SC Archives, Land Records, and the BDC

One of the very first questions I ask a researcher is what sources they have used before contacting us. There's no reason to go over the same ground. 

Some researchers arrive with a laundry list of materials they've consulted; 

Some researchers arrive without having looked at anything or having talked with anyone; 

Some researchers arrive with vague recollections about a person, place or topic; and

Some researchers arrive having done some research elsewhere but without any notes to help us help them. 

Lots of times BDC visitors come expecting to find all that they need right here, pre-packaged, all in one place -- with their name on it! But (and it's a big but) the BDC is not meant to be, nor can it be, the font of all things Beaufort District or all things Beaufort District genealogical. Nevertheless, we do our best to meet the needs of our customers.

Because Beaufort is considered a burned county in which most of the pre-1865 courthouse records were destroyed, we have to cast our nets broader and consult subsidiary and complementary records. The most important, and most readily available complementary resource if one has access to the internet, is the South Carolina Archives Records Online Index

The vast majority of folks have not heard about the SCDAH's Records Online Index, and perhaps you have not either. Today's entry is instructional and the topic of instruction is how to take advantage of theRecords Online Index.

The Records Online Index has been a godsend to local history librarians and genealogical researchers interested in South Carolina history or genealogy. The Records Online Index covers 55 record series and provides detailed descriptions of almost 400,000 records. Some series indexed by the Records Online Index include online images; some series are available on microfilm; and some record series are only available in the South Carolina Archives building in Columbia. All a researcher has to do is pay attention to the details of the hits list and ask a few questions to discover what is which and where!

To facilitate research, the BDC makes 18 series of South Carolina Department of Archives and History microfilm available to customers in order to help compensate for the scarcity of pre-1865 Beaufort County courthouse records. Among these are: Colonial Plat Books,Memorials of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century South Carolina land titles, 1731-1775;and the South Carolina State Plats,1784-1868 . We have also recently added the John McCrady plat collection, 1680-1929. Contact us for the full list and descriptions of the 18 SCDAH record series we have on microfilm in the BDC Research Room. 

Here's an example of what you can do with the Records Online Index:

Beaufort County has had a number of former appellations and political jurisdictions. An early one was "Granville County." I wanted to go back to the earliest records in the index, so I choose "Granville County." I put in "Granville County" as the LOCATION and "Plat" as the DOCUMENT in theRecords Online Index search screen and got 3317 hits for plats of properties in Granville County. Please note: There are other types of land related records in the DOCUMENT box from which to choose.

Here's the very first of those 3317 hits: 

Series: L10005
Reel: 0002
Plat: 01421
ignore: 000
Record 1 of 3317 records 

OSBORNE, WILLIAM, PLAT OF A TRACT OF LAND IN GRANVILLE COUNTY NEAR PORT ROYAL RIVER, CONTAINING 944 ACRES, SURVEYED BY JOHN TRIPP. (B.4, P.96) View all index terms No date 

No online image available

Here's how to interpret the entry -- and how to locate the plat:

Series L10005 indicates that the plat of William Osborne's land in Granville County is part of the the McCrady Plats. The McCrady Plats are indexed online but have not been digitized. BUT (and it's a big BUT!) we have microfilm of the McCrady Plats for customers to use inside the Research Room! 

A customer could come to the BDC Research Room, 
Register to use our resources, 
Ask for reel #2 of the McCrady Plats series on microfilm, 
Go the microfilm reader/printer, 
Find plat #1421, 
Make a photocopy of the plat @ .25 per page, and
Go home happy -- all without having to drive to Columbia to the Archives building! 

We aim to facilitate whenever we can within our financial and staff resources. You can get to the Records Online Index from anywhere you can get on the internet. It is free. To use our microfilm, you'll need to visit the BDC Research Room during our regular hours of operation. We have only one microfilm reader/printer. It is available to customers on a first come-first served basis. Copies are 25 cents per page.

What a deal when we are facing almost $4.00 per gallon for gas!

About the Author

Grace Cordial has been responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library since 1999.  The Beaufort District Collection exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of our part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Besides the research room, Cordial manages the “Virtual BDC:” the BDC web pages, the Online Obituary Index, two digital collections, a new BDC.BCL Facebook page, and the Connections blog.  
 
Among her duties is to coordinate or present programs about local history, Gullah culture, and our coastal environment, including occasional instructional sessions about how to perform historical and/or genealogical research.