Q. How do I get started?

The recommended method of getting started is to first read the guide to searching the Online Records Index which can be found here.

Otherwise begin your research with the following

Look for the Search builder section on the right side of the page.

Then find Full names. If you do not see a text box under Full names, click its small triangular icon.

Click Find any under the textbox.

Start typing a last name. When the dropdown displays a name that interests you, click it.

Momentarily at least one record will appear to the left.

Scroll up and down to see all the records.

A description will be at the top of each record; the name you picked will be highlighted in red.

Repeat this with more names, if you want to. This will add to the list of records.

Now click in the Places textbox. You will see places in the records you picked.

Select from the other search boxes: Topics, Dates, Document types, Series, Record groups.

Q. If I pick a name, can I also search on places or topics?

Yes, yes, yes. All the search boxes work together to narrow your search.

Q. What is in here?

We have created more than 315,000 online records that describe our documents, photos and maps. You can search for them here and view, magnify and download images of them.

There are wills, photos of old schools, vintage maps, bills of sale, speeches, plats. See the long list under How to search > Document types.

You can:

Q. Can I use more than one browser tab to searchs?

Sorry. One tab only at a time. You can use different browsers at the same time, though.

Q. The records have too much information. How can I look at just a few things?

You can customize the output.

Collapse individual sections with Customize > Hide people, Customize > Hide topics and so on.

Click the triangular icon to collapse or expand a record.

The Sort options rearrange the order of the records.

Q. I want to clear everything and start over. How?

Click the Clear button in the records menu.

Q. I'd like to run my search again. How?

Click the Reload button in the records menu.

Q. How do I print a list of these records?

Click the Print button in the records menu.

Q. How do I print a single record?

Click the printer icon in the upper right corner of each record.

Q. Some records have a thumbnail image, and some don't. Why?

If a thumbnail or image icon appears in the record, click it to see the images. You can magnify, print and download (using the tools in the upper right corner of the image gallery). Arrows right and left move you through the image set.

If there is no image, the document exists in the archives but hasn't been added to the online system. Visit the archives building in Columbia to see it or request a copy (See How to search > How to request a document ).

Q. I selected a name. Now there are only a few items in the Places and Topics search boxes. Why?

If you pick a name and get a record that shows four places, then the Places dropdown will show those four places. Same with the other search boxes. This helps you narow your search. If you find that the search results are becoming too narrow, remove items from the search boxes.

Q. What are the Find any and Find all buttons for?

The Find all button creates the narrowest search.

For example, clear the records using the Clear menu item. Select Find all under "Places" and select "Richland District" and "Richland County". You get a handful of records, and each record contain both places. Compare this to searching with Find any, which returns more than 5,000 records containing either "Richland District" and "Richland County."

Q. And what happens when I search using the First letters under Full names?

If you search on "Smi", you will see all records with last names that starts with "Smi". The First letters feature is only available under Full names.

Q. How do the search boxes affect each other?

Here's an example. Clear the results using the Clear menu item. Under Full names, click Find any, then search for "Altman, N. T."

Two items appear. Altman is in both.

Open the Places search box. Three items appear. Notice that these places appear in the two records.

Open Topics box. "Pensions and Annuities" is there. It also appears in one of the Altman records.

Open Dates. Note that the lowest date appears in the Militia Enrollments record. The high date appears in the pension record.

Document types, series and record groups all reflect what is in each record. Each record has just one.

To sum up, once you start a search using, for example, a full name, the system narrows the topics, places and other search boxes to what is in the record set.

Q. How can I get the Internet address of the image I'm looking at?

In Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera, right-click the image (control-click in Safari) and find the menu item that allows you to save or copy the image link. This does not work in Internet Explorer or Edge, though these two browsers allow you to email a picture.

Q. How does the description search work?

You can search for any word in the record descriptions. Click on Description search.

Type in "Ducks", and you get four records. Clear the box and type "Rice"; you get 440 records. Type in both and you get 442 records. Type in as many terms as you like.

The description search is independent of the other search boxes.

Q. How do I use dates in my search?

Typically you will use dates once you have already narrowed your search. Say you select the topic "Churches And Synagogues." You should get about 280 records. Open the date section and look to the right of the dropdown. Notice Low and High: These are the boundaries of your record set.

Open the dropdown and pick Years, then type in 1700 and 1750. About 20 records appear, narrowing yoru search considerably. Sort them using Sort > Chronologically

Some records are dated with just a year, some with a month and some with a day. Some have a date range.

Your search options are flexible. You can search an entire year by selecting "Year" from the dates dropdown, or "Month" or "Day." Or you can search on a date range.

Let's say you want records for a given day. Select "Day" and type in "1799/04/01". The search algorithm is broad enough to pull in loosely dated items (by year or month).

After the search completes, click Sort > By date. Scroll through the records. Notice that the first records have the date 1799. Then come records with 4/1799, then a few with 4/1/1799. The more specific records are at the end.

To see everything within a whole year, pick "Year," and type in a year.

You can search a range using "By years," "By months" or "By days".

When you search on a range, you will also pull in records whose date range overlap your range.

Q. When I try to remove an item from a textbox, it doesn't go away.

It may be time to reload the app. Use control-F5 to do so.