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How to Find Public Records in South Carolina

Public Records Search: South Carolina State Archives

South Carolina’s rich collection of archives spans over 325 years making it one of the oldest and most collective archives in the country. To obtain public records and information from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History visit state.sc.us/scdah/ and expect a navigable website and agency that promotes a wide array of services to the public.

South Carolina’s Archives and History Center is located at 8301 Parklane Road, Columbia, SC 29223. To reach these archives by telephone call 803-896-6100 or by fax at 803-896-6198. For convenience the site also offers reference query forms accessible from the “contact us” link on the main page. Additionally, the site posts specific telephone extensions for various departments and staff at the archives. The research request forms may be submitted electronically which makes online research all the more manageable.

When submitting the research request form you will be asked for name, mailing address, email, name of person to be researched, person’s approximate dates of residency in South Carolina, and county of district of residency. If known researchers must then click on the type of records they are researching. The form also asks for any known citations of documents to be copied (up to ten) and then a space for additional information regarding the query.

It may take several weeks for staff to respond to your query. Their typical process is to send back a work form outlining what they have found and how much for copies. At this point, researchers should submit fees along with the returned work order form. It’s a somewhat long process, but on par with many other state archives who also share this procedure.

On the main page in the main body of the page researchers should note the “archives and records management” link. To conduct research, click there. The subsequent page contains a wealth of information filled with menus and links. On the left side of the screen click on the link for “research.” This page is where most online researchers will want to land in order to track down records and public information held by the archives. Interestingly, the top of the page contains a header (and link) about South Carolina’s plans to post their archival catalog with the help of a grant. Several other state archives offer their catalog via the internet making online research easier.

From this section researchers will learn that the archives will accept queries by email, telephone, fax and regular mail. Researchers should also note that “staff cannot undertake extensive research or analyze records for questions of judgment; they can, however, recommend sources for further research. On request, we will provide the names of people who are willing to do genealogical research for a fee.” There is a research charge for out-of-state researchers of $15.00. There are also various fees associated with copying of materials.

The site has extensive archival holdings. Main categories for these include: court records, legislative records, state agency and department records, treasury records, military service records, county and municipal records, and many more. Researchers will also find federal census records, tax records, newspapers, church and cemetery records, citizenship records, colonial and state records, and others. Many of these categories can be clicked on for more itemized details.

The site also offers an online records index. It is quite specific for a handful of collections that include Confederate Pension Applications, Criminal Journals, Legislative Papers 1782-1866, Plats for State Land Grants 1784-1868, etc…This database will be increasing, but this is currently what is searchable online with the site. Consequently, most queries must rely on the assistance of Archival staff unless visiting in person. However, searching these digital collections is easy as the search mechanism is very user friendly and navigable.

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