South Carolina Vital Records

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Introduction to Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded in ledgers, registers, or on certificates. The United States Vital Records page has additional information on researching and using vital records.

In South Carolina, a computer-generated birth or death certificate can only be purchased from the South Carolina Division of Vital Records for certificates issued since January 1, 1915. The county branch offices of the Division of Vital Records can only issue a short form birth certification (birth card). These offices can issue a death certificate for deaths that occurred within that county in the last 5 years. These offices are located in the 46 county public health departments.

Marriage records from July 1950 to November 2009 are available from the Vital Records Office in Columbia, South Carolina. Marriage records prior to July 1950 and after October 2009 are available from the Office of the Probate Judge in the county where the marriage license was obtained.

Vital Records Collage.JPG

Vital Records Reference Dates[edit | edit source]

South Carolina's civil records start the following years:

Birth Marriage Death
Statewide Registration 1915 1911 1915
General Compliance 1918 1911 1918

A few cities have earlier birth, marriage, and death records.

South Carolina Birth, Marriage and Death Records Online[edit | edit source]

The following is a list of online resources useful for locating South Carolina Vital Records which consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths. After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.




Birth and Death Records[edit | edit source]

Pre-1915[edit | edit source]

South Carolina did not issue birth and death certificates prior to January 1, 1915. South Carolina did institute a number of laws regarding the registry of births and deaths, some going back as far as March 1, 1669/70. These laws however, were apparently not implemented or ignored. If they were implemented then the register books have not survived. Under the Church Act of 1706 the registering of births, marriages, and burials was transferred to the established church in the colony, the Church of England.[1] It did not matter if the individuals were members of the Church or not. The Church was disestablished as the state church in 1778, however the churches continued to create records according to their canon laws.

Beginning in 1706, birth, marriage and burial records were recorded in registers of the Church of England (later known as the Protestant Episcopal Church). There are seven Episcopal parish registers in existence from the colonial era. All of these registers have been published either in book form or in the South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine (FHL Collection Book 975.7 B2s). Theresa M. Hicks' book South Carolina: A Guide for Genealogists, pages 148-61 (FHL Collection Book 975.7 D27hs) includes a list of parish names and other churches. She provides the South Carolina Historical Magazine volume number and page where corresponding parish records have been published. She provides the title and author's name if the records were published separately or copied by the WPA.

Late in December 1853, the South Carolina state legislature passed the 1853 Registration Act[2], which required the tax collectors in the districts and parishes [counties] of the state to make "a separate return, stating the number of whites, male and female, who have been born, married, or who have died during the year in their respective households, and the number of blacks who have been born, or who have died during the same period." This law was strengthened by adding a payment to the collector in 1856[3], but was repealed in January 1861[4]. Unfortunately none of these registers have been found or are known to have survived.[1]

For additional information regarding other church or record substitutes see:

  • Inventory of the Church Archives of South Carolina Presbyterian Churches : 1969 Arrangement with Indexes originally prepared by the Works Project Administration (FHL Collection Films 906117 and 906118). Other denominations' records should also be consulted.
  • Local and Family History in South Carolina (FHL Collection Book 975.7 H23c) by Richard Cote for more information about the availability of church records to substitute for civil vital records.
  • South Carolina Name Index to Genealogical Records Collected by South Carolina Daughters of the American Revolution (FHL film/fiche beginning with 6052835). These indexed records include South Carolina church records and cemetery transcripts among other records.

Early vital records were kept by some of the larger cities and are available from the appropriate county health department, except for a few major cities where the records are at the city health department. The Family History Library has deaths for Charleston 1821-1886 (FHL film beginning with 23361) and births 1877-1901 (FHL film beginning with 23416.)

Delayed birth certificates[edit | edit source]

Some residents recorded delayed birth certificates that date back to the late 1800s. Andrew Jackson's delayed birth certificate (1766) is the earliest example. The clerk in Marion County recorded every entry in family Bibles when residents came to have their births registered.[5]

1915 and After[edit | edit source]

Statewide registration of births and deaths began January 1, 1915. For information write to:

Office of Vital Records and Public Health Statistics
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
2600 Bull Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Telephone: 803-734-4830
Fax: 803-799-0301

Only the person named (must be at least 18) on the certificate or the parent(s) named on the birth certificate may request a copy of a birth certificate. The guardian or a legal representative of the named individual or parent(s) may also request a copy of a birth certificate. Immediate family members may request a birth certificate for a deceased person if they submit an original certified copy of the registrant's death record.

FamilySearch has published South Carolina Births and Christenings as part of its Historical Records Collections.

Death Records[edit | edit source]

Wilbanks james walter.jpg

South Carolina required death certificates beginning January 1, 1915. Death certificates less than 50 years old must be ordered from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Please see information concerning ordering certificates under the heading "Birth and Death Records" on this wiki page. If you are not an immediate family member, you may be issued a statement of death naming the date and county of death.

After 50 years, death records become public record. Then any person may obtain an uncertified copy of the death certificate, upon submission of application form and fees. See S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control for details.

1915-1965 South Carolina Deaths, 1915-1965 at FamilySearch- How to Use this Collection; index and images. FamilySearch also has an online index to deaths for the years 1944-1955. The Family History Library collection includes death certificates 1915-1955. (FHL Collection Film beginning with 1913451).

  • South Carolina Death Records, 1821-1955 are available online through (subscription service).  Includes Charleston, Spartanburg, and Union City pre-1915 records. The records are indexed and provide access to available death certificate images (after 1915). ($)
  • Death Indexes 1915-1967 at South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control's Division of Vital Records.

Charleston and Georgetown both have some early death records.

Articles describing other FamilySearch Historical Records Collections can be found at:

Cause of Death[edit | edit source]

  • Causes of Death - use this resource when trying to interpret a disease or medical condition listed on a death record or certificate

Marriage Records[edit | edit source]

South Carolina did not require marriage licenses until July 1, 1911. The probate judge's office in the county courthouse holds licenses issued before 1950 and after October 2009. Statewide registration of marriages began in July 1950. Both S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the county probate court have copies of licenses issued after July 1, 1950 through November 2009.

During the colonial period, the governor, as judge of the Ordinary [Probate] Court could issue a marriage license. Some of these licenses have been found. Generally, most individuals would have been married in the parish church after banns had been published. The Act of 1704 and the Church Act of 1706 recognized the Church of England as the established church and the state was divided into seven parishes. Although the ministers of the "Dissenter" religions, everyone not a member of the Church of England, retained their right to baptize and marry, the law required the registrar of the parish to record all marriages. Not all marriages were reported to the parish registrar. This was the law until the Episcopal Church was disestablished in 1778 when South Carolina adopted a new Constitution. The dissenter religions may have kept their own records concurrently with the established church during the colonial period.[6] A few counties or cities may have earlier records than 1911. If they exist they would normally be in the custody of the county probate judge.

From the 1760s to the 1880s, some marriages were recorded in marriage settlements. These marriage settlements were legal "pre-marital agreements" primarily made by women who had been married previously to protect their property.[7] Some of these marriages were recorded in deed books of various counties.[8] Most settlements are found in two microfilm collections, South Carolina Marriage Settlements and Miscellaneous Records of South Carolina both located at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. The South Carolina Marriage Settlements are also at the Family History Library. FHL Collection All of these marriage settlements have been transcribed and indexed in Barbara R. Langdon’s 7 volume set titled, South Carolina Marriages. 975.7 V2L vol.1-7  WorldCat

Some larger cities and counties have early marriage records. Charleston and Georgetown both had early marriage records.

After the law was passed mandating the recording of marriages in 1911, some residents who had been married in the 1890s and early 1900s came before authorities to have their marriages officially recorded.[5]

In many cases newspapers may need to serve as a substitute for a marriage record. Numerous South Carolina marriages have been abstracted from newspapers (see the “Newspapers” page). Of special note:

  • Holcomb, Brent H. South Carolina Marriages, 3 Volumes. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984) (FHL book 975.7 V2hsc) This covers 1688 to 1820.
  • Salley, A.S. Marriage Notices in the South Carolina Gazette and Its Successors, 1732 - 1801. Albany, N.Y.: A.S. Salley, 1902. Digital version at World Vital Records ($).

