C Beaufort County Library, SC -- Beaufort District Collection Services


The Research Room is located at 311 Scott Street, 2nd Floor

in the Paul Siegmund Room, downtown Beaufort, SC. 843-255-6468


Customary Research Room Hours

(but subject to change without notice):

Open Mondays 9 am to 5 pm

Open Thursdays 9 am to 5 pm

Open Fridays 9 am to 3 pm

By advance appointment only: Tuesdays and Wednesdays. To make arrangements call 843-255-6468 or

e-mail gracec@bcgov.net. Please note: We are unable to make same day appointments.

Known Research Room Schedule Adjustments: Closed Fri., July 22


Aug. 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 15, 18, and 19. August 2016

  • Due to staff shortages, some services will be limited during August.


Grace Morris Cordial, MLS, SL, CA,

Historical Resources Coordinator

& BDC Manager


Ashley Sylva, BA

Preservation Associate


Alert: The Research Room will be closed Fri., July 22, 2016
for staff training.
On Display Now through 31 August 2016:

"The Pollitzer Family"

"The Pollitzer Family" - Panel exhibit

on loan from the South Carolina Historical Society

July 7 - August 31 (supplemented by materials from our own holdings),

9 am to 5 pm Mondays through Fridays


Even when the Research Room is closed, the "Virtual BDC" is open 24/7/365!

Click the "Local History" tab on the Library's homepage.

Return to BDC home page

Return to the Library system's home page


The ebb and flow of history has washed over the shores of Beaufort County for more than 450 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.

For other obituary services in other SC counties, visit the "South Carolina Obituary Services" webpage.



About the
Beaufort District Collection

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. 

  • We provide general information about the materials we have in our collection free of charge. 

  • Books, videorecordings, vertical file subject headings, some maps and microfilm holdings are hosted within the online catalog.  Some materials are available through the local history sections at our branch libraries.

  • We post web pages on local interest topics, the Online Obituary Index, and provide answers to Frequently Asked Questions about our services.
  • We have 4 digital collections online:

    "Phosphate, Farms, and Family: The Donner Collection," a digital archive of 548 photographs about rural life in Beaufort County, 1889-1916

    "Lucille Hasell Culp Collection: A Celebration of Beaufort, South Carolina," a digital archive of 300 images about mid-20th century Beaufort and its environs, 1941 - 1999

    "Storm Swept Coast" by Mrs. Rachel C. Mather, a digital version of a rare booklet in our archive about the Great Sea Island Hurricane of 1893 that killed thousands of people here in Beaufort County

    "Beaufort Hurricane of 1893 Photograph Collection," a digital archive of 20 rare photographs from our archive that were taken in the immediate aftermath of the August 27 - 28, 1893 hurricane

    How to credit our online collections 

  • We provide free short, limited in scope, telephone consultations about our resources that might help you with your research problem. To better serve you, please contact us to set up an appointment for a more extensive telephone consultation.
  • We provide free "Research Consultations" relating to our mission to share Beaufort District's historical, cultural, and environmental heritage with advance notice. Please contact us for details.
  • We would like to speak to your community or church group about all the matters BDC - our services, preservation, family history sources, etc. We will even create a program just for your group (with sufficient notice).  If you would like to arrange a speaking engagement with us, please contact us for more information. 
  • Join us for one (or more) of the BDC@ The Branches Local History programs. 

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. 


History of the
Beaufort District Collection
Hours of Operation Areas of Interest

History of the Beaufort District Collection

The 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 has several components:  The BDC Research Room houses the research collection which researchers can visit to perform their inquiries. We encourage researchers to set up an appointment by calling 843-255-6468 or e-mailing gracec@bcgov.net. Historians, writers, students over age 12, and family historians as well as anyone with an interest in our area are welcomed to work in the Research Room. One is free to browse in the public area of the Research Room but no one is allowed in the storage stacks.  Staff will retrieve items from the storage stacks for customers to use. In addition to operating, maintaining, and providing reference services for our in-house customers, we select and share materials through the Local History sections at each of the Branch Libraries.  We create and maintain content in the "Virtual BDC" which reaches a worldwide audience.  Plus, we sponsor library programs about our local history, culture, and environment throughout the Beaufort County Library system. 


