South Carolina Court Records
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Prior to 1769, proprietary and crown courts were convened at Charleston. These were known as the General Court and the Grand Council. From 1769 to 1772 a circuit court system was begun. Judicial districts began to keep records for some courts, although records were still filed in Charleston. After 1780 the records were kept in the various courthouses.
Major South Carolina courts that kept records of genealogical value included the following. (Other courts are mentioned in South Carolina Probate Records.)
1671-1790s: Court of Chancery handled land and inheritance matters for the entire colony. The Family History Library has some chancery court records, later known as equity records.
1703-present: Court of Common Pleas was a statewide court until 1790 when each district established a separate court with jurisdiction over guardianship and civil matters. The Family History Library has many of these records.
1769-present: Circuit courts have had district or countywide jurisdiction in criminal cases and some civil cases. Many of these records, on microfilm, are at the Family History Library.
1769-present: Court of General Sessions was a statewide court until 1790, when each district established a separate court. These courts had jurisdiction over criminal cases. The Family History Library has a good collection of these records on microfilm.
1785-1798: County courts had jurisdiction over minor civil and criminal matters. The Family History Library has many of these records. (The records of the county courts temporarily established in 1683 no longer exist).
1791-1900: Courts of equity had county wide jurisdiction over property matters. Many of the records are available at the Family History Library.
For more information about court procedures and records see:
- Bondurant, Mary. A Guide to South Carolina Court Records, in Family Puzzlers, Number 791 (16 Dec. 1982). (Danielsville, Georgia: Heritage Papers.) FHL book 973 B2f
- Gregorie, Anne King. Records of the Court of Chancery of South Carolina, 1671-1779. (Washington: American Historical Association, 1950.) FHL fiche 6051256; book 975.7 P2sc
- Moore, Caroline T. Records of the Secretary of the Province of South Carolina, 1692-1721. (Columbia, South Carolina: R. L. Bryan Company, 1978.) FHL book 975.7 Pmco
- Warren, Mary B. South Carolina Jury Lists, 1718 through 1783 (Danielsville, Georgia: Heritage Papers, 1977.) FHL book 975.7 P2w The names were compiled from tax lists, as jurors were selected on the basis of taxes they paid.
- For the colonial period, only one book of criminal records is known to survive. It begins in 1769 and a free online index is available. See Online sources below.
- References to crimes committed during the colonial period also appear in the South Carolina Gazette. To learn more, visit South Carolina Newspapers.
- Criminal Journals 1769-1776; Index to Multiple Record Series ca. 1675 -1929; and Legislative Papers 1782 - 1866 are included in the South Carolina State Archives online database. This database is searchable by date, topic, locality or name, or any combination of these search factors.
- Mike Becknell, "Overview of South Carolina Genealogical Research," Group Tour of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 10 May 2011.