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.
Local newspapers often advertised public auctions and sales that involved the sale of enslaved people as commodities. The ESCN Database Reports Series Index lists names of enslaved people mentioned in South Carolina 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
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.
Typically, when researchers come to learn more about a topic, one of the first places to look is in the vertical file collections. Vertical files are materials, often ephemeral in nature, such as newspaper clippings, press releases, brochures, notes, reports, and other miscellaneous information objects that are collected and arranged by address, last name, or subject for ready reference.
Architectural and property vertical files files are arranged by street address and include newspaper clippings, photographs, research notes, and other miscellaneous information. If the property is (or was at one time) a plantation, check the SC Historical Society’s subject vertical file guide under the Plantations heading. Special Collections maintains vertical files on College of Charleston owned properties (see inventory below).
You might also find our biographical and genealogical vertical files helpful for locating more information about an individual or family. Genealogy vertical files may contain newspaper clippings, lineage charts, obituaries, and research notes of other genealogists. Ask for assistance to locate or search online catalog using keywords (ex. “Smith family”)
Please ask librarian or archivist on duty for assistance in accessing these resources or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A number of manuscript collections in the holdings of Special Collections and the South Carolina Historical Society contain information about African American citizens. Use the catalog to search specific family, church, or organization names. We also hold records of many local churches. Churches often recorded births, deaths, and marriages for “colored” as well as white members. A number of eighteenth and nineteenth century manuscript collections also include lists of enslaved persons in wills, estates, distribution lists, and ledgers. 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 names of enslaved people in the manuscript collections is available.
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.
Enslaved people, considered property, were transferred from one generation to the next in wills. The names of enslaved people are often mentioned in these documents. Special Collections and the South Carolina Historical Society Archive contain several books of will abstracts. 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 South Carolina Department of Archives and History can be found online by clicking here.
South Carolina Will Transcripts (by County), 1782-1868 (S.C. Historical Society microfilm: 45/294)