Langdon's series of implied marriages is also a valuable substitute. See FamilySearch Catalog (Author Search for Barbara Langdon).

An article describing a FamilySearch Historical Records Collection South Carolina marriages can be found at South Carolina Marriages - FamilySearch Historical Records

Divorce Records[edit | edit source]

Divorce proceedings are kept by the county court. Divorce was illegal in South Carolina until 1949, and there are restrictions on the availability of the records. Write to the individual counties for information.

Additional Helps[edit | edit source]

Tips[edit | edit source]

  • Information listed on vital records is given by and informant.  Learn the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) of the record.  The closer the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) and whether or not the informant was present at the time of the event can help determine the accuracy of the information found on the record.
  • If you are unable to locate vital records recorded by governments, search for church records of christening, marriage, death or burial.  Baptists did not keep marriage registers.  A family Bible may have been used to record births, marriages and deaths.
  • Records for African Americans may be recorded in separate files with separate indexes.
  • Privacy laws may restrict your access to some vital records.  Copies of some vital records recorded in the last 100 years may be unavailable to anyone except a direct relative.
  • Search for Vital Records in the FamilySearch Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records.  Search for South Carolina to locate records filed by the States and then search the name of the county to locate records kept by the  county,

Lost and Missing Records[edit | edit source]


Abbeville 1873, Beaufort 1865, Chesterfield 1865, Clarendon 1911, Colleton 1805, 1865, Darlington 1806, Georgetown 1865, Lancaster 1865, Lexington 1939, 1865, Orangeburg 1865, Richland 1865, Sumpter 1801.

For a list of record loss in South Carolina counties see: South Carolina Counties with Burned Courthouses

See individual county wiki pages for more information about record loss in that county.
For further information on researching in burned counties, see the following:

Substitute Records[edit | edit source]

  • South Carolina Church Records Depending on the denomination, church records may contain information about birth, marriage and death.
  • South Carolina Cemetery Records Cemetery records are a rich source of birth and death information.  These records may also reveal family relationships.
  • South Carolina Census Census records are a valuable source for birth and marriage information. You may also determine the approximate time of death when the individual disappears from the census. This is a good place to begin a search.
  • South Carolina Military Records Military pension records can give birth, marriage and death information,  In addition, soldiers' homes records can included this same information.
  • Obituaries: Obituaries found in newspapers can list the age of the deceased, birth date and place, death date and place, and names of living relatives and their residences.
  • South Carolina Periodicals Local genealogical and historical societies often publish periodicals which may contain abstracted early birth, marriage and death information.
  • South Carolina Newspapers Besides obituaries, local newspapers may contain birth and marriage announcements and death notices.  Also check newspaper social columns for additional information.
  • Probate Records: If no death record exists, probate records may be helpful in estimating when an individual has died. Probate records in the 20th Century often contain the exact death date. Implied marriages are also identified when fathers mention married daughters.
  • History: Local histories, family histories and biographies can all be sources of birth, marriage and death information. Often this information is found in county-level records or in surname searches of the FamilySearch Catalog.

More Online South Carolina Vital Records Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Ruth S. Green, Charles H. Lesser, Charles R. Lessor, "South Carolina Marriage Records," The South Carolina Historical Magazine 79, no. 2 (Apr 1978): 155-162.
  2. South Carolina Statutes at Large 12:264
  3. South Carolina Statutes at Large 12:425-6
  4. South Carolina Statutes at Large 12:748-9.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Mike Becknell, "Overview of South Carolina Genealogical Research," Group Tour of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 10 May 2011.
  6. Theresa M. Hicks, South Carolina a Guide for Genealogists (Columbia, SC : South Carolina Genealogical Society, 2004) 132-33
  7. Echholz, Alice. Red Book. 3rd Ed. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004.
  8. Holcomb, Brent. A Guide to South Carolina Genealogical Research and Records. Columbia, SC: Brent H. Holcomb, 1998.