The Register of Deeds – History & Interesting Facts

The title known as Register of Deeds refers to a specific position within a government that oversees the actual records in question. Charleston is one of only six counties in the state where the position is elected.

The Register of Deeds Office is a county office which provides “recorded” evidence of who owns land and where the land lines or boundaries are located. The office records more than deeds, though. For example, the office records:

  • plats,
  • mortgages,
  • leases,
  • assignments,
  • deeds, and
  • other miscellaneous documents (the names of the parties to the transactions; descriptions of the property; the payment or other form of consideration, if any).

Each document must be executed according to state codes. Property descriptions for real estate usually include acreage; physical location including natural features, boundaries, and surrounding landholders; building and other improvements on the property if any; and previous owners of the property. The descriptions of previous owners (chains of title) sometimes provide a history of property ownership back to the original land grant.

South Carolina’s Constitution of 1776, section 22, provided that the Register of Mesne Conveyances (as the office was previously named) would “be chosen by the General Assembly and the legislative Council, jointly by Ballot and Commissioned by the President and Commander in Chief during good behavior, but shall be removed on address of the General Assembly and legislative Council.”

Interesting Facts

  • In Fiscal Year 1996, the Register of Deeds office recorded over 81,000 documents.
  • The Register of Deeds has record books dating back to 1719.
  • If going back to 1719 isn’t sufficient, the earliest conveyances can be obtained from the archives in Columbia Conveyance Books series, 1673-1719.
  • The original documents and microfilm copies can be viewed in the Register of Deeds History Room, which is located on the second floor of the County Office Building (located at 101 Meeting St, Suite 200).
  • Local attorneys use the Register of Deeds Office for student instruction on conducting title searches.
  • The longest serving register is Julius Elisha Cogswell who served from 1893 through 1956.

In 1997, the state Legislature passed a law mandating the switch of the name from Register of Mesne Conveyances to Register of Deeds.