It's odd that the bookstore at the S.C. Department of Archives and History would have to hold a really big book sale. After all, many of the low-cost publications the store sells can help patrons get big payoffs when consulting the historic public records the department holds.

Some of the books and booklets sold in the small store provide invaluable descriptions of the local, county and state records housed there. Other publications provide the historical context a family historian needs to design solid research plans. And most, if not all, are written in simple language that genealogists and other researchers can easily understand.

Granted, there probably was no better time to have such a sale than the weekend of the S.C. Genealogical Society's annual workshop. But the fact that the store seemed almost desperate to move the materials, which can be bought online all year, tells me that many genealogists are not buying and using them.

That's too bad.

The publications often are written by current or former archives employees who are experts on the records and historical topics they write about.

Genealogists can study them and decide on the best sources to consult at the archives before they arrive. They also can make use of what they learn from them when requesting that records be photocopied and sent to them.

But you need not be a seasoned genealogist to benefit from some of the publications.

The "Genealogy Starter Kit" by Alexia Helsley and others is a booklet collection designed to help those getting started on family history research in South Carolina. It includes a number of titles: Research in the Archives; Destroyed County Records; Selected Civil War Bibliography; Sources for Genealogists; and African American Genealogical Research.

"South Carolina Court Records: An Introduction for Genealogists" by Alexia Helsley and Michael Stauffer deals with the early court records at the archives available to researchers, the information they contain and time periods that they cover. Discussed are the court of common pleas, general sessions court, county and intermediate court, court of equity and probate court and maps that show changes in their jurisdictions.

"Guide to Civil War Records" by Patrick McCawley provides a description of available Civil War and Confederate veterans' records. It covers state and county records for South Carolina, National Archives microfilms and other sources.

Those three titles are a small sampling of the publications for sale.

Visit the archives at http://scdah.sc.gov/publications to see more. Check out those listed under every topic. Some of the most useful are not listed under "Genealogy." Prices start around $4, and most are less than $8.