Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Beaufort County, South Carolina

view all


Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

Official Website


From the early days of plantations, African slaves outnumbered the European minority in the colony. The plantations on the Sea Islands had large concentrations of slaves, and frequently limited interaction with whites. The islands were sites of the development of the Gullah culture, which preserved elements from a variety of West African roots; the people also developed the Gullah language, a creole language. The county was majority black nearly to the mid-20th century.

Union troops took control of Beaufort County and occupied the area beginning in 1861. Many slaves escaped and went to Union lines. In some cases, planters had moved inland for refuge, leaving their slaves on the Sea Islands. Slaves began to organize schools and other parts of their communities early in the war in this county, especially on the islands. The Army founded Mitchellville on Hilton Head by March 1863 as a village where blacks could practice self-governance, and in 1865 it had 1500 residents. After the war, the Drayton family reclaimed this land for their use. In some cases the Union Army allocated plots for blacks for housing and cultivating crops.

When freedmen were granted citizenship and the franchise after the American Civil War by constitutional amendments, most joined the Republican Party. Although not the only black majority state, South Carolina was the only southern state during Reconstruction to elect a black majority of representatives to the state legislature. Beaufort County had many prominent black leaders, such as Robert Smalls, Jonathan Jasper Wright, William James Whipper, Julius I. Washington, and Thomas E. Miller.

Increasing violence during election campaigns in the state from 1868 on was used by white insurgents and paramilitary groups to suppress black voting; results were also dependent on fraud. In 1876, the Democrats regained control of the state legislature and governor's office, although results were disputed. While black Republicans continued to be elected to local office in Beaufort County and other areas through the next decades, in 1895 the Democrat-dominated state legislature passed a new constitution that effectively disfranchised most blacks through making voter registration and voting more difficult. They were excluded from the political system and kept in second-class status for decades. In 1903 the county "was reported to have 3,434 literate black males to 927 whites," but due to the discriminatory practices, nearly all blacks were barred from voting.

From 1900 through 1950, Beaufort County's economy suffered from the decline in agriculture, which together with oppressive social conditions of Jim Crow contributed to the blacks making a Great Migration out of the South. Blacks went to northern and midwestern industrial cities for jobs and became an urbanized population.

Adjacent Counties

Cities, Towns, Communities & Islands

Barataria Island | Beaufort (County Seat) | Bluffton | Brighton Beach | Bull Island | Burton | Callawassee Island | Cane Island | Coosaw Island | Dale | Dataw Island | Daufuskie Island | Fripp Island | Frogmore | Grays Hill | Harbor Island | Hilton Head Island | Hunting Island | Lady's Island | Laurel Bay | Lemon Island | Little Capers Island | Lobeco | Morgan Island | Parris Island | Pocotaligo | Poppy Hill | Port Royal | Port Royal Island | Pritchard Island | Pritchardville | Saint Helena Island | Seabrook | Sheldon | Shell Point | Spring Island | St. Phillips Island | Sun City | Warsaw Island | Yemassee (part)



The Civil War in Beaufort District

List of Beaufort County Plantations

Fort Frederick

Fort Fremont

Fort Howell

Hunting Island Light House

Hilton Head Range Rear Lighthouse

Hollings Basin National Wildlife Refuge (part)

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

1860 Slave Census Schedules & 1870 Surname Matches

Genealogy Trails

SC Gen Web