Tuesday, January 12, 2021 Charleston County Library

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Here in Charleston, homes have their own histories and personalities. Discover more about these historic homes using the South Carolina History Room at the Main Library.

"Historic property research, a lot of it pertains to houses and buildings downtown. Not exclusively, it could be a plantation or other property. We have a lot of students that come in here. We have students from the College of Charleston, the College of the Building Arts, come in to do property research as part of their classwork," said South Carolina Room Librarian Malcolm Hale. "We also, which is very nice, we get folks in here that just bought a property, often downtown, and they're like, 'We just bought this house, we're very excited, and we'd like to learn more about it.'"

All you need to get started is the property's address.

"We have our vertical files, which are manila folder files. It's mainly the peninsula, but it's alphabetical by street and then number. When you open up the file folder, there's old newspaper clippings going back to the 30s, information on the property of all kinds in that one location," Hale said.

He says sometimes people are looking for proof their home is haunted, or evidence of the building's original footprint to go before the Board of Architectural Review. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are used to track the structural history. The maps can even be searched online through CCPL's databases.

"They use our Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps a lot to see when a particular addition was added to the property. Those don't go year by year, but it's something people can be looking at. There's a one-story addition at the back, I know it's not original to the home. We're trying to narrow down when did this appear? And that can be difficult in terms of getting an exact year, but you can see it not in one of our Sanborn Insurance Maps and then in the next one it is. So you know sometime between that range is when that addition was put on," Hale said. 

Genealogy and property research intersect while using the city directories. 

"You can see who's living there by going to say, 21 New Street. Then you flip to the front to look at their name and it tells you what they do for a living. So you can learn a lot of neat, small details through the city directory," he said. 

If you have any questions for the South Carolina Room, send them an email at [email protected]. This is the end of the Meet Your Library series featuring the South Carolina Room, but you can tap the links to see previous episodes: South Carolina Room Overview, Talking to Family for Genealogy Research, and Genealogy Resources.