Richland County, South Carolina


Grandmother speaks,

Seasons pass.  

Seasons past. (Haiku)

I suggest the following steps to construct your genealogy:

  1. Interview all the old people in your family, be sure and tape record them!  This is very important, and you will be shocked at what they said that you simply did not hear and write down!  Guaranteed!  You will eventually cherish these.  Convert them to MP3 format and write them all to a CD (be sure and include some MP3 players on the CD, as there may be another format du jour in ten years)..
  2. Copy all Bible or other family records. Distribute these copies widely.
  3. State birth and death records are available after 1915.  These contain the names of parents.
  4. Go to the U.S. Census, beginning with that currently available, 1930, and work your way backwards.  There, with luck, you can track your family back to 1850.  
  5. I would recommend that you note the heads of household +/- 10 families either way from yours, and anyone of a different surname in the family listing, especially old people, as these are usually "in-laws."  Do note that relationships are not shown prior to 1880, just who was living in the household.  
  6. Prior to 1850, you will have to look for a child of the correct sex in the correct age range, and then try to prove the conjectured connection with other documents. Usually (sometimes?) this can be done with probate and deed records.  Probate records include testate (with a will) and intestate (without a will).  Both usually contain useful detail, and often list heirs.  South Carolina has probate packages (sometimes called "bundles") for each estate, envelopes full of precious original records, that contain all extant documents associated with that estate.  Please, handle these original documents with utmost care.  Unfold them very carefully, and do not stress the ancient paper.  These are the only original records we have!  Never, ever, desecrate such a document.  If you don't want to know what your ancestor did, don't read it!  But never desecrate it!  I have seen sections physically cut out of probate and court records.  These records are all microfilmed and in multiple locations.  You cannot hide the indiscretions of your ancestors in this manner!  Instead, be thankful that you have information on them at all.  The times were rough and tumble.  Many of us have bastards, rough types, thieves, and, yes, murderers and deserters, in our family trees somewhere.   And, while I am on the subject, Loyalists were not necessarily people of no principle.  Read carefully the web site up on the Revolutionary War.  Things are not always as they have been portrayed to us. Note carefully that even Earl Cornwallis himself sympathized with the colonies!  He was just loyal to his country. Now I ask you, would you have had him be otherwise??  I have all of these someplace in my family, all dutifully documented.  As my wonderful Aunt Cleo put it: "The Truth's the Truth."  Don't hide what you find.  Why do you think these people came to settle a new and wild land?  If they were well set at home, they remained there!  Our ancestors were third born unwanted sons of well to do, or, more likely, vagabonds, peasants, debtors, horse thieves, or worse.

If you are having trouble tracing your family, note every neighbor in the census, I would suggest plus or minus ten from yours, note every legal witness on a deed, and then go through superior and inferior court books, to see who might have appeared in legal proceedings with your ancestor. Then do a complete genealogy on each of these families.  If you are doubtful just how useful all that might be, check out my John Gill, who died in 1822 in Allendale (Barnwell County then).  This is precisely how I proved which of the five extant John Gills after the revolutionary war was him, and that he was from Richland County. The proof was surprisingly convincing.   It is all on the web.  Read it and draw your own conclusions.  Holler if you disagree (grin).  Much to my surprise, this technique unambiguously demonstrated that John Gill was living in Allendale when he sold his father's land in Richland County! This approach was suggested to us by a professional genealogist, Mrs. Theresa Hicks.  Time consuming?  Try 30 years!  I started working on my Allendale Gills when I did not have any gray!  It was fun, I met a lot of interesting people, and it eventually worked. 

We were directly in Sherman's path, just be grateful that Charleston records were never burned.  Sherman's crew burned deeds and entire court houses, indeed, whole cities, including Columbia!  Ah, now, there is a tale for the telling!  That tale is just beginning to take shape on the Civil War in South Carolina web site.  What fire in the wooden court houses did not get, the Yanks did.  Sherman attempted to burn South Carolina to the ground once he managed to cross the Savannah River. Yay verily he probably would have burned the very ground itself had he been able to do so!   Do you have some oral or documented civil war history of Richland County?  Please send it.  Please state documentation.  Oral tradition is fine, just state: who, where, and when.  However, despair not!  The Equity Records for Richland County somehow escaped the Yankee Conflagration.

Prior to 1785, South Carolina records were kept in Charleston.  These are pretty much extant, the originals in Charleston, microfilm copies in the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Columbia).  You can order the indices and records by mail from the SCDAH.

If you have suggestions on the wording of this page, or suggestions on other sources, please send them.  Would you like to write or rewrite one of the pages?  All comments are welcome.

Richland County Home Page

Copyright ©1999, Dr. Frank O. Clark. These documents may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy.  However, this document is copyrighted and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same.