It is fairly easy to find documentation on an ancestor these days if you are just beginning. Others who are at a more advanced stage of discovery feel the frustration caused by the scarcity of African American documentation prior to 1870. All is not lost! Below you will find collections held by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History in Columbia,South Carolina that will help you discover more about your Charlestonian African American ancestor.
Freedmen's Bureau Records: Marriage and divorce records for Charleston, Strawberry Ferry, Johns Island, and Camden, 1865-1866 (microfilm) - Visit LowcountryAfricana.com to see the entries in this journal.
Charleston newspapers: Transcription of runaway slave advertisements in Charleston newspapers, 1766-1782 (CD-ROM) - When enslaved people escaped from bondage, owners seeking their capture would put an ad in the paper. Also, people who found runaways would submit an ad to find the owner.
RUN away from the Subscriber, a Negro Man named JACK, this Country born, he is short and very black, about 22 Years of Age, has been several Years at the Carpenter's Trade, and is very well known in Charlestown. Whoever apprehends the said Run-away, and delivers him to the Warden of the Work-house, shall be intitled to Ten Pounds currency, besides lawful Charges. BENJAMIN DART.
Charleston Almshouse: Register of deaths in the Charleston Alms House, 1852-1877 – TheCharleston Public Library Records (Wiki article) are scheduled to become available online in the future at FamilySearch.org. Charleston Alms House records will be included in thiscollection. Watch the Wiki to see if the collection covers records generated before 1852 and after 1877.
South Carolina Department of Archives and History: State free Negro capitation tax books, Charleston, South Carolina, ca. 1811-1860 – This collection consists of a listing of 29 volumes of free blacks living in Charleston. You may discover the address, occupation, and tax status of your ancestor.
South Carolina Commission to Provide for Removal of Negroes and other Property from Charleston District: Minutes of the Commission for the Removal of Negroes, Property, and Non-Combatants from the City of Charleston, 1862-1863 - In 1862, an ordinance was passed to remove "negroes and other property from portions of the State which may be invaded by the enemy." See "Journal of the State of South Carolina: Being the Session of 1862."
Charleston Orphan House: Register of slaves belonging to the Charleston Orphan House, 1804-1833 – Enslaved people owned by the Charleston Orphan House between 1804 and 1833 are listed in this resource. Also included may be the name of the enslaved, "date of birth or purchase, name of mother (if known), and date of death or sale." See record description on ArchiveGrid.
Charleston County, Clerk of Court: Manumissions (index) 1801-1848 – A manumission is the act of freeing an enslaved person while slavery the institution of slavery existed. See the manumission of Jehu Jones in 1798.
Charleston, SC Tax Collector: Tax books for "free persons of color," circa 1852-1864