THE HISTORY OF THE CHARLESTON CHAPTER SOUTH CAROLINA GENEALOGICAL SOCIETYby Harold W Syfrett 1989
Several Charlestonians were active in the South Carolina Genealogical Society from the time it was organized in the fall of 1970. At our organizational meeting on March 19, 1974, nineteen signed a petition for a charter as a chapter. There were forty-two charter members listed in December 1974.
The first officers of the chapter were Carolina (Mrs Harold A) Moore, president; the Rev W H Haynsworth,. first vice president; Dorothy Dame (Mrs John) Gibbs. second vice president; Ethel S (Mrs Felix) Nepveux, recording secretary; Mary Z (Mrs Arnold M) Scott. corresponding secretary; Mabel B Pace. treasurer; and Frances Parham. archivist. Other presidents have been the Rev W R Haynsworth 1976, 1978, 1979; Robert E Babb Jr. 1977; Kay M (Mrs Harris M) Manning 1980, 1981; the Rev Harold W Syfrett 1982, 1983, 1988, 1989; Dr W Don Kay 1984, 1985; Hinkle McLendon 1986, 1987.
The chapter held its early meetings at the Charleston County Library. It has met at various repositories to acquaint the members with what was available in the Charleston area. Other meeting places have been Home Federal Savings & Loan Building. SCE&G Building. Baptist Student Center. and North Charleston High School. Since February 1983 it has met in the parish hall of St Michael’s Episcopal Church at the “Corner of Four Laws” in downtown Charleston. The parish hall is now being renoveted so the meetings are held at the Charleston County Library and at Dr Don Kay’s office complex.
Since its organization the chapter has held an annual workshop in October or April.
The chapter has published a newsletter since the early days of just a newssheet announcing meetings and activities. In 1982 it obtained a bulk mailing permit which requires mailings of at least 200 issues so it began to exchange with societies nationwide. THE BERKELEY CElMTERY RECORDS by Mildred Hood and Margit Benton is the chapter’s major publication along with the members’ SURNAME INDEX. Volume I of CHARLESTON COUNTY CEMETERY RECORDS is our next goal. Members Caroline Moore, Ethel Nepveux and Don Kay have published.
When Beverly Shuler set up a library in downtown Charleston the chapter moved its holdings in and moved with her to Cooper Hall Retirement Center. Mt Pleasant. and then to the LDS Family History Center of Charleston where they are today.
Charleston Chapter Historyby Harriet Little 2014
[This is intended as a brief history of our Chapter, hoping that it will put some of our current issues in perspective! At some future time, I would like to enlarge on it. Most of the information has been gleaned from our newsletters and minutes; if members have documented information that should be added, please let me know and I will gladly add it to the permanent record. HL]
The Chapter had a newsletter from the early days; specifically from March 1976, when it was a single page called “Newsletter”. The name “Low Country Courier” came into use with the November 1977 issue. It was mailed to the membership until April of 2011 when we started sending it as an e-mail attachment to those with e-mail addresses, thereby greatly reducing our cost to mail it to others. And the name that appears most frequently as a contributor over the years? Robert Dunbar.
A regular meeting place was a problem from early on: for example, minutes tell us that in 1988 the Chapter was meeting at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, October 1989 at the Charleston County Public Library, and November 1989 at Dr. Don Kay’s office.
In March of 1990, the group moved to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Hwy. 171, but continued to pursue the wish for “a building of our very own”. September 1990 we started soliciting donations for the building fund. In 1999 a meeting was held at Old Town Meeting Hall in North Charleston – a possible new meeting place, which was deemed too small, and in 2000, recognizing that we probably could never afford to own or rent a building, we voted to stay put. When St. Peter’s became unavailable, we met at various locations throughout 2007-8. After a June 2009 meeting at the Masonic Lodge, we started a 3-month trial in September, and decided to stay.
The Chapter began amassing books and periodicals with the hope of establishing a Library. In 1989, it was open Tuesday evenings, then at LDS, but looking for a new home. In 1990, it was still building up, and in 1997 moved to city-sponsored space in the Old Tobacco Factory, opening June 16. When that proved unsatisfactory, it was moved to Morningstar Storage (Hwy. 61) in 2003, where it was open on Saturdays by appointment.
That worked for a while, but in 2005 the books were donated to the Walterboro Historical Society library, and we vacated the storage unit in May 2006. This put a great stress on the Archivist, and in 2013 the Board-appointed committee recommended scanning and storing records digitally. This is an ongoing project, but has allowed us to start dispersing the remaining documents at our meetings.
Our main projects have always been cemetery records. April 1989 saw the initial surveying of Bethany and St. Matthews Lutheran churches, with publication in early 1992. Charleston County followed in 1998, and Live Oak Memorial Gardens in 2006.
Mostly for fun, we have made field trips – usually in-state, but not always. These have usually been day trips for groups of ten-twenty; frequently participants have located long-sought information and/or found an ancestor’s headstone.
Also for fun, but more for education, William Jones and Doris O’Brien started a computer club in 1993, initially meeting at LDS and sometimes at the College of Charleston. Over the years, this group provided articles for the LCC, made trips, and demonstrated new technology at our meetings.
In 2001, we had our first website, in conjunction with SCGS; our first webmaster redesigned our website in 2010, and a Facebook page followed in 2011.
Membership numbers have varied from a handful in the early days to a high of about 200 in 1996. Occasional membership drives (2000) and workshops brought in new members, e.g. a 2001 workshop had eighty in attendance, netted $600 and twenty-seven new members!
Since 2009 it has seemed more feasible to hold smaller workshops at a variety of locations in an effort to reach more people. In recent years, our membership has varied from about 125-150.