The ebb and flow of history has washed over the shores of Beaufort County for more than 400 years. Spanish, British, French, Scot, Confederate and United States flags have all flown over these islands. Port Royal and St. Helena Sounds have been important in maritime trade since colonial times. Military fortifications dot our landscape. Today the Sea Islands are known internationally as the home of Gullah culture and as wonderful places to retire. This special collection was created in 1992 to record this rich heritage. We call this unique collection the “Beaufort District Collection” to emphasize its core focus.
All American history begins in Beaufort." -- Larry Rowland, Ph.D.
The purpose of the Beaufort District Collection is to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history of the area of lowcountry South Carolina known as the old historic Beaufort District. Our goal is to be excellent stewards of the materials entrusted to our care. Therefore, the Research Room is intended to be used by customers over age 12 who perform their own research. Younger children have access to the components of our "Virtual BDC" and resources in other parts of the Beaufort County Library. Our philosophy of service is to offer as many free services as possible to those who are interested in learning more about the history, culture, and environment of Beaufort County.
The Beaufort District Collection is designed to support the needs of customers over age 12 who perform their own research inside our research room. Nevertheless, we try to accommodate those customers who are unable to visit our facility or who choose not to visit our facility by offering two fee-based services. Fees are set by Library Board of Trustees policy.
Beaufort District Collection, originally called the South Carolina Room, was created in 1992 to
record the rich historical, cultural, and environmental heritage of the former Beaufort District. Beaufort District once covered all or parts of present day Beaufort County, Hampton County, Jasper County, and Allendale County. We re-named this unique collection the “Beaufort District Collection” to emphasize its core focus.
The Beaufort District Collection Research Room is
for reference purposes only.
Items may not be removed from the BDC Research Room.
We do not allow items from the BDC to circulate via Interlibrary Loan.
Please note: Duplicate copies of some titles are available for check-out in the "Local History" sections at Beaufort County Library branches. Ask for assistance locating these "Local History" sections at your Branch Library. You might be pleasantly surprised by how much information we share through the "Local History" sections.
The focus of the BDC is on Beaufort District history, culture, and environment. At one point in the past, Beaufort District included all or parts of current Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, and Allendale counties. We share duplicate copies of some BDC materials through the Local History sections of our five Branch Libraries.
We strive to be excellent stewards of the materials entrusted to our care. One of the major tasks in special collection management is making certain that we have all the materials we own listed in the SCLENDS catalog and that SCLENDS shows all the materials we own. Such a thorough accounting of our assets is in keeping with national standards for management of a cultural heritage collection. We are making progress but many items and most of the archival collections remain uncataloged. Feel free to ask us about our holdings.
The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, says:
(From: Crash Course in Genealogy by David R. Dowell, Libraries Unlimited, c2011, pp. 6-7.)
Beaufort County Library goes one step further and supports genealogical reference services through the Beaufort District Collection, the system's special collections local history library and archives. We concentrate on guiding genealogical researchers interested in ancestors who lived in our area of lowcountry South Carolina.
It sometimes comes as a surprise to researchers that Beaufort County has not always been “Beaufort County.” Other political and administrative divisions have applied at different periods of time during the past: St. Helena Parish, St. Luke's Parish, Granville County, Hilton County, Shrewsbury County, etc. From 1769 to 1868, Beaufort District was a judicial district covering approximately 1920 square miles. In 1868, Beaufort District was re-named Beaufort County. In 1878, Beaufort County was split into Beaufort County and Hampton County. In 1912, both Beaufort County and Hampton County gave up territory to carve Jasper County within their midst. (Prefer visual learning? Watch the "Beaufort County History Moments" video segment about how our county boundaries have shifted through time).
To see the changes of political and administrative division throughout the United States, consult the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, a web-based project of the William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture at The Newberry Library in Chicago.
Here are the "Big Four" of record types most commonly consulted by family historians:
To do genealogical and historical research in current-day Beaufort, Hampton, and Jasper Counties, one must use consult a variety of other types of records to document past events and ancestors. 1. We provide access to extent national and some state level ensus records on microfilm and through our subscription to the Ancestry Library Edition database. (Please note: The Ancestry Library Edition database is only available on our computers inside our library facilities. You cannot access it from your home or office.) As there are more than 8000 databases inside Ancestry Library Edition to research, you are not limited to researching ancestors from just this area.
2. South Carolina, as is the case for most Southern states, did not issue death, marriage, and birth certificates until the 1910s. However, some churches kept records concerning funerals and burials, baptism and christenings, and wedding ceremonies from which a researcher can infer dates of birth, marriage, and death. Sometimes announcements of these events were placed in local newspapers.
3. Many Beaufort County-related probate records were destroyed when the records of the Beaufort District Courthouse were destroyed in the waning days of the Civil War. However, some residents of Beaufort District may have filed wills or abstracts of their wills in other jurisdictions.
4. Similarly, many Beaufort County-related land records were destroyed when the records of the Beaufort District Courthouse were destroyed in the waning days of the Civil War.
5. An online source well worth your time is the Online Records Index database of records from the SC Department of Archives and History (SCDAH). The Online Records Index database includes: Will Transcripts (1782-1855); Records of Confederate Veterans (1909-1973); Plats for State Land Grants (1784-1868); Legislative Papers (1782-1866); Criminal Court Records (1769-1891); School Insurance Photographs (1935-1952); and National Register Properties. While this index covers only a small fraction of the holdings of the SC State Archives, searching the online records index first can be of immense importance and economical in that we have microfilm of some of the records in our Research Room. The checklist of the SCDAH Multiple Record Series indexed by the Online Records Index and the microfilm we hold is here.
