African Ancestry in South Carolina
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    This page is an introduction to African American genealogical research in South Carolina. The objective is to help you understand the history and development of the state, and to explain what resources are available at the state, county, and city levels.

    South Carolina was established in the mid 1600's after Charles II of England granted the Lords Propietor a charter to the lands that ran from southern Virginia to parts of Florida, from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast. This land mass was later reduced to become the South Carolina boundaries we know of today. See A Brief History of South Carolina.

    The Indian Connection

    Before the English settlement of the colony, South Carolina had been inhabitated by many earlier native peoples: the Woodlands (Algonkian, Iroquian, Siouan, Muskogean) and the Mississipians. Other native peoples included the Catawba, Cherokee, Edistor, Ashepoo, Escame, and Wateree. It was the native peoples who proved an insurmountable obstacle for the Spaniards and the French, who would later make their attempts at settling these lands. See South Carolina - Indians.

    The Barbados Connection

    The English successfully settled the colony with the assistance of the English Barbadians that came as part of the earlier contingents. These English West Indians had already known the defeats and successes of such a task, and brought with them those "lessons learned" on the island of Barbadoes and instituted them in colonial South Carolina. It was these settlers who brought along plantation management and African ancestored slaves.

    The African Connection

    Initially, many of the slaves came from the West Indies, mostly from Barbados when they came with their owners. Afraid of the numerous slave revolts and convinced that undesirable slaves were being sent to the colony, South Carolininans imposed a higher import duty on slaves imported from the West Indies than from those imported from Africa. Sources of these Africans were Senegambia, Windward Coast, Gold Coast, Bight of Benin, Bight of Biafra, Congo-Angola, and Guinea. See The African Slave Trade and South Carolina.

    Sources:(1) Walter Edgar, South Carolina, A History (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1998).


    Resources: Getting Beyond the 1870 Federal Census

    Local governments came into being with the passage of the County Court Act in 1785, and most of the public documentation begins at that point. The SC Department of Archives and History holds a variety of records from all of the counties in the state. These records include wills, estate papers, inventories and appraisements, and chattel mortgages, all of which may include slaves by name and/or description. There are court records, voter registration records (Military Districts after the Civil War held voter registration for everyone in the state), school records, marriage records, and death records (some counties recorded slave deaths). Some resources that may be helpful to your research are listed below.

    Happenings 'Round the State - A calendar highlighting events of interest to African Ancestored researchers.

    Freedmen's Bureau Records

    General South Carolina Research Sites

    African Ancestored Resources in South Carolina

    Cemetery Inscriptions

    Religion & African Americans - A discussion of religious denominations and their impacts on the African American population in South Carolina. Please donate your church records to include in this section.

    Free Persons of Color - Information pertaining to the researching of free persons of color (FPOC).

    Wills, Deeds, & Bills of SaleComing Soon! - Including donated materials that contain slave transfer information instrumental to slave research.

    Plantation Research - A discussion of the pros and cons of researching plantations, along with a list of plantations in the state. Please donate your plantation information to include in this section.

    SC Reading - Suggested reading material on various aspects of African Amerian life in SC.


    Check out our query board! Use it for surname or general queries.


    Volunteers for lookups and research are needed. If you have the resources and the time, please contact us with your name, email, and the resource(s) you have access to.

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    Placed online: 26 Sep 1999 | Updated: 21 Aug 2004
    Questions or comments: Debbie Cuffy
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