek Trading Path · Occaneechi Path · Old Cherokee Path · Old South Carolina State Road · Savannah-Jacksonville Trail · Secondary Coast Road · Tugaloo-Apalachee Bay Trail · Unicoi Trail · Upper Road · Ports:  Beaufort · Charleston · Georgetown

Early settlement was blocked by thick forests. The best way through the trees was by river, or over Indian trails that were slowly improved into wagon and stagecoach roads. Use the above list of early migration trails to get a better understanding of where early South Carolina settlers came from and where they may have moved.

Almost immediately after statehood, South Carolina began to lose population to the westward movement. In the early 1800s, slaveholders moved to new, more fertile plantations in Alabama and Mississippi. In the 1820s, antislavery Quakers moved to the Old Northwest, especially Indiana.

South Carolina did not attract many overseas immigrants during the nineteenth century. State-sponsored recruiting efforts brought in a few hundred Germans between 1866 and 1868 and about 2,500 northern Europeans in the early 1900s.

Overseas Immigration

The major port of entry to South Carolina is Charleston. Others important ports have included Beaufort and Georgetown.

Colonial Period

Brent H. Holcomb, CG, sums up the problem of finding South Carolina passenger lists:

"One of the questions most frequently asked about South Carolina records is 'Where are the shiplists?'. Your editor has seen many disappointed faces when he has explained that in the Colonial period they do not exist outside of the few actual lists in the South Carolina Council Journals and what might be gleaned from the texts of individual petitioners for lands."[4]

Some early immigrant lists that do survive include:

In the eighteenth century, many immigrants petitioned for headright lands in the Colony of South Carolina, see:

Abstracts of select Irish immigrants found in Council Journals were published in:

  • "Some Irish Protestant Immigrants to South Carolina 1753 and 1754," The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Winter 1989):25-29. FHL Book 975.7 B2sc v. 17

For English passenger lists, 1773 to 1776, which includes some emigrants destined for South Carolina, see:

Scholarly articles published in The American Genealogist and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly illustrate strategies that will help Americans trace their colonial South Carolina immigrant origins.

Colonial Ships

Several resources can help you learn more about a colonial ship's history.

Though they do not include names of passengers, records kept by the Colonial Office and stored at The National Archives (Kew, England), document ships' arrivals and departures from South Carolina ports between 1716 and 1767. FamilySearch microfilmed these records. They are useful for learning about the history of ships entering the colony:

Dr. Marianne S. Wokeck created a detailed list of "German Immigrant Voyages, 1683-1775" to Colonial America. Destinations include South Carolina (1730s-1770s). She published the list in an Appendix to:

  • Wokeck, Marianne S. Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. FHL Book 970 W2w.

The Early South Carolina Newspaper Database (WayBack Machine) offers a free online index to ships mentioned in eighteenth-century South Carolina newspapers.

Lists of ship arrivals announced in the South Carolina Gazette between 1760 and 1770 have also been published:

  • Jones, Jack Moreland and Mary Bondurant Warren. South Carolina Immigrants, 1760 to 1770. Danielsville, Ga.: Heritage Papers, 1988. FHL Book 975.7 W2j.

African Immigrants

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database Internet site contains references to 35,000 slave voyages, including over 67,000 Africans aboard slave ships, using name, age, gender, origin, and place of embarkation. The database documents the slave trade between Africa, Europe, Brazil, the Caribbean, and the United States.

Records of blacks are listed in the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under the heading SOUTH CAROLINA - SLAVERY AND BONDAGE and under the heading SOUTH CAROLINA - MINORITIES.

English Immigrants

In lieu of colonial passenger lists regarding early settlers of South Carolina, genealogists must rely on evidence gleaned from a variety of sources to successfully trace immigrant origins.

The Prerogative Court of Canterbury in London proved the wills of many residents of South Carolina. For access, see South Carolina Probate Records. Heraldic visitations list some members of prominent English families who crossed the Atlantic. Expert Links: English Family History and Genealogy includes a concise list of visitations available online. Online archive catalogs, such as Access to Archives, can be keyword searched for place names, such as "South Carolina" and "Charleston," to retrieve manuscripts stored in hundreds of English archives relating to persons and landholdings in this former English colony. These types of records establish links between South Carolina residents and England, which can lead researchers back to their specific ancestral English towns, villages, and hamlets.

