Land Records ( Deeds-Grants-Petitions-Plats )


Webpage Date: 07/05/2010

Revised by: PMK


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Land Record History and Research Guide, by Dr Kevan Crawford

South Carolina Colonial Period


Charles I of England granted the Carolina region to Sir Robert Heath in 1629 but no serious attempts at settlement were made. In 1661-2 Charles II granted Carolina to 8 Lords Proprietor. The first permanent South Carolina settlement was made in 1670 on Albemarle Point which was moved in 1680 to Oyster Point on the Ashley and Cooper Rivers and named Charles Town.


The Lords Proprietor were overthrown in 1719 and the colonists governed for nearly 2 years until a provisional governor was appointed by the Crown. In 1729 the Carolina Colony was divided into 2 Crown Provinces, North and South Carolina.


South Carolina land was generally acquired from the colonial government, grant holders, or current deed holders. These records are maintained in 3 general formats.

  1. Land Petitions

    Petitions are applications for land grants or purchases from the colonial administration. They are not indexed but are in chronological order. Therefore a precept date is required to locate a petition.

    1. Records of the Grand Council, 1671 - 1692 (2 volumes)

    2. Records of His Majesty's Council (27 volumes)

  2. Land Warrants

    Warrants are instruments authorizing, certifying, or proving the transfer of land ownership.

    1. Warrants for Land in South Carolina, 1672 - 1721 edited by Alexander S. Salley, Jr. and R. N. Olsberg and published by the University of South Carolina Press, Columbia in 1977.

    2. Records of the Secretary of the Province and the Register of the Province of South Carolina, 1671 - 1675 edited by Alexander S. Salley, Jr. and published by the Historical Commission of South Carolina, Columbia in 1944.

  3. Plat Records and Memorials

    Recorded plats contain important information including the precept date necessary to locate the original petition. Another important land record is the Memorial. From 1731 through 1775, those who had obtained land were tasked with preparing a Memorial attesting to the location, quantity, names of adjacent land owners, and the boundaries of the land. Memorials also included a chain of title, often from the original patentee to the current owner.

    1. Combined Alphabetical Index is also found at the Greenville Public Library. Some have been microfilmed and are available at the FHL.

Example 1784 GA Petition


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Example 1784 GA Grant


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Example 1790 SC Census

1790 Census

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Example 1796 SC Registration


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Example 1800 SC Census

1800 Census

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Example 1803 Land Conveyance

Land Deed

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Example 1803 Dower Release

Dower Release

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Pendleton District - Post Revolution


From the South Carolina perspective Pendleton County within Ninety Six District was formed in 1769 and acted as the county authority on the frontier. About Jan 1791 Washington District was carved out of Ninety Six. In 1798 Pendleton District was formed out of Washington District. From the Georgia perspective present day Oconee County, South Carolina was originally entirely within Washington and Franklin County, Georgia. Georgia granted lands in this area during the period 1783-5 under Legislative authorization. Early grants made before September 1784 were administered by Washington County. Administration of all grants before September 1784 falling into Franklin County were transferred from Washington County when the Franklin Land Office opened in that month.


From p. 82 of Georgia Land Surveying History and Law by Farris W. Cadle (Athens, Ga., University of Georgia Press, 1991), "The remaining five thousand acre tract lay in the fork of the Keowee and Chattooga-Tugaloo Rivers at the head of the Savannah River--an area claimed by Georgia as Franklin County but claimed by South Carolina as well. By the Beaufort Convention, signed in 1787, this territory was allotted to South Carolina. The convention, however, allowed any Georgia grants that had been made in the region to be confirmed by South Carolina if the claimants registered their grants within twelve months." The section from which this came is called "Opening of the Land Office for Franklin and Washington Counties."


On 19 Feb 1791 the South Carolina Legislature passed a law authorizing registration of occupied land. Surveys were commenced shortly thereafter. Plat maps were compiled, finalized, and eventually certified on 8 Dec 1795. Registration of these grants began after the first of the year in 1796. Once clear title was obtained, then land could be exchanged between individuals through deeds, in South Carolina often called Mesne Conveyances and are recorded in the office of the Register of Mesne Conveyance. Conveyance Books were found in each county's Court Clerk's Office.

If you suspect that your ancestor received one of these Georgia/South Carolina grants, then check the following items in order:

  1. 1790 US Census noting the neighbors' names. South Carolina Land Courts required a minimum residence time on the property before regranting. Therefore, the subject should have been residing on the property during the census. Names help identify the property location.

  2. 1800 US Census (optional) comparing neighbors names with the 1790 census. This brackets the period during which the South Carolina Land Courts regranted land and provides additional information on the surrounding property owners.

  3. Pendleton Conveyance Books where occasionally the deed will mention the history of the property, the neighbors, and property improvements as well as the location, acres, witnesses, and monetary amount in consideration. In some cases, dower releases identifying the wife will accompany the deeds.

  4. Settlers of Pendleton District, 1777-1800 found in local libraries in the region, has an index to the South Carolina Land cases in the Table of Settlement as well as the number of acres.

  5. South Carolina Land Records should contain a petition with justification and a description of the property as well as a plat map.

If you have found all of the necessary info tracing a presence and continuous ownership of the property to this point, then you can make the jump to Georgia. Check the following in order:

  1. Georgia's Revolutionary Bounty Land Records, 1783-85 is found in some local libraries in Georgia. There are some equivalent publications with similar names which contain different information. The variety of information reflects the choice of format of each author. There were more than 10 different classifications of 1780's Georgia land grants. These books contain indexes of the various classifications of Georgia grants and bounties. Book titles are not necessarily indicative of the contents. Generally, the non-Georgia resident grants were awarded east of the Tugaloo River. Although the grants were not based on Revolution War bounty criteria, many grantees were veterans.

  2. Original Georgia Bounty and Land Grant Records contain the petition and award information which includes name, signature, date, amount of acreage qualified, and applicant's original state of citizenship (not necessarily the state of residence), and number of family members. The petitioner was required to appear before the Land Board in Augusta, Richmond Co. to sign an affidavit affirming the accuracy of the information contained in the petition. The number of acres granted were dependent on the qualifications of the applicant, the amount of land available, and the number of petitioners. The amount of land in the petition and the amount awarded most likely were different.

A good high profile example of a Georgia grant east of the Tugaloo River in present day Oconee County, South Carolina can be found in the published literature. Any reasonably detailed biography of Col. Benjamin Cleveland will describe the administrative procedures which non-Georgia residents followed for Georgia grant application and the subsequent South Carolina regranting actions in land courts. Cleveland was a North Carolina militia leader who was bankrupted in land speculation deals in North Carolina. He and several of his North Carolina neighbors rebuilt their lives in Pendleton, South Carolina. He was among the first group of Justices in the District.


All residents at that time in the part of Pendleton known today as Oconee County did not necessarily receive Georgia land grants. Two examples of this are Lewis Shelton and Aaron Smith, both of whom were officers in the North Carolina Line during the Revolution. They also served in the South Carolina Line and received land bounties from both North and South Carolina. Their North Carolina bounties were located in the Holsten River Valley of East Tennessee and their South Carolina bounties were mingled among the Georgia land grants.


Pickens and Anderson Districts - 1826-1868


The system of conveyance books continued after Pendleton District was dissolved into 2 districts, Anderson and Pickens. Each district recorded its own land conveyances in the District Recorder's Office. The Pendleton District Conveyance Books were inherited by Anderson District. Pickens District started a new system of Conveyance Books. It is important to know the chronology and system of inheritance in the event that your ancestor resided in the area in a period spanning any change in jurisdiction boundaries. With this knowledge you will know where to look for land records to determine when you ancestor moved in and out of the area to correlate migrations with other areas. Among the land conveyances are also found wives' dower releases on property as well as the occasional sale of slaves.


Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens Counties - Post 1868


In 1868 Anderson and Pickens Districts were divided into 3 counties, Anderson, Pickens and Oconee. Each county recorded its own land conveyances in the County Recorder's Office. Anderson District Conveyance Books were inherited by Anderson County. Pickens District Conveyance Books were inherited by Pickens County. And Oconee County started a new system of Conveyance Books.


The conveyances were recorded chronologically and accompanied with an alphabetic index. The original books were hand copied under the WPA of the 1930's. Microfilms of the copies are typically used for genealogical research. Under special circumstances the original books may be viewed.


Conveyances contain most of the following information; (a) name and county of residence of the grantor[s], grantee[s] and witnesses, (b) instrument [deed] date, (c) recording date, (d) location and description of the property, (e) amount in acres, and (f) consideration [sale price or value in trade]. Occasionally the previous property owner or neighbors may be mentioned in older transactions.

Found in South Carolina Department of Archives and History
Found in Georgia Department of Archives and History
Found in Family History Library


Please send updates and corrections to the above, but not lookup requests or questions.
Compiled and edited by: Dr Kevan Crawford
Descendent of James Crawford Pendleton (Oconee), SC and Franklin, GA, 1784-1808