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. However 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 LibraryYou might be pleasantly surprised by how much information we share through the "Local History" sections.

Customary Hours of Operation

Mondays 9 am - 5 pm

Tuesdays - By Advance Appointment Only

(Call 843-255-6468 or e-mail gracec@bcgov.net to make arrangements.)

Wednesdays - By Advance Appointment Only

(Call 843-255-6468 or e-mail gracec@bcgov.net to make arrangements.)

Thursdays 9 am - 5pm

Fridays 9 am - 3 pm

(PLEASE NOTE that the Research Room closes at 3 pm on Fridays).

   Known upcoming exceptions:

The Research Room will be CLOSED Fri., July 22, 2016 for staff training.

The Research Room will be closed for Lunch, Noon to 1 pm, due to a scheduled staff shortage

on Aug. 4, Aug. 5, Aug. 8, Aug. 11, Aug. 12, Aug. 15, Aug. 18 and Aug. 19.

August 2016 schedule

Research Room Closed?

You Live So Far Away that a Visit is Impossible?

Check out our content in the "Virtual BDC!"

Here's how to credit our collections!

"The Virtual BDC" is open

24 hours a day/ 7 days a week/ 365 days a year

except in a Leap year, when it's 366 days a year!

Areas of Interest

Branch 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:

Public libraries have a responsibility to serve the needs of patrons interested in genealogical research by providing basic genealogical reference materials and how-to-do-it books in the library and by providing access to additional genealogical research materials through interlibrary loan or referral. 

Library workers carry out many activities in preparation for researchers, among them are:

1. Building and preserving collections

2.Organizing and cataloging collections

3. Digitizing unique records

4. Creating finding aids

5. Providing short courses and other public programming    

6. Information assistance  

   a. In person

   b. By e-mail, Text-A-Librarian

(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:

  1. Census Records - usually created on the national and the state level
  2. Vital Records - official death, marriage, and birth certificates, usually created on a local and the state level

  3. Probate Records - exist mainly at the county level and often indicate family relationships between the deceased and named beneficiaries

  4. Land (Property) Records - exist mainly at the county level

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. 

You can visit the South Carolina Obituary Resources website and our own Online Obituary Index to check for death notices.

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.

  • As a practical rule-of-thumb, use 1866 as the starting date for most Beaufort District related property records.

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 gracec@bcgov.net.

For those of you who choose not or cannot visit our Research Room, we offer a very limited service for distance reference and obituary services.

Beaufort is a "Burned County": almost all of our pre-Civil War records were destroyed in 1865.  This fact makes genealogy more challenging here.

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 that 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 and are listed in the SC LENDS catalog.


Microfilm Collections

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.

BDC Vertical Files

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.


BDC@ The Branches 2016 Local History Programs, Exhibits, and Community Engagement Activities

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 people and students.


Interested in Local History? Want to Learn about Preservation of historic materials? Curious about what's on our Shelves? Call us at 843-255-6468 or e-mail gracec@bcgov.net to make arrangements for a tour or presentation on selective local history topics at your place or ours.

Off-Site Obituary and Reference Services

Flyer about Fee Structure and Services




(Revised July 1, 2006)
Flyer about Distance Reference and Obituary Services Policy and Fees

The online index does not include the actual text of the obituary notices. It lists only dates and newspapers in which the notices appear. We limit our obituary service to providing a photocopy of an obituary notice for a deceased individual as found in our local newspaper microfilm. This is a fee based service. We do not search obituary files of other newspapers.

Please bear in mind that there is no legal requirement in the State of South Carolina that an obituary for a deceased individual is published in a newspaper.

Each request for this fee based service is handled as a separate transaction.

