11 March 2015

Tracing the History of Your House

"I want to know who used to live in my house or on my property" is one of the most common reasons given for a visit to the Beaufort District Collection. Sometimes the person is lucky and there is already a vertical file of materials about the property, the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places or a previous owner was of such local renown (or infamy) that it is easy to find the information. Most of the time, though, the answer is harder to uncover. BDC staff is here to guide you through the library-based parts of this process. 

What steps are involved in "Tracing the History of Your House?"

Step 1: Deeds 
Investigating the title to a specific piece of property regarding current and past ownership is not a library activity. Title searching is a Deeds office activity that most people either do for themselves or hire a professional title researcher to do for them. Librarians do not track property titles. It is important to know who else has owned your property and when the house was built. You should review the information on the Beaufort County’s Register of Deeds pages before you visit or call them: http://rodweb.bcgov.net/searchng/.  

Learn  the County’s identification numbers for your property which can vary through time.

When you have questions about County records, ask the personnel 
within that particular County office for help. 

Although you may be able to perform some of this work online, please know that you may have to visit the Deeds Office or an offsite storage facility for older files.This information is best secured from Deeds Office personnel. Each state has slightly different rules and procedures so doing a little research in the Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources edited by Alice Eichholz, 2004 (also available online http://www.ancestry.com/wiki/index.php?title=Red_Book:_American_State,_County,_and_Town_Sources) and The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy (http://www.ancestry.com/wiki/index.php?title=The_Source:_A_Guidebook_to_American_Genealogy) can be very helpful in guiding your investigations. 

Step 2: Library Research 

A. Obituary Files
When you find names of former owners of your property, you should check those names against our Online Obituary Index file.Obituaries are often wonderful sources of information about former residents of particular houses. The time frame of the obituaries file is 1862-1984, with some early 2000s entries, but the bulk of the obituaries are dated 1882 through 1984. Visit the BDC to see the obituary text card files or look up the obituaries on newspaper microfilm. Call us for details. 
·         Obituary Files Index

If a person's death may have been noted elsewhere in this state, give this guide to obituaries in other SC counties a try: 

·         South Carolina Obituary Resources page hosted by the South Carolina State Library 

B. Vertical Files
We maintain a limited number of files on specific properties in the BDC with the list in our Research Room. 

Check for a vertical file on your specific address.  In addition, you may find the contents of these particular vertical files useful:
Historic Districts
Historic Houses
Historic Structures
509 Carteret Street (e.g., Check our catalog for other addresses)

C. Book Resources 
Here are some of the standard titles that discuss historic buildings within Beaufort County that would be prudent for you to check looking for your specific address:

917.579 LOW Historic Resources of the Lowcountry by the Lowcountry Council of Governments, c1979  (All libraries) 
917.5799 BEA Beaufort Historic District: Beaufort, South Carolina National Historic Landmark Documentation, c2000 (BDC)                                           
917.5799 HEL A Guide to Historic Beaufort South Carolina by Helsley c2006 (All libraries)
917.5799 GUI A Guide to Historic Beaufort by Historic Beaufort Foundation, 9th ed., rev., c1999 (BDC, BEA, BLU, HHI, LOB) 
917.5799 HIS Historic Beaufort: A Guide to the Gracious Old Homes, Churches and Other Points of Interest of Beaufort, South Carolina, by Historic Beaufort Foundation, 5th ed, c1985 (BDC, BEA, STH) 
917.57 WOR South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State, c1941 (BDC, BEA, BLU, HHI) 
975.799 HAR Beaufort County Above Ground Historic Resources Survey, c1998  (BDC, BLU, HHI, LOB) Document available as a PDF http://nationalregister.sc.gov/SurveyReports/BeaufortCounty1998SM.pdf. Digitized images of the actual inventory forms from this survey are available at http://www.co.beaufort.sc.us/history/county-history/AboveGroundSurvey/.

D. Beaufort County Historical Society Papers that discuss historic structures in the area
Beaufort District Landmarks and Early Historical Sites
The Catholic Church and the Houses on New Street and Vicinity
Old Houses on the Bluff
Eight Beaufort Homes
Thoughts and Recommendations Concerning the Preservation of Beaufort’s Cultural and Historical    Resources
Bay Street and Beaufort in the 1920's As I Remember It
The Point
Old Families of Beaufort: The Stuarts and the Bulls
Old Families of Beaufort: The Talbirds, the Barnwells, and the Chaplins of St. Helena
Bluffton and the Okatie

E. Additional Resources to Consider

Back Issues of Local Newspapers are available in the BDC Research Room on microfilm. Unfortunately, the newspapers are not indexed.

Consult the Martin Guide to selective newspaper article titles, 1882—1936. You might get lucky.

We have few maps or plats in our holdings that indicate the size or location of individual properties.

Gerhard Spieler’s index to his newspaper column  

View Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps online in the South Carolina Digital Library  http://library.sc.edu/digital/collections/sanborn.html. Choose Beaufort County.


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