City directories were published intermittently in Charleston starting in 1782. Only after the Civil War were they produced on an annual basis. Free persons of color were occasionally listed in the directories beginning about 1800. The 1822 City Directory was the first to include separate lists of white and “coloured” residents. Ask for assistance to locate. Some directories on microfilm.
A number of manuscript collections at the South Carolina Historical Society contain information about African Americans. Search under specific family, church, or organizational names. The Society also holds the records of many local churches. Churches often recorded births, deaths, and marriages for “colored” as well as white members. Also search under the subject headings “African Americans,” “Slaves,” “Slavery,” and “Slave records.”
Local newspapers often ran advertisements for the sale of slaves. The ESCN Database Reports Series Index (070 .E28) lists slaves names mentioned in S.C. newspapers for the years 1732-1775. Please for assistance to locate the newspapers.
This series consists of 15 microfilm reels of the birth and death records kept by the Board of Health for the City of Charleston. The series is arranged roughly chronologically (death records series first, then births), sometimes listing names alphabetically within a given year or range of years. The organization of each volume varies and is sometimes confusing.
Reel 7 contains an Index to the Register of Deaths, 1850-1912
The original volumes were apparently transferred from the City of Charleston to the Charleston County Health Department, then from there to the Charleston County Library, and finally from the library to the Charleston County Records Center, where they were microfilmed in 1988.
SC Historical Society microfilm: 45/326
A number of eighteenth- and nineteenth- century estate settlements include a list of slaves among the descriptions of the property in question. These lists, which frequently mention names, ages, and familial relationships, may be useful in researching family history. A published list of manuscript collections that include slave lists is available.
Congress chartered the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company in 1865 to benefit ex-slaves. After former slaves deposited more than $57 million in the bank, it collapsed because of mismanagement and outright fraud, devastating the African American community. In an effort to establish bank patrons’ identities, bank workers at the time recorded the names and family relationships of account holders, sometimes taking brief oral histories. In the process they created the largest single repository (480,000 names) of lineage-linked African American records known to exist. Please ask for assistance to view the CD.
The ownership of slaves was transferred from one generation to the next in wills. The names of slaves are mentioned in these documents. The SCHS library contains several books of will abstracts (929.32). SCHS also has will transcripts by county (1782-1868) on microfilm (45/294–See below for list of microfilmed will transcripts). Many wills at the SC Dept. of Archives and History can be found online by clicking here. ‘Wills’ can also be searched as a subject in the SCHS online catalog.
South Carolina Will Transcripts (by County), 1782-1868 (S.C. Historical Society microfilm: 45/294)
Prior to emancipation, free persons of color in the city of Charleston were required to pay an annual “capitation tax.” These microfilm rolls include the following information for free African Americans: name, residence, age, occupation, real estate, stocks and goods, interest of bonds, slaves, income, amount of commissions, horses and mules, capitation amounts (based on gender and age), amount of taxes paid, and other miscellaneous data.
The South Carolina Historical Society’s vertical files contain miscellaneous documents such as newspaper clippings, research notes, and correspondence. Files cover a wide variety of subjects including family surnames, localities, churches, cemeteries, and miscellaneous topics. A subject guide to the files is available in the catalog room. Please ask for assistance to view the vertical files.