South Carolina History

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United States Gotoarrow.png South Carolina Gotoarrow.png History
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Brief History

The following important events affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements in South Carolina:

  • 1670:  The first permanent English settlement was made at Albemarle Point (Charles Town).
  • 1713-1719:  The South Carolina region separated from North Carolina and became a royal colony. Records were kept in Charleston.
  • 1730:  Settlers began to move into the interior when the colonial government provided incentives for landowners in new townships.
  • 1760-1761:  The Cherokee War ended in a treaty that opened the up country for settlement. The Bounty Act of 1761 offered public land tax free for ten years, and settlers from other colonies began pouring into the up country.
  • 1769:  Nine original judicial districts were established, but records continued to be kept in Charleston until 1780.
  • 1788:  South Carolina became a state. The state government was moved from Charleston to Columbia in 1790, although some functions remained at Charleston until after the Civil War.
  • 1790: Census 107,094 Slaves
  • 1830-1840:  Overseas immigration to South Carolina, which had begun to decline about 1815, virtually ceased in this decade.
  • 1860:  South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. The Civil War began there in 1861. About 63,000 men from the state served in the Confederate armed forces.
  • 1860: Census 402,406 slaves and 10,002 fre African Americans
  • 1868:  South Carolina was readmitted to the Union. Districts were now called counties.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1910-1920 Great Migration of African Americans to the north over 240,000
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Historical Content

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of South Carolina.

  • A Bibliography of American County Histories [1] [2]
  • United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress [3][4]

In the 1770s, American naturalist William Bartram kept an interesting account of his travels through South Carolina:

  • Bartram, William. Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Choctaws. Philadelphia and London, 1791-1792. Digital version at Google Books.

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of South Carolina:

  • South Carolina: A Short History 1520-1948 is an especially helpful source for studying the history of South Carolina. [5]

United States History

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • The Almanac of American History, [6][7]This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed [8] [9]This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. A snippet view is available at Google books.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium [10][11][12]This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

To find more books and articles about South Carolina 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "South Carolina history." Family History Library Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:


Web Sites


  1. Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
  2. Worldcat
  3. Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. (FHL book 973 A3ka.)
  4. Worldcat
  5. David Duncan Wallace, South Carolina: A Short History 1520-1948 (Columbia, South Carolina,: University of South Carolina Press, 1951; Family History Library book 975.7 H2ws).
  6. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. (FHL book 973 H2alm)
  7. Worldcat
  8. Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. (FHL book 973 H2ad.)
  9. Worldcat
  10. Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G&C Merriam, 1971. (FHL book 973 H2v)
  11. Limited view at Google Books
  12. Worldcat
  13. Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w
  14. Worldcat