Access to our collection is paramount; expansion of our collection is essential.
There are many ways to begin your research. You can perform a catalog search, check our FAQ, view our digitized collections, or consult genealogical charts or vertical files. We offer research guides and finding aids to help with your search and can be hired to assist in research services.
Our online catalog allows for basic and advanced searches with keywords, subjects, titles, and authors. You can also refine search results by resource type, subject, date, author, location and more, using the filters on the left side of the results page.
Search the online catalog.
Keyword search: This broad search returns the most results. You’ll retrieve records that contain the search word anywhere—as an author, title, subject, note, etc.
Advanced Search: Advanced Search allows specific or combination searches in Author, Title, and Subject fields.
Subject search: Every record in the library catalog has assigned subjects that describe what the item is about. A subject search returns fewer results than a keyword search. However, the results contain more relevant records. You can perform a subject search in Advanced Search or select subject headings from the filters on the left side of a search results page.
Title search: You can do a title search if you know part of a title or an exact title. In Advanced Search, select “Title” in the first drop-down menu and “is (exact)” in the second drop-down menu if you know the exact title. If you are unsure of the order of words in the title or only remember part of it, select “contains” in the second drop-down menu.
Author/Creator search: In Advanced Search, enter the author’s last name followed by first name, if you know it. If you are unsure of part of an author’s name, you can select “contains” in the second drop-down menu. You can search by family name for manuscript collections of family papers. You can also limit by author/creator’s name using the filters on the left side of search results page.
Material Type: Researchers interested in primary source materials may find it helpful to select Manuscripts, Archival Materials, or Collections in the drop-down menu on the Advanced Search page. You can also limit by Resource Type using the filters on the left side of a search results page. Those interested in primary source materials should select Collections, Manuscripts, and Archival Materials.
New to the South Carolina Historical Society, or just beginning your research? Check our Frequently Asked Questions to see if we have addressed your question already.
Do you have anything harmful in your collection?
The South Carolina Historical Society acknowledges that historical records within the SCHS collections may contain potentially harmful content and language that reveals past stereotypes and biases. As stewards of the documentary heritage of South Carolina, the SCHS is prevented from altering or changing original content in the historical record. We are working to update any outdated or potentially harmful language used to describe collections in our online catalog. We are dedicated to preserving and making available historic records because we believe they are crucial to education and research.
I need help preserving an historic building, locale, cemetery, etc.
The SCHS holds records that can be useful for property research, such as property files, maps, and plats. See our Research Guide on Property Research at the SCHS for more information. For programs and services related to historic preservation, such as the state historic marker program, tax incentives, or technical assistance, we recommend contacting the State Historic Preservation Office or other local preservation groups in your area.
Can I view materials online?
Select materials from the SCHS collections have been digitized and are available online through the Lowcountry Digital Library. The majority of SCHS collections are available for viewing in person at the SCHS Archives reading room, located on the 3rd floor of the Addlestone Library. You can search the online catalog ahead of your visit to see what may be helpful for your research. The online catalog searches descriptions of SCHS books, pamphlets, maps, plats, and manuscript collections.
Do you have early passenger lists of ships arriving in SC?
The SCHS does not hold original records of ships’ passenger lists. However, there are reference books available in the SCHS reading room which contain information on people arriving in South Carolina compiled from various original records. The SCHS does hold original records pertaining to shipping and commerce in South Carolina. They are found within the manuscript collections of individuals and families involved in shipping in the state.
Do you have vital records (birth, deaths, wills) or military service records?
The SCHS manuscript collections are primarily composed of personal records of families, individuals, businesses, and organizations from South Carolina. Within these collections, there are some personal copies of certain vital records. However, the SCHS is not the official state repository for these types of records. Please see our Genealogy research guide for more information.
Do you have information on my family?
The best way to see if we have information about your family is to search the online catalog. The SCHS has vertical files organized by surname, which contain miscellaneous genealogical research and biographical information on families in the state. You can search the online catalog to see if we have a vertical file or other collection item pertaining to your family. See our Genealogy research guide for more information.
Can you tell me how much this item is worth?
The SCHS does not provide appraisals, but we may be able to refer you to other sources or appraisers who can help you determine a value of your object.
Will you conduct research for me?
Yes! We offer Research Services for those unable to visit the SCHS Archives in person.
How do I get a copy or a scan?
If you’d like photocopies or scans of items for your research use, submit a Reproduction Request form. If you’d like a scan for use in a publication, please see our Visual Materials page.
The South Carolina Historical Society partners with the Lowcountry Digital Library to make selected manuscripts, oral histories, and images from our collections available in digital format.
The following items are currently available on the Lowcountry Digital Library. For more, visit the SCHS on LCDL.
Vertical files contain newspaper clippings, researchers’ notes, and other miscellaneous information. The collection is divided into numerous subjects, including biographies, architecture, African American history, churches, localities, and more.
Research Guides are intended to help you get started doing research on a particular topic. Start with a selection of frequently requested subjects.
Research Guide: Selected Genealogical Resources at the South Carolina Historical Society
Research Guide: African American History
Research Guide: Native American Resources
Research Guide: Historic Preservation and Properties
Research Guide: South Carolina Women
Exploring Family History: A series of Carologue articles on genealogical research by Patricia Kruger
Finding aids are inventories created by archival and manuscript repositories to provide information about specific collections that help researchers identify particular boxes or folders that may hold items of interest. They also provide a subject history, a collection overview, and a detailed list of the collection’s contents.
The South Carolina Historical Society offers several services that make our collection more accessible.