South Carolina Church Records

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Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Church records and histories are critical to research in South Carolina because of the lack of civil vital records prior to 1900. During the colonial period, the Church of England, with 25 parishes by 1778, was the official church of South Carolina. In addition, many South Carolinians were Lutherans, Huguenots, and Quakers. Between the American Revolution and the year 1900, the largest religious groups in the state were Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians.[1]

The Church of England (known later as the Protestant Episcopal Church) was established as the official state-supported church of South Carolina in 1706, with responsibility for recording births, christenings, marriages, and burials. Between 1706 and 1778, twenty-five parishes were established, including two for the Huguenots, who were allowed to use a French version of the Book of Common Prayer. Quakers settled in South Carolina early; the first group was joined by emigrants from Ireland in the 1750s and by Quakers from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia after 1760. French Huguenots began to settle permanently in South Carolina in 1685, when land grants were issued along the shoreline. Presbyterians established their denomination in South Carolina during the early eighteenth century and later became associated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Lutherans also established themselves in South Carolina during the eighteenth century with the arrival of German and Swiss settlers. The Baptist Church is contemporary South Carolina's largest religious group, despite the fact that it was not established there until 1783. Methodists arrived in South Carolina about the same time as the Baptists (1783). [2]

Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]

To effectively use church records, become familiar with their content. Click on these links to learn about a specific record type:

Finding the Records[edit | edit source]

Look for online records.[edit | edit source]

Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.com, and MyHeritage.com can be searched free of charge at your local family history center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Caution sign.png

Online databases are incomplete. This can lead to two common errors:

  1. Near matches: Researchers might mistakenly accept an entry very similar to their ancestor, thinking it is the only one available. Only use information that matches your ancestor in date, place, relationships, and other details.
  2. Stopping research: Researchers might assume the database proves church records do not exist. Actually the record is still out there, just not in this incomplete collection of records. Keep searching!

FamilySearch[edit | edit source]

Ancestry.com[edit | edit source]

Baptist[edit | edit source]

Quakers (Society of Friends)[edit | edit source]

South Carolina Digital Library[edit | edit source]

Other Collections[edit | edit source]

Look for digital copies of church records in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
b. Click on Places within United States, South Carolina and a list of counties will appear.
c. Click on your county if it appears.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Click on Places within United States, South Carolina [COUNTY] and a list of towns will appear.
f. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
g. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
h. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Consult available finding aids.[edit | edit source]

These aids generally provide lists of records that are known to exist and information on their location.


Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]

Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.

  • Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
  • To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
  • Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
  • A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
  • If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
  • See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.
  • Each denomination page offers an online address directory of local churches for that denomination.

Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been deposited for preservation in government archives or in libraries. Watch for links to digitized, online records offered by the archives. Some archives provide research services for a fee. For others, if you cannot visit in person, you might hire a researcher.

Here you will find archive information unique to the state. Many more archives are kept by denomination. For denominational archives, go to Searching for Church Records by Denomination.


State Archives[edit | edit source]

South Carolina Department of Archives and History
8301 Parklane Road Columbia, SC 29223 Phone:803-896-6196


South Carolinian Library
910 Sumter St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208
Phone: 803-777-3132
Email: sclref@mail

Baptist[edit | edit source]

South Carolina Baptist Historical Collection
James B. Duke Library
Furman University    
3300 Poinsett Highway
Greenville, SouthCarolina 29613-0600
Phone: (864) 294-2194
Fax: (864) 294-2194 

Church of England (Anglican, Protestant Episcopal)[edit | edit source]

Before the American Revolution, the state church of South Carolina was the Church of England (also called Anglican, and later Protestant Episcopal). Besides keeping parish registers, the church kept many records of a civil nature in their vestry books. In many instances, parish registers containing baptism, marriage, and death records have not survived when vestry books have. Of the 25 colonial parishes, records remain for twelve. Copies of those are all available here, as listed in the FamilySearch Catalog. All of those records have been published in book form or in magazine articles.


