South Carolina Historical Society

The South Carolina Historical Society is the state’s oldest and largest private repository of books, letters, journals, maps, drawings, and photographs about South Carolina history.

The South Carolina Historical Society

The South Carolina Historical Society’s mission is “to expand, preserve, and make accessible our invaluable collection, and to encourage interest and pride in the rich history of our state.” The SCHS holdings are vast and grow constantly with the addition of materials from South Carolina’s three-hundred-year history.

Plan Your Visit

The South Carolina Historical Society Archives is located on the third floor of the Addlestone Library on the campus of the College of Charleston (205 Calhoun Street). Please see their About page to plan your visit.

Hint: The Society’s catalog, finding aids (detailed inventories of key collections) and research guides are online. Make the most of your time on the ground in Charleston by viewing these materials and finding aids before your visit.

Visiting researchers pay $5.00 per day to conduct research in the library. Society members enjoy unlimited visits at no charge and will also receive the Society’s two award-winning periodicals, Carologue and the South Carolina Historical Magazine.

Memberships are quite affordable. If you are planning to spend more than five days researching in the Society’s collections, you may want to consider signing up for an annual membership. Enjoy great member benefits while supporting the South Carolina Historical Society!

Notable Collections

Guide to Selected Records – Click to Expand

The guide Selected Resources for tracing African American History at the South Carolina Historical Society contains selected examples of the types of slave records available at SCHS. It is an excellent snapshot guide to the vast array of records archived at the South Carolina Historical Society.

Manuscripts - Click to Expand

This collection includes the papers of thousands of individuals and families, as well as the records of numerous organizations, businesses, and churches. These are unique items that cannot be found elsewhere and provide valuable insight into all aspects of the history of South Carolina.

Family papers are often extensive and may span several generations. Plantation journals, which document enslaved families, are often seamless over time or nearly so. The manuscript collection at SCHS is simply unparalleled elsewhere and is an extraordinary resource for researching enslaved ancestors.

Photographs - Click to Expand

The Society holds tens of thousands of photographs which document people, places and activities over a wide range of time periods in South Carolina history. Finding aids are available onsite.

Antebellum Records - Click to Expand
  • Church Records: (some collections overlap with those on microfiche at CCPL, while others are unique to SCHS) records of births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages and deaths of enslaved people, with slaveholder’s name noted. Finding aids available onsite.
  • Plantation Journals: among the richest resources at SCHS, plantation journals contain detailed, and sometimes seamless, records of enslaved communities on Lowcountry plantations. Finding aids for many collections are online.
  • Lists of Enslaved People, Supply Distribution Lists: lists of enslaved ancestors by plantation (some by household), lists of those who received blankets, cloth and tools, lists of males between the ages of 6 and 16.
  • Lists of Slaves Liable to Road Duty: annual lists of adult male slaves.
  • Bible Records: records of births, marriages and deaths of enslaved people.
  • Slave Auction Broadsides: printed handbills for enslaved ancestors sold at public auction, with names, ages, some occupations and physical descriptions.
Post Emancipation Records – Click to Expand
  • Freedmen’s Labor Contracts: labor contracts between planters and Freedmen for cultivation of specific properties, names of planter and freed workers listed.
  • Accounts with Freed Laborers: records of daily work performed, days missed to sickness, livestock sold to Freedmen, plantation store accounts.
  • Plantation Journals: Reconstruction Era plantation journals often contain the same information as Antebellum plantation journals, but list Freedmen by first and last names, providing a seamless record from Antebellum journals.
  • Correspondence: family correspondence often mentions specific enslaved ancestors, some mention those who remained on family plantations after Emancipation and those who left.
  • Church Records: some church records contain Reconstruction Era records with first and last names of communicants; some provide seamless records from Antebellum entries.

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