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Land grants were made by the Lords Proprietor from about 1670 to 1719, and recorded by the Register of the Province. Proprietary land titles, abstracts of title, and registrations of land grants are sometimes called “memorials.” Governors issued warrants and ordered plats and surveys, but most of these documents are lost. After 1682 an indenture was often used to deed land in exchange for quitrents.
Lists of many early landowners are found in Alexander S. Salley, Records of the Secretary of the Province and the Register of the Province of South Carolina, 1671-1675 (Columbia, South Carolina: Historical Commission of South Carolina, 1944; FHL book 975.7 N2c; film 1425662 item 5). This includes deeds, wills, and other records.
Land warrants were presented to the surveyor general and recorded by the secretary of state. They are often the most complete guide to early land settlement. Proprietary grants are listed in A.S. Salley, Jr., Warrants for Lands in South Carolina1672-1711, 1910-15, Reprint (Columbia, South Carolina: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1973; FHL book 975.7 R2sa or 975.7 R21h; film 845162 items 3-4 1672-1692, and film 845163 1692-1711).
From 1719 to 1775, when South Carolina was a royal colony, grants were recorded by the secretary of the province and deeds were recorded separately by the public register. After land offices suspended much of their business in the 1720s, Sir George Carteret bought out most of the proprietors' lands in 1729. The portion originally held by Sir George, and later held by the Earl of Granville, remained under the proprietary system until the Revolution. A discussion of the land system, land frauds, and quitrents is in William Roy Smith,South Carolina as a Royal Province, 1719-1776 (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1903; FHL film 1320960 item 4). Also see the “Taxation” section of this outline for further information on quitrents.
North Carolina Records. In 1729 South Carolina was officially separated from North Carolina, although boundaries between the states remained unstable, and North Carolina granted some land to South Carolina. The North Carolina counties of Anson, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rutherford, and Tyron have records that pertain to South Carolina residents. An example of a printed source for these records is Brent H. Holcomb, North Carolina Land Grants in South Carolina, Two Volumes. (Clinton, South Carolina: B. Holcomb, 1975, 1976; FHL book 975 R28n Volumes. 1-2 are for years 1749-1773 for Anson, Mecklenburg, and Tyron counties).
Charleston Office Records. South Carolina deeds, releases, bonds, and mortgages from all counties were recorded at Charleston during the years 1719 to 1786. The original documents are in the office of the Register of Mesne Conveyance in Charleston. Copies are at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History and the Family History Library. They are indexed in:
Langley, Clara A. South Carolina Deed Abstracts, 1719-1772. Four Volumes. Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1983-84. (FHL book 975.7 R2L.) Witnesses, neighbors, and residences are often mentioned.
Charleston County (South Carolina), Register of Mesne Conveyance., An Index to Deeds of the Province and State of South Carolina, 1719-1785, and Charlestown District, 1785-1800. Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1977. (FHL book 975.7 R2c.) This indexes the names of grantors and grantees, but gives little additional information.
Royal land grants issued for the years 1731 to 1775 often pertain to the four original districts of Colleton, Craven, Berkeley, and Granville. The originals are housed at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, and copies are available at the Family History Library (FHL films 022581-97 and 361873). The index is on film 022581. Headright grants were awarded in South Carolina, and are in the South Carolina Council Journals (1749-1773) found at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
Beginning in 1741, all persons who had received land in South Carolina after 1719 had to deliver “memorials” to the auditor general, stating the county, parish, location, quantity, names of adjacent land owners, boundaries, and how the present title was received. Originals of these records are found at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, and copies are available at the Family History Library for the years 1704 to 1775 (FHL film 023297-305; the index is on film 023297). A few of these records are published in Katie-Prince Ward Esker, South Carolina Memorials, 1731-1776: Abstracts of Selected Land Records from a Collection in the Department of Archives and History . . ., Two Volumes. (New Orleans, Louisiana: Polyanthos, 1973-1977; FHL book 975.7 R28e; the library has Volume 2 only).
Original plats and surveys are available at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Copies of these records are at the Family History Library for 1861 (FHL films 022598-625, films 022598-600 contain indexes). These records show the location of the land and give the names of adjacent landowners.
State Land Records
After South Carolina became a state, unclaimed land was granted by the state. Microfilms of land grants recorded by the Surveyor General, 1784 to 1882, are at the Family History Library (FHL film 022531-580; the index is on film 022531). The original records are at the Secretary of State's Office at Columbia. These are partially indexed in Ronald Vern Jackson, Index to South Carolina Land Grants, 1784-1800 (Bountiful, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems, Inc., 1977; FHL book 975.7 R22j).
County Land Records
Deeds were recorded in the counties by the clerk of the court after 1785. Most of the pre-1800 files are very incomplete. Between 1785 and 1868, land transfers were kept according to a number of old and new districts, later called counties. For further information on the history and organization of districts, see James M. Black, The Counties and Districts of South Carolina, Genealogical Journal, Volume 5, Number 3.
The Family History Library has microfilms of many of the surviving pre-1865 land records of most of the districts. For example, the library has Charleston County bills of sale, powers of attorney, bonds, notes, contracts, pardons, commissions, accounts, and indentures, 1719 to 1873, and Greenville County deeds, 1786 to 1865. Most of the pre-1865 land records are missing for the districts of Abbeville, Beaufort, Chesterfield, Colleton, Georgetown, Lexington, Orangeburg, and Richland.
The South Carolina Department of Archives and History is currently filming deeds and plats in county courthouses up to 1920. Other archives with land records are the South Carolinian Library and the South Carolina Historical Society.