Colonial South Carolina

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Colonial English Research

This article is part of a series.

Overview of Colonial English Research
Colonial New Hampshire
Colonial Massachusetts
Colonial Rhode Island
Colonial Connecticut
Colonial New York
Colonial New Jersey
Colonial Pennsylvania
Colonial Delaware
Colonial Maryland
Colonial Virginia
Colonial North Carolina
Colonial South Carolina
Colonial Georgia
List of Useful Colonial English Resources

This article originally appeared in "Colonial English Research" by Robert Charles Anderson, MA, FASG in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

Jurisdictional History The first permanent settlement within the bounds of what became South Carolina was made at Ashley, under the aegis of the Carolina proprietors. As the colony grew, three proprietary counties were erected in 1682, but these governmental units did not have any record-creating or record-keeping responsibilities.

In 1729 seven of the eight Carolina proprietors sold their rights to the Crown, and South Carolina became a royal colony. In 1769 seven judicial districts were created, and in 1772 the first courts were held outside Charleston. Despite these jurisdictional expansions, all records that might elsewhere be housed at the county level were in South Carolina housed at Charleston.


Despite the existence of counties, judicial districts, and parishes at various times in the colonial period of South Carolina, all South Carolina probate records prior to 1781 were maintained in a single repository in Charleston. Abstracts of colonial wills have been published in various places and are discussed later in this chapter. In 1977, Brent H. Holcomb published an index to inventories for the years 1746 through 1785 called Probate Records of South Carolina, Volume I: Index to Inventories, 1746'1785.<ref>Brent H. Holcomb, Probate Records of South Carolina, Volume I: Index to Inventories, 1746'1785 (Easley, S.C., 1977).</ref> (This volume does not index the first five volumes of colonial inventories, covering the years from 1736 to 1746.)

In 1960, Caroline T. Moore published three volumes of will abstracts, the first of which was for the years 1670 through 1740.<ref>Caroline T. Moore, Abstracts of the Wills of the State of South Carolina, Volume 1, 1670'1740 (Columbia, S.C., 1960).</ref> This volume brings together abstracts of documents found in twenty-two different record books of the colony, most of which are titled either 'Will Book' or 'Miscellaneous Records.' The first page of this collection contains three abstracts, taken from three different record books; in each case, these are the only wills represented as coming from these record books. On pages sixteen through eighteen are five abstracts, identified as coming from 'Will Book 1671'1727,' and these are the only will abstracts from this Will Book. Each is identified as being taken from a transcript made in 1851, with page references (presumably to the original volume) of 2, 3, 73, 187, and 189. Clearly, far more wills were included in these original will volumes than have made their way into this modern compilation.

In 1978, Caroline T. Moore published an additional volume of record abstracts, this time from the records of the secretary of the province.<ref>Caroline T. Moore, Records of the Secretary of the Province of South Carolina, 1692'1721 (Columbia, S.C., 1978).</ref> This book contains abstracts of records from six record books, identified by the inclusive dates of the records contained therein, along with some miscellaneous loose papers. The first volume from which abstracts were made, described as 'Book 1700'1710,' includes abstracts of wills, which were also published in the volume discussed in the previous paragraph, and noted there as having been taken from 'Will Book 1687'1710.' For example, in both of these sets of abstracts, the first two wills are for John Crosse and his widow Mary Crosse. The abstracts represented as taken from the records of the secretary of the province have more than just the wills abstracted in the earlier volume; there are also many letters of administration, nuncupative wills, and other types of probate records.

Researchers who use these various will abstracts and other probate materials must be wary of the exact source of each document and the nature of the particular copy or version being presented.

Case Studies

GeLee Corley Hendrix, 'Going beyond the Database. Interpretation, Amplification, and Development of Evidence: South Carolina's COM Index and Several James Kelleys,' National Genealogical Society Quarterly 86 (1998): 116'33. Hendrix explores a modern computerized index to a wide array of colonial South Carolina records. This index provides easy access to, among other sources, the comprehensive collection of colonial South Carolina land grants. The author examines both the value of this index and the pitfalls awaiting those who use the index without taking care to look for errors and omissions in its creation.

John Anderson Brayton, 'Hardy of South Carolina'A '˜Discreet' Omission to Hide an Indiscretion,' National Genealogical Society Quarterly 90 (2002): 69'71. The author compares the full text of a colonial will with the modern published abstract, demonstrating the deficiency of the latter.