Each customer is limited to one obituary per request for obituary assistance.

Most requests for assistance are completed within fourteen working days of the receipt of the request.

There is no limit on the number of separate requests that can be submitted. Each request, however, incurs the charge applied to that level of service (that is, whether or not the deceased individual is listed in our Online Obituary Index). Each request is handled as a separate matter and payment must be received before a subsequent request can be processed.

NOTE: These fees are subject to change.

FEES (Revised July 1, 2006)
Distance Reference and Obituary Services flyer

Our obituary reference service fee structure has two levels based upon the degree of staff time necessary to fulfill your request:


1) For deceased individuals listed in our Online Obituary Index
2) For deceased individuals not listed in our Online Obituary Index.


Please check our Online Obituary Index for the individual's name.

.For deceased individuals listed in our Online Obituary Index:
If the deceased individual is listed within the current index 1862-1984, September 2007 - present for certain newspapers, please indicate the citation as given in the Online Obituary Index within your request for assistance.

The charge for our obituary service when the deceased person is listed in our Online Obituary Index is five dollars in US currency ($5.00 US). Fees must be paid in US currency.
The $5.00 fee is payable upon receipt of the obituary.

Payment for each obituary must be received before an additional obituary can be processed.

For deceased individuals not listed in our Online Obituary Index:

If the deceased individual is not listed within the current index roughly covering the years 1862-1984, with some 2007 to the present entries for certain newspapers, it will be necessary for you to provide a precise date of death with your request. We cannot perform this service without an exact date of death. There is no general index to any of the local newspapers.

Sometimes, there is no published obituary notice for a deceased individual within our local newspaper microfilm. In this case, a customer will receive a report listing the names of those deceased persons as given in the seven subsequent issues of the local newspapers starting with the date of death provided by the customer.

A customer must pay for the search whether or not a published obituary is found during the staff time devoted to reading the newspaper microfilm.


The charge for the obituary service for a person not listed in our Online Obituary Index is ten dollars in US currency ($10.00 US). Fees must be paid in US currency.


The $10.00 research fee must be received before the research is done. 

(Revised July 1, 2006)

[For obituaries from other parts of South Carolina]

Obituary Orders submitted by e-mail or postal mail are preferred. Distance Reference and Obituary Services flyer

Submit orders by e-mail to: asylva@bcgov.net

Submit requests and payments by postal mail to:


Beaufort District Collection
ATTN: Ashley Sylva
Beaufort County Library
311 Scott Street
Beaufort, SC 29902 (USA


Checks and money orders are to be made out to

"Beaufort County Library."

Telephone requests can be submitted by leaving a voicemail message at (843) 255-6468. Please speak clearly and slowly, carefully spelling out the surname of the deceased person. Leave your telephone number so that staff can return your call to verify your name, the name of the deceased, and your mailing address.


BDC Off-Site Reference Services
We answer one question at a time.


Each question is considered separately.
Each question is subject to the minimal fee based upon the submitter's residency status.
Fees are incurred as soon as the research process begins.
Turn-around time is usually seven to ten working days.
Library Policy requires that our replies are in writing with supporting documentation.
Replies in the negative incur the same fees as replies in the affirmative.
Replies are sent by USPS mail.
We are unable to provide supporting documentation by fax, e-mail, scanning, or via telephone conversation.
We must limit our photocopy services to 20 pages or less per question.

We observe all applicable international copyright laws.


Fees are to be paid by return mail as soon as you receive a formal reply in writing from staff at the Beaufort County Library.


Beaufort County Library Card Holders, Residents, and Taxpayers: $5.00 per question / $.50 per photocopy


United States Residents: $10.00 per question / $.50 per photocopy


Foreign Nationals : $15.00 per question / $.50 per photocopy


Fees must be submitted in US currency.  Residency is determined by the address to which the document packet is sent via USPS mail.



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Telephone: (843) 255-6465  Fax: (843) 255-9508