South Dakota Church Records

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Historical Background[edit | edit source]

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Before 1900, the largest religious groups in South Dakota were the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal, and Congregational churches.[1]

Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]

South dakota churches.png

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],, and 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]

Dutch Reformed[edit | edit source]

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

Presbyterian[edit | edit source]

Quakers[edit | edit source]

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

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The Family History Library (FHL) has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm for churches in the United States.
  • Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under the state, county, or town.
  • If you find a record that has not yet been digitized, see How do I request that a microfilm be digitized?
  • Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
  • To find records:
a. Click on the records of United States, South Dakota.
b. Click on Places within United States, South Dakota 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 Dakota [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.

Also, see Church Angel Address List for a comprehensive list of South Dakota churches.

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.

Mikkelsen Library[edit | edit source]

Mikkelsen Library, Augustana University
2001 S. Summit Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD 57197
Ph. 605.274.4921
Fax 605.274.5447

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

ELCA Region3 Archives
2481 Como Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55108-1496
Phone: (651) 641-3205

  • Archives hold records for closed churches. For open churches write directly to the local church. - This site contains German-Russian emigrant ancestry in pocket settlements in mid-west states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. Contains transcribed minutes of meetings, membership lists (some with parentage listed), birth, deaths, and marriages.]

Methodist[edit | edit source]

Archives and History Library
Dