30 November 2013

Genealogy Services at the Library Primer



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 programming6. 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.

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



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