The multi-volume Calendar of Colonial State Papers Colonial, America, and West Indies (1574-1739), which is available for free online (see discussion in South Carolina Public Records), highlights many connections between England and South Carolina.

Remnants of passenger lists and other substitute sources are discussed below.

More detailed information on immigration sources is in the United States Emigration and Immigration. Records of other major ethnic groups, including French Huguenots, Ulster Scots, Jews, Quakers, and Catawba Indians exist.

  • Motes, Margaret Peckham. Migration to South Carolina, Movement from the New England and Mid-Atlantic States, 1850 Census. Baltimore, Md.: Clearfield, 2004. FHL 975.7 X2mm 1850; digital version at World Vital Records ($).
  • Scott, Kenneth. British Aliens in the United States During the War of 1812. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1979. FHL 973 W4s; digital version at Ancestry ($). [Identifies many British immigrants living in Charleston during the War of 1812.]

A standard work on early South Carolina immigrants, which includes some passenger lists, is now also widely available on the Internet:

  • Hotten, John Camden. The Original Lists of Persons of Quality: Emigrants; Religious Exiles; Political Rebels; Serving Men Sold for a Term of Years; Apprentices; Children Stolen; Maidens Pressed; and Others Who Went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700, with Their Ages, the Localities Where They Formerly Lived in the Mother Country, the Names of the Ships in which They Embarked, and Other Interesting Particulars; from MSS. Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty's Public Record Office, England. London: the author, 1874. Digital versions at Ancestry ($); Google Books and Internet Archive; 1983 reprint: FHL Collection 973 W2hot 1983

Brandow published an addendum to Hotten's work:

  • Brandow, James C. Omitted Chapters from Hotten's Original Lists of Persons of Quality ... and Others Who Went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001. Digital version at Ancestry ($).

Peter Wilson Coldham has published several volumes of English records that identify, among other American immigrants, those destined for South Carolina. Many English indentured servants completed labor terms in South Carolina. Coldham's works are indexed in Filby's Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s (digital version at Ancestry ($)).

Runaway advertisements for colonial indentured servants often yield immigration data. The Early South Carolina Newspaper Database indexes these records.

French Immigrants

Many French Huguenots made South Carolina their home. The 114+ volume Transactions of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina is a great starting point for research: FHL Book 975.7 C4h.

German Immigrants

The Palatine Project, sponsored by ProGenealogists, includes annotated passenger lists for Germans entering Colonial South Carolina.

The following internet site has potentially useful information: German Roots (Port of Charleston).

Scottish and Irish Immigrants

David Dobson has dedicated many years to establishing links between Scots and their dispersed Scottish cousins who settled throughout the world. For South Carolina connections, see:

Additional studies include:

1783 to Present

The Family History Library and the National Archives (Washington, D.C.) have fragmentary passenger lists for Charleston for 1820 to 1828 FHL 830232 and for Port Royal for 1865 FHL 830245. Abstracts:

  • Holcomb, Brent H. "Passengers Arriving at the Port of Charleston 1820-1829," The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Fall 1989):183-189; Vol. 18, No. 1 (Winter 1990):13-21; Vol. 18, No. 2 (Spring 1990):75-83; Vol. 18, No. 3 (Summer 1990):133-145; Vol. 18, No. 4 (Fall 1990):195-201; Vol. 19, No. 1 (Winter 1991):13-23; Vol. 19, No. 2 (Spring 1991):79-91; Vol. 19, No. 3 (Summer 1991):127-137; Vol. 19, No. 4 (Fall 1991):189-198; Vol. 20, No. 1 (Winter 1992):11-21; Vol. 20, No. 2 (Spring 1992):83-93; Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer 1992):143-153; Vol. 21, No. 1 (Winter 1993):21-27; Vol. 21, No. 2 (Spring 1993):81-87; Vol. 21, No. 3 (Summer 1993):151-159; Vol. 21, No. 4 (Fall 1993):205-213; Vol. 22, No. 1 (Winter 1994):29-37; Vol. 22, No. 2 (Spring 1994):99-105. FHL Book 975.7 B2sc v. 17-22.

Reprinted in:

  • Holcomb, Brent H. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Charleston, 1820-1829. 1994. Digital versions at Ancestry ($) and World Vital Records ($).