6. To accommodate researchers, we provide access to 18 series of primary documents microfilmed by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1663-1900, inside the Beaufort District Collection Research Room.
7. We are happy to consult with you regarding your historical and family history research projects. To maximize the use of your and our time, we strongly recommend that you contact us before you visit our facility: 843-255-6468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read our blog Connections and the BDC's Facebook for Family History tips!
Local Newspapers and Magazines
The only print magazine subscriptions that the BDC currently receives are the South Carolina Historical Magazine, Carologue, and the Bluffton Breeze. We have a number of defunct magazine backfiles. Contact us for further information.
BDC Map Collection
The BDC currently houses more than 400 maps of the local area. As of this writing most are listed in the SC LENDS catalog.
Collection of 19th Century Illustrated Newspaper Prints
The BDC currently houses about 150 sheets from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly. Most of the images date from 1861 - 1900. As of this writing approximately 100 are listed in the SC LENDS catalog.
The largest collection of microfilms within the Beaufort County Library is located in the Beaufort District Collection Research Room. In addition to local newspaper, some local records and census microfilm, we provide access to18 series of South Carolina Archives microfilm of primary documents. Click here for a guide to our holdings on microfilm of state records. For a description of the individual series of state records click here.
For a draft inventory of all the microfilm within the Library system click here.
Beaufort District Collection, Beaufort Branch, and Hilton Head Branch libraries have microfilm reader/printers. The BDC has one microfilm reader/printer in its quarters on the 2nd floor of the 311 Scott Street building. Access is on a "first come, first served" basis. Photocopies made from microfilm reader/printers cost .25 per page.
The Library's holdings on microfilm and microfiche are listed in our online catalog.
Please call Beaufort Branch Reference staff at 843-255-6458 or Hilton Head Branch Reference staff at 843-255-6525 for information regarding access to their microfilm holdings.
We have more than 1200 vertical files of newspaper and
magazine articles, pamphlets,
and other ephemera about topics of local interest. The list of subject headings used in the BDC vertical file drawers is available in the SCLENDS online catalog.
Obituary Files and Local Newspaper Files
A file of obituary notices drawn from Beaufort area newspapers is maintained in the Beaufort District Collection. The file is not complete and work continues. Current coverage is 1862-1984, 2007 for some local newspapers. To see the list of newspapers indexed for our obituary files, click here. The Online Obituary Index is found at http://beaufortcountylibrary.org/obituary-files/public/deadpeople_list.php?a=showall.
The Beaufort District Collection has the largest collection of local newspaper microfilm in the system. Beaufort Branch and Hilton Head Branch offer some newspapers at their respective locations. There are no microfilm services offered at Bluffton Branch, Lobeco Branch or St. Helena Branch Libraries.
Researchers can access the obituary card files in the Beaufort District Collection Research Room. Photocopies ade by customers inside the BDC cost .10 per page. For customers who find it inconvenient to visit our facility to perform this work for themselves, Beaufort County Library provides copies of obituaries on a fee-for-service basis. For details, see How to Order Obituaries.
Interested in obituaries in other parts of South Carolina? Visit the "South Carolina Obituary Resources" page! If you cannot visit our Research Room, we have very limited fee for Distance Reference and Obituary Services policy.
Beaufort County Historical Society Papers
The Beaufort District Collection houses over 60 papers presented at meetings of the Beaufort County Historical Society. These provide information on many topics of interest: family histories, towns, historic sites, houses, and major events. In addition, some of these papers are available on microfilm at Beaufort and Hilton Head Branch ibraries. Only a few are listed in the SCLENDS online catalog. This is a cataloging project yet to be done. Please call Beaufort Branch Reference staff at 843-255-6458 or Hilton Head Branch Reference staff at 843-255-6525 for information regarding accessibility to the Beaufort County Historical Society Papers on microfilm at their respective branch.
Throughout the year, the Beaufort District Collection brings in authors and speakers who address local history, archaeology, Gullah culture, genealogy, natural history and preservation issues. Some programs are held on evenings and/or weekends at various locations within the library system to accommodate working families and middle and high school students.
Thursday, August 28th: "'Tide of Death:' The Sea Island Hurricane of 1893." Grace Cordial, Manager of the Beaufort District Collection, shares first person accounts and rare materials from our holdings about the night that death came to call. This free BDC@ Beaufort Branch Local History Program is open to anyone over age 12 interested in attending. Program starts at 6 pm.
Thursday, September 4th: Join the discussion of how to copy with the plethora of images and other digital family treasures in this new BDC-chaired group at St. Helena Branch Library.
Thursday, September 18th: Author Teresa Bruce shares how the BDC archives informed and enhanced her recently published re-moir. Attendees will get a "Show-and-Tell" from the Library's special local history and archives unit during the meeting of the Beaufort Branch Book Club. For this night only, the Book Club will gather in the 2nd floor lobby outside the BDC Research Room doors.
Booking presentations, group guided tours, and public relation activities for Fall 2014 NOW!
The staff of the Beaufort District Collection welcomes opportunities to make presentations to middle school and high school students, community groups, and church groups about the our services and programs. We can even design a presentation just for your group - with sufficient notice. Please contact us to discuss your needs.
Group tours of our special collections storage and work area can be arranged with sufficient notice. National standards for special collections restricts public access to archival storageareas. We can accommodate groups of 5 to 25 members, with 15 adults being the ideal size. Please contact us to arrange a "Behind-the-Scenes" tour as guided tours must be booked well in advance. Call 843-255-6468 to discuss arrangements.
Outreach & Scheduled Group Tours On The 2014 Schedule
Coastal Discovery Museum (January)
Beaufort County Library, 311 Scott Street, Beaufort, SC 29902 ||
Telephone: (843) 255-6465 Fax: (843) 255-9508