Anglican diocese offices usually keep records only for closed churches. For all other records, contact the local parish. Church directories are linked below for each diocese.


Anglican Diocese of South Carolina
126 Coming Street
Charleston, SC 29403
Mailing Address: PO Box 20127, Charleston, SC 29413
Phone:+1 (843) 722 - 4075


The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina is a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The diocese covers an area of 24 counties in the eastern part of the state of South Carolina. In 2018, it had 20,763 baptized members and 53 parishes. The see city is Charleston, home to the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul.

The Anglican Diocese formed in 2012 when the historical Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina split into two groups after a long period of conflict over theology and authority within the national Episcopal Church. Bishop Mark Lawrence and a majority of the members of the historical diocese left the Episcopal Church but continued to claim diocesan property, including church buildings, and to be the continuation of the historical diocese. [3]


The Diocese of South Carolina
P.O. Box 20485
Charleston, SC 29413
Phone:(​843)259-2016
E-mail:info@episcopalchurchsc.org

"This was known as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina from January 2013 until September 2019. In 2012, a minority of the members of the historical diocese remained affiliated to the Episcopal Church and called themselves the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. This group also claimed the right to the name and property of the historical diocese. On August 2, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that 29 parishes and the St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center were the property of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and must be returned but that seven other parish properties were owned by the Anglican Diocese.


Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina
1115 Marion Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Tel: (803) 771-7800

The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina was created in 1922 and comprises 27,000 members and 62 congregations in the Upstate (northwestern) and Midlands regions of the South Carolina. The diocese contains five convocations: Midlands (Columbia area), Catawba (Lancaster area), Foothills (Greenville area), Gravatt (Aiken area), and Piedmont (Spartanburg areas).

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

James R. Crumley Jr. Archives
4201 Main St.
Columbia, SC 29203

Phone: 803-461-3234
E-mail: crumleyarchivist@gmail.com

  • Archives hold records for closed churches. For open churches write directly to the local church.

Methodist[edit | edit source]

South Carolina Methodist Conference Archives
Sandor Teszler Library
Wofford College
429 N. Church Street
Spartanburg, SC 29301-3663
Phone: (864) 597-4300
Fax: (864) 597-4329

Presbyterian and Reformed[edit | edit source]

Presbyterian Heritage Center
Department of History-Montreat Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
318 Georgia Terrace
P.O. Box 849
Montreat, NC 28757
Phone: (704) 669-7061
Fax: (704) 669-5369


  • Online Index for their collection. This includes a Congregation Vertical Files Index, a Biographical Vertical Files Index and Hall's Index of American Presbyterian Congregations.

Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston has jurisdiction over the entire state.[4]

Diocese of Charleston Archives
119 Broad Street
P.O. Box 818
Charleston, SC 29402
Phone: (803) 723-3488
Fax: (803) 724-6387

  • Research Services
  • Online Catalogue: Please note that the online catalog is not an exhaustive description of archival collections. A large number of finding aids are only available in a paper based format.

Correspond with genealogical or historical societies.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been given to historical societies. Also, historical societies may be able to tell you where the records are being held. To find a society near you, consult these lists:

Next, go to the Wiki article for your ancestors' denomination.[edit | edit source]

There are frequently additional, nationwide or regional archives and online collections for each denomination. Find the article for your ancestors' denomination and follow the instructions there to access these sources.

Wiki Articles for Records of Major Religious Denominations



Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]

You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by organizing in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:

  • name, including middle name and maiden name
  • names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
  • exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
  • names and approximate birthdates of children
  • all known places of residence
  • occupations
  • military service details


Dark thin font green pin Version 4.pngCarefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.

References
[edit | edit source]

  1. Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1972). FHL Book 973 K2ah.
  2. Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. Johni Cerny and Gareth L. Mark
  3. "Anglican Diocese of South Carolina" in Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_Diocese_of_South_Carolina. Accessed 19 July 2020.
  4. Map of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States of America, Office of Catholic Schools Diocese of Columbus, accessed 3 Nov 2010.