A few arrivals at Charleston are included in an index to passenger lists of vessels arriving at miscellaneous southern ports from 1890 to 1924 FHL 1324938-FHL 1324963.

Customs records for the ports of Charleston, Georgetown, and Beaufort are at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Several published records of pre-1900 immigrants are indexed in P. William Filby, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1981, 1985, 1986; FHL 973 W32p. Supplements are issued annually. There are cumulative indexes.

Online Resources

Four major immigration collections include:

  1. Ancestry's Immigration & Travel Records ($). The place to start, includes Filby's indexes. 
  2. Immigrant Servants Database. Index to indentured servants; includes South Carolina. 
  3. Virtual Jamestown. Scope is not limited to Colonial Virginia; includes English emigrants embarking for South Carolina. 
  4. The Olive Tree Genealogy. Includes South Carolina passenger lists.

American Immigration

Many settlers from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia migrated down into South Carolina during the colonial period. The Great Valley Road, which passed through the Shenandoah Valley was a popular route.

North Carolina Immigrants

  • Linn, Mrs. Stahle. "Some Migrations from Rowan County, North Carolina to South Carolina," The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Summer 1983):124-127. FHL Book 975.7 B2sc v. 11
  • Webster, Irene B. "Some Migrations from Rockingham County, North Carolina to South Carolina," The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Winter 1998):28-30. FHL Book 975.7 B2sc v. 9

Pennsylvania Immigrants

Virginia Immigrants

Bell published a series of articles about Southside Virginians who migrated to eighteenth-century South Carolina. Her strategy demonstrates how to find migration records:

  • Bell, Mary McCampbell. "Some Migrations from Virginia to South Carolina," The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Summer 1981):143-144; Vol. 9, No. 4 (Fall 1981):183-190; Vol. 10, No. 1 (Winter 1982):37-42; Vol. 10, No. 2 (Spring 1982):70-77; Vol. 10, No. 3 (Summer 1982):136-143; Vol. 11, No. 2 (Spring 1983):97-102; Vol. 12, No. 1 (Winter 1984):19-21; Vol. 12, No. 2 (Spring 1984):94-99; Vol. 13, No. 3 (Summer 1985):127-129. FHL Book 975.7 B2sc v. 9-13

Westward Migrants

Free native-born South Carolinians, alive in 1850, who had left the state, resettled as follows:[6]

State Persons Born in South Carolina
Georgia 52,154
Alabama 48,663
Mississippi 27,908
Tennessee 15,197
Arkansas 4,587
Louisiana 4,583
Texas 4,482
Florida 4,470
Indiana 4,169
Illinois 4,162
Kentucky 3,164
Missouri 2,919
Ohio 1,468

Dorothy Williams Potter in Passports of Southeastern Pioneers 1770-1823 (FHL Book 975 W4p) identifies some migrants from South Carolina into territories that are now Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri.

Robertson compiled a list of South Carolinians living in Kansas in 1860:

  • Robertson, Clara Hamlett. Kansas Territorial Settlers of 1860 Who were Born in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina: A Compilation with Historical Annotations and Editorial Comment. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1976. FHL 978.1 H2ro; digital version at World Vital Records ($).

Web Sites


  1. In 1664, a "group of Barbadians joined in an agreement to settle in Carolina." In the twentieth century, this document was kept in the South Carolina Historical Society Collection (reference V/29). See: Moriarty, Appendix, Barbados Genealogies, p. 670.
  2. South Carolina Townships Created During the Royal Period (1729 to 1776),
  3. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 847-61. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002) WorldCat entry., and William E. Myer, Indian Trails of the Southeast. (Nashville, Tenn.: Blue and Gray Press, 1971), 12-14, and the book's pocket map "The Trail System of the Southeastern United States in the Early Colonial Period" (1923). (FHL Book 970.1 M992i) WorldCat entry.
  4. Brent H. Holcomb, "Passengers Arriving at the Port of Charleston 1820-1829," The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Fall 1989):183.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Name Search at is a comprehensive name index to 638 books and CDs published or reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Company (now For a complete list of the works included, see Publications in Name Search at
  6. These statistics do not account for the large number of South Carolinians who had migrated and died before the year 1850. See: William O. Lynch, "The Westward Flow of Southern Colonists before 1861," The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Aug. 1943):303-327. Digital version at JSTOR ($).