The goal of my research is to recreate as many of the missing land records for Orangeburgh District prior to 1865 as is possible. I do this in order to learn more about the families of Orangeburgh District and what their lives may have been like.
In order to accomplish this I maintain a personal research database of all known Orangeburgh District land records that I’ve been able to identify. This database is essential to my work of mapping the changes in land ownership in Orangeburgh District from its settlement in 1735 until after the Civil War.
I maintain files on many Orangeburgh District families. I am always looking for original sources for any family connected to the area. Family papers such as Bibles and letters are of great interest as are cemetery records. I work with the Orangeburg County Historical Society utilizing their cemetery transcriptions and offering corrections and updates whenever possible. Family cemeteries frequently provide clues to land ownership.
I have transcribed most of the early census records for Orangeburgh District into several databases. Census records can help identify neighbors and be useful in trying to map various plats. I hope to create maps of likely landowners for each census from 1790 through 1870. (Since the 1830 census was reported alphabetically, I won’t be doing a map for that count.)
I have published a series of articles on the 1790 through 1870 Orangeburgh District census records. Those articles discuss such things as the boundaries and divisions of each census, the enumerators and their knowledge (or lack of) regarding the area, and the legibility and probable accuracy of each enumeration. They appeared in the Orangeburgh German-Swiss Genealogical Society’s Newsletter from volume 11 (Fall 2005) to volume 13 (Spring 2008). A condensed version of those articles, “Orangeburg District Census Records 1790—1850,” appeared in Brent Holcomb’s South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, volume 36 (Spring 2008).
Several points are important to keep in mind regarding the accuracy of this type of mapping work. Surveying was not as accurate 150 to 200 years ago as it is today. Individual surveyors also varied in their abilities. Another factor was magnetic deviation. It varied over time but, in this area, was usually less than five degrees either side of north. Since surveying discrepancies were often this much, or more, I have chosen to disregard any allowances for magnetic deviation.
Other factors also contribute to the challenge of mapping plats. Some plats have missing details such as line directions and distances. Some are very difficult to read and some contain obvious errors. Colonial Plats from the South Carolina Archives are clerical copies made in the 1820s of the plat copies originally filed with the Surveyor General. Each time a document is copied, the chance of errors increases. With experience some of these problems can be resolved.
I make reasonable judgments to show plats without some of the conflicting lines that are created by the descriptions on the plats. If the variation is significant, though, I show a plat with dashed lines. A plat drawn by a surveyor is his attempt to represent what he located and marked on the land. The most important thing to remember is that the land was legally identified by the marks on the property, not by the drawing done by the surveyors. I have not done any significant on-site research of land boundaries but I do use modern tax maps and Google Earth to help identify still intact original boundary lines when possible.
If you have managed to read all of the information on this website, you will realize that this is a huge, time consuming project. I have plans to publish additional works on my research but that may take a few more years. In the meanwhile, I will be posting entries on the BLOG section of this website to allow anyone interested in my work to “look over my shoulder” while I proceed with this study. Be sure to subscribe via Email or RSS Feed to keep track of my latest reports.