I. IDENTIFY YOUR PROBLEM
A. Gather all the information you can on the individual you are
researching. Pay attention to details. Don’t neglect to
document facts about age, residence, siblings, children,
spouse, neighbors, etc.
B. Revisit each reference you have on the individual. Recheck
each fact and date. Did you correctly interpret each
document? Are there “facts” that cannot be attributed to a
source? Always check the original document.
C. Identify where the problem lies. Is it a problem with….age,
marriage, birthplace, death place, parents, residence,
military service, etc?
II. TRY THESE TECHNIQUES
A. Birth date, birthplace, or age problem?
1. Census Records, Mortality Schedules, Cemetary
Records, State Death Certificates, City Death
Certificates, Published Obituaries, Family Bibles,
Church Records, Voter Lists, Probate Records, Equity
Records, Guardianships, Tax Records, Marriage
License, School Records, Biographical Pu-blications &
Funeral Home Records.
2. 18th and 19th Century families often had children at
two year intervals. This can be used to estimate the
approximate birth dates of siblings. Warning: Be sure
to consider the possibilty that some children died during
infancy. Also, the mortality rate for women of child-
bearing age was higher during this period than today.
Consider the possibility of a 3rd marriage for the father.
B. Death date or place of death problem?
1. Mortality Schedules, Cemetary Records, State Death
certificates, City Death Certificates, Published
Obituaries, Family Bibles, Military Records, Church
Records, Probate Records, Equity Records,
Guardianships, Coroner’s Records, Tax Records (when
did they disappear from rolls?0, Biographial
publications & Funeral Home Records.
2. Land and Property records sometimes hold clues as to
when an individual owned. Identify neighbors and
survey these deeds and plats also. Many times, buried
in the body of a deed is a chain of title that will give a
clue when an individual died and the land was
transferred to an heir or sold as part of the estate
C. Marriage problem?
1. Vital Records, Church Records, Probate Records,
Obituaries, Census Records, Bible Records, Military
Widow’s Pension Applications, etc.
2. Marriage settlements often recorded in the
Miscellaneous Records Series of South Carolina or in
County Deed Books. Often times if a settlement is
recorded in a County Deed Book, it will not be indexed
in the general index to land transactions. However,
some of the older County Deed Books have individual
indexes of all recorded documents.
3. Equity Records often provide information on 19th
century marriages. Warning: Most Equity Records
are not properly indexed. Therefore; it may be necessary
to check Equity Records of many people who lived in a
particular neighborhood in order to establish a marriage.
After 1869, check the Judgement Rolls of the county you
are interested in.
4. County Marriage Records. Many individuals recorded
their marriages decades after the event took place.
Check county marriage records to see if this applied to
5. Some county marriages were recorded in Will Books in
the first decade of the 19th century. Darlington and
Marion Counties are good examples of this. In Sumter
County, early recorded marriages have been found in the
Minutes Book of the Ordinary, 1816-1835.
6. Dower releases. Found on many deeds. This gives the
first name of the wife of an individual who is selling land.
In the colonial era, many of these are found in the
Miscellaneous Records of South Carolina.
D. Parentage, children or other family member problems?
1. Vital Records, Church Records, Census Records,
Cemetery Records, Probate Records, Bible Records,
Funeral Home Records, Obituaries, Equity Records,
County Records, Biographical Records, County
Publications, Guardianships, Military Records, etc.
E. Residence and migration problems?
1. Become familiar with local creeks, stream, rivers, etc.
Use period maps, geological survey maps and plats to
locate various watercourses.
3. Census records, Mortality schedules, vital records and
obituaries may give place of birth. Don’t forget to check
the census records for each child when they become an
adult. Remember that the 1880’s Census gives the
birthplace of each person’s parents.
4. Become familiar with historic migration patterns.
5. Check land records for and “exit deed” or a power of
attorney. These may indicate migration patterns.
6. Identify neighbors. Many times entire neighborhoods
7. Colonial migration. Check the SC Council Journels.
Also check Revolutionary War Pension Applications.
8. Check City Directories.
III. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS
A. Identify and make contact with distant cousins. Often these
families will have just the reference, Family Bible,
unrecorded deed, etc. You need to break down that brick-
B. Check genealogical publications for the area you are
researching. Many publications publish obscure sources
that might be useful in solving your problem.
C. Don’t rely on the index to a book on the county or region
you are researching. Many books published in the 19th and
20th centuries have very rudimentary indexes, if any. Take
time to scan or read the book.
D. Check the records of the Court of General Sessions. This
court administered the law in criminal cases. These are
available for most counties in SC. Records may include all
or part of the following: Session Rolls, Sessions Journals and
Session Dockets. Yes, your ancestor may have been in trouble
with the law. Bastardy cases may also be found here.
E. Check adjacent counties for information on your ancestor.
Consider the possibly of the county boundaries changing.
F. Check the Allen County Public Library’s “Periodical Source
Index” (PERSI). This is a comprehensive index to
thousands of genealogical publications dating from the 19th
century to the present. This is available online (for a fee) or
can be purchased on CD-ROM.
G. Check the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections.
Most large libraries have this available. This may be the tool
needed to identify the location of those “lost” family papers.
H. Use manuscript guides to major libraries and historical
societies. Two to check from SC are the Manuscript Guide to
South Caroliniana Library and the Manuscript Guide to
I. Take that “how – to” guide to genealogical research off the
shelf and study it. There are also many guides to research
in various states or with various ethnic groups. Learn what
records are unique to your particular problem.
J. Take a walk on the wild side. Go to your local
genealogical library or archives and browse through time
period appropriate records or record group descriptions that
you have not previously checked. Many times that “hidden”
reference can be found in a record that you would not normally
check. Let serendipity be your guide.