A blog post by Kathryn Slover
If you visit or contact the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (SCDAH), the Archives reference staff will be able to assist you with your research, but what if you want to see what we have available before you visit? One of the easiest ways to see what collections are in our holdings is to look at the Summary Guide to Holdings.
How to use the Summary Guide
The South Carolina Archives Summary Guide to Holdings is a listing of summary information on every record series in the department's archival holdings. These records are available for use in the Reference Room. A separate guide exists for each of the seven collections. Once you are on the Summary Guide home page, if you click on “Summary Guide to the Holdings” (circled in red in the photo below) it will show you each of the seven categories of records you can browse.
Local Records are separated into county and municipal records and then sorted alphabetically thereunder. State, Federal, and British Records are sorted alphabetically by agency or department. Confederate records are separated into Army, District Court for South Carolina, and Admiralty Court. Records of Other States and Nations are sorted alphabetically by name of the state or country. Lastly, Private Records are separated into Church Records, Newspapers, Organizational Records, and Personal Papers.
Within each category, you will find different series for each creator. For example, if you were looking for records of the Department of Transportation you would click on “Summary Guide to State Records,” then click on “T,” then select “Transportation, Dept. of.”
Under the Dept. of Transportation you will find different series. Records series are the different types of records that are created by that agency, person, or organization. For the Dept. of Transportation, the different series include things like Maps, Minutes of the Dept. of Transportation Commission, Commission reports, Agency bulletins, Annual reports, and many others. The SCDAH houses over 11,000 series.
For each series, the Summary Guide lists the series number, the Record Group and Subgroup, the series title, the date range, and the quantity. In the example listed below the series number is S 233013, the record group is the Dept. of Transportation, the subgroup is the Dept. of Transportation Commission, and the series title is the Minutes of the Dept. of Transportation Commission. We have records in this series from 1917 to 2011 and we hold 33.66 cubic ft. and 33.00 microfilm reels of material.
If you want to find out more about this series or any series in the summary guide, you can visit the Online Catalog.
How to use the Online Catalog
To search for a specific series in the catalog you will need the series number. If you want to search for the Minutes of the Dept. of Transportation Commission you would need S 233013. When you type the series number in the keyword search in the Catalog it is important to note that you need to type it exactly as it is on the Summary Guide and place your search in quotation marks. For example to search for the Minutes of the Dept. of Transportation Commission you would search “S 233013”. Not all series numbers have a space between the letter and numbers so it is important to remember that if there is a space in the series number you must include the space. When you get the results you can see the same information listed on the Summary Guide. To view more details click on the “1)” in the left hand corner (circled in red in the photo below).
The catalog description may contain notes about the arrangement, a biographical note, a summary of what the series contains, a note about indexes to the collection, subject terms, and any other relevant information. To view a container and folder list for the series, you can click on the folder icon on the top left hand side of the catalog description page (circled in red in the photo below).
You can click on the containers to view which boxes and folders contain minutes for a specific date range.
Looking at the example below you can see that Container 36 has minutes from April 2006 to July 2008.
For some series, the containers and folders won’t be arranged chronologically, but instead numerically or by subject. In that case, the container list will show the numbers or subjects within each container. For example, Richland County indictments (pictured below) are arranged by roll number, so the container list shows that Roll nos. 126-172 are in Container 4.
You can also use the Catalog to do an advanced search, browse subject terms, or browse holdings. These options are all available under “Other Search Options” at the bottom of the Catalog home page.
Using the Summary Guide and Online Catalog can help you view what materials we have in our collection before you come to research! By using these tools researchers can be better prepared to request records. However, if you don’t know what specific type of records you are looking for or need assistance with your search, the SCDAH reference staff is available to help in person or remotely. For more info on researching at SCDAH visit the Research and Genealogy tab on our website.