Genealogical Research in South Carolina

Lesson 2: Research in the Capital City of Columbia

Part 1: The South Carolina State Department of Archives and History

Even before the first settlers arrived and founded the colony of Carolina on the banks of the Ashley River in 1670, records were being kept concerning the colonial venture that would eventually become the state of South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Archives and History is the custodian of all of the non-current records of the state government of South Carolina. The first entry into what has become one of the largest and most valuable collections of state or colonial records in the United States was the account of a receipt for four shillings and three pence on June 6, 1663. The entry was "To Cash paid for this Booke." The "Booke" was the Account of Disbursements and Receipts which was kept by the Lord Proprietors of the Colony of Carolina.

For 38 years the archives of the state of South Carolina was located at the corner of Senate Street and Bull Street. That building reached its capacity in 1996. In May of 1998, the South Carolina Department of Archives and History moved to its new, state of the arts location in northeast Columbia at 8301 Parklane Road. This facility is near Interstate 77 which means that it can be reached more quickly, paticularly by visitors who come from other areas of South Carolina and from out of state to research. There is plenty of free parking available.

Reference Room hours are:

The Reference Room is closed for all state holidays (which may differ from federal holidays). The Archives research facilities are open to the public 62 hours per week, the longest of any state archives in the United States. The South Carolina Deparment of Archives and History is one of the 10 most-used research centers in the country. The more knowledgeable, senior archivists are on duty from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays.

The staff will check the following indexes upon request for individuals by e-mail.

A staff member will send the researcher an order form for copies of any pertinent documents that they locate in the indexes.
Send the name of the individual you are searching for and approximate date by E-mail to, or Be sure to include your postal address in your electronic correspondence with the archives.

Links to Our History

The South Carolina Deparment of Archives and history houses tens of thousands of documents related to South Carolina's history. A few of the most interesting are:


Each researcher entering the Archives must register at the Reference Room Desk before conducting any research. Individuals must complete a form giving name, address, and some sort of identification number, along with the reason for the visit (family research). The information is entered into a computer and on subsequent visits within the year from July 1 - June 30, a staff member will record the number of visits in order for the Archives to compile statistical data. After June 30 each year, each visitor must give their information again.

Before using the Reference Room researchers must be aware that in order to protect its holdings the Archives must take certain precautions. Only authorized staff members are allowed to enter the area where the record stacks are kept. Researchers must leave briefcases, book bags, satchels, and other belongings locked in the provided lockers located between the reference desk and the microfilm reading room. Cameras and other recording equipment may be used in the Archives only upon permission. No food or drink are allowed in the Archives. The Archives reserves the right to require researchers to allow a search of their belongings before entering or leaving if deemed necessary by Archives staff members.

The Facility

The South Carolina Department of Archives and History is housed in the South Carolina History Center, a three-story structure just off Parklane Road at the State Park Health Center. It has about 128,000 square fee with about three times the archival storage capacity as did the old building on Senate Street. The building has two wings. One wing has been dubbed the "Stackwing," where documents are kept and the research room in located. The other wing is the "Staffwing," where the agnency's staff members work. This area also house an auditorium along with other conference and multipurpose rooms.


Photocopies can be made of unpublished records on a coin operated copy machine.Copies of microfilm pages may be obtained by stopping the microfilm at the page desired and then moving the roll of film as is to the coin operated microfilm copier (50 cents a page). An easier way to get copies is to place an order with a staff member (35 cents a page). The staff member must come to the microfilm reader and record the film title, roll number, page number, and any other pertinent information on an order form. Order forms are tallied up at the end of the researcher's visit, payment is made, and the copies can be mailed or may be picked up in a few weeks time. Usually the copies are on double sized sheets of paper and verification that the copy was made at the South Carolina State Department of Archives and History is always stamped on the back of each ordered copy.

A Summary of Some of the Holdings of the Archives

The South Carolina State Department of Archives and History holds records of the South Carolina government dating back to its charted beginnings in 1663. The Archives has either the original documents or microfilmed copies of all known records of South Carolina's government up to 1865 and the records of a great many state agencies past that date. They hold either microfilmed, typed copies, or the original of all known surviving antebellum probate and land records for South Carolina's counties. The agency's valuable docuements collection is preserved in a carefully monitored 60-degree, 40-percent humidity permanence. (This makes the entire building a bit chilly so bring a sweater to wear when you research at the archives.)

The following is a listing of just some of the records that the Archives holds:

Federal Census Records for S. C.
Colonial and State Records
County Records
*For individual county indexes and for a complete listing of records by county, consult the reference room microfilm cabinets, the list of county records at the reference desk, and A Guide to Local Records in the South Carolina Archives (one volume, at reference desk).


Military Records

Citizenship Records
Extant State Census Records
Church Records
For published church records and church histories, consult the card catalog.

Cemetery Records

For published cemetery records, consult the card catalog and the index to the South Carolina Historical Magazine. F 266 .S58

Tax Records

Consult the listing of county records at the reference desk for these and other local tax records.


Locations and History of Place Names
Guides to Genealogical Research in South Carolina
Other Sources
On-Line Genealogical Research at the Archives

A partial guide to the holdings of the South Carolina Deparment of Archives and History can be queried via their research catalogs on-line. More data will be added in the future. The department has developed an outline for genealogical research at the archives: Genealogical Research at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History

The South Carolina Department of Archives and History
8301 Parklane Road
Columbia, South Carolina 29223
Telephone: (803)896-6100

The South Carolina Department of Archives and History Home Page

Part 2: The South Caroliniana Library

The South Caroliniana Library, located on the historic campus of the University of South Carolina is housed in the oldest separate library building in the United States. The university library was housed in the building until after World War II. The building is a piece of history in and of itself. It's so old that the heavy front door opens inward.

The public is welcome to use the facilities of the South Caroliniana Library although the library is primarily for the use of those connected with the University of South Carolina. Usual hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, but the schedule revolves around the break times between semesters at the university. Call ahead to check on their hours. Parking in available in metered spaces unless you happen to be a student at the university and have parking permit. There is a parking garage on Pendelton Street a few blocks from the library.

Within the library itself are two main divisions. The manuscripts division on the first floor includes many private papers, church records, and microfilm of many other important genealogical documents. Included in the collection are the files of the late Leonardo Andrea, noted South Carolina genealogist. His files consist of the research that he did for clients across the nation on many South Carolina family lines. A Guide to the Manuscript Collection of the South Caroliniana Library was published in 1982 and is available in many public libraries.
Upstairs, the books division holds published genealogies and histories of South Carolina as well as numerous newspapers and periodicals. The Caroliniana has the premier collection of South Carolina newspapers, both denominational and secular and has been systematically acquiring genealogical books and periodicals on South Carolina and from neighboring states. The beautiful upstairs reading room is a replica of the one designed by Charles Bulfinch for the original Library of Congress. The overhanging balconies and recessed alcoves, along with the great height of the room blend to give the feeling of both intimacy and space. Adjoining the reading room is the Kendall Room which holds one of the finest collections of prints and maps in the United States. The stacks in the reading rooms are closed. Researchers must consult card files in order to determine what three resources at a time they wish to study. Some holdings of the Caroliniana are available for inter library loan.

The South Caroliniana Library Home Page

The South Caroliniana Library
University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina 29211


A researcher could spend hours, days, months, or even years in Columbia at the Archives and at the Caroliniana Library. But, one must break for sustenance while remembering not to give up that hard to find, dearly needed parking space. Within walking distance of the university may be found a number of well-established eateries. Located on Gervais Street is the S and S Cafeteria. They serve home style, South Carolina cooking at reasonable prices. On the university campus, there is a cafeteria in the student center, and scattered around within walking distance are fast food restaurants such as Burger King and the famous Sandy's Hotdogs. There is a coffee cafe across from Wardlaw College (The College of Education) with fantastic cappuccino and desserts. Don't forget to wear your comfortable walking shoes because you'll want to walk off your lunch. (I ate at all of the places mentioned, when I was attending graduate school at the University of South Carolina.)

Remember that if you move your vehicle from that parking space, it won't be there when you return. You are competing with numerous state governmental agencies as well as a major university for parking if you plan your research trip at the Caroliniana for a weekday.

Since the state archives moved from downtown Columbia to Park Lane, you will either have to bring your lunch, or plan to drive somewhere to get some lunch. At least you won’t have to worry about finding a parking space when you return.

South Carolina, Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places. Ya'll come back.

© Cynthia Ridgeway Parker, M.Ed.

Come by and visit my home pages.

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