Newly Released SC Probate Records: a Treasure Trove for African American Genealogy

 

FamilySearch recently released more than 875,000 digital images of South Carolina county probate records. These new records, previously available only in county probate offices or on microfilm, may now be browsed online at FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org).

The newly released records are organized into two collections, South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes, 1671-1977 (222,656 images) and South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964 (652,415 images). Together, the collections cover many South Carolina counties over an extraordinary time span.

These collections contain important pieces of the puzzle for African American genealogy research. Pre-Civil War records may help family historians locate enslaved ancestors. Post-Civil War records span the period from Emancipation to the mid-1900s and may contain valuable information about the lives of African American ancestors during a time period that can be difficult to document.

Here, we take a first look at both collections to compile a comprehensive table of records available for each South Carolina county or district, and the total time span covered by records from both collections.

Before we compile our list, let’s look at the historical development of counties and districts in South Carolina, to help us understand and navigate the collections.

There are now 46 counties in South Carolina. In 1800, South Carolina was divided into 26 Circuit Court Districts. In 1868, districts were renamed as counties. There were 31 counties defined from 26 districts in 1868. Over time, some counties were split, resulting in the 46 counties in South Carolina today. Below is a cross-reference of present-day counties, counties in 1868 and districts in 1800.

 
County (Present-Day) County (1868) District (1800)
Abbeville (1785) Abbeville Abbeville
Aiken (1871) Barnwell Barnwell
Allendale (1919) Barnwell Barnwell
Anderson (1826) Anderson Pendleton
Bamberg (1897) Barnwell Barnwell
Barnwell (1785) Barnwell Barnwell
Beaufort (1785) Beaufort Beaufort
Berkeley (1882) Charleston Charleston
Calhoun (1908) Orangeburg Orangeburg
Charleston (1670) Charleston Charleston
Cherokee (1897) Spartanburg Spartanburg
Chester (1785) Chester Chester
Chesterfield (1785) Chesterfield Chesterfield
Clarendon (1855) Clarendon Sumter
Colleton (1798) Colleton Colleton
Darlington (1785) Darlington Darlington
Dillon (1910) Marion Marion
Dorchester (1897) Colleton Colleton
Edgefield (1785) Edgefield Edgefield
Fairfield (1785) Fairfield Fairfield
Florence (1888) Marion Marion
Georgetown (1769) Georgetown Georgetown
Greenville (1786) Greenville Greenville
Greenwood (1897) Abbeville Abbeville
Hampton (1878) Beaufort Beaufort
Horry (1801) Horry Georgetown
Jasper (1912) Beaufort Beaufort
Kershaw (1791) Kershaw Kershaw
Lancaster (1785) Lancaster Lancaster
Laurens (1785) Laurens Laurens
Lee (1902) Sumter Sumter
Lexington (1785) Lexington Orangeburg
Marion (1790) Marion Marion
Marlboro (1785) Marlboro Marlboro
McCormick (1916) Abbeville Abbeville
Newberry (1785) Newberry Newberry
Oconee (1860) Oconee Pendleton
Orangeburg (1769) Orangeburg Orangeburg
Pickens (1826) Pickens Pendleton
Richland (1785) Richland Richland
Saluda (1895) Edgefield Edgefield
Spartanburg (1785) Spartanburg Spartanburg
Sumter (1798) Sumter Sumter
Union (1785) Union Union
Williamsburg (1785) Williamsburg Williamsburg
York (1785) York York
 
Above: Cross-Reference of Present SC Counties, Counties in 1868 and Districts in 1800. Adapted from Gourdin, J. Raymond 104thInfantry Regiment – USCT, Colored Civil War Soldiers from South Carolina, Heritage Books, 1997.
 

Free South Carolina Probate Records: Counties, Districts and Time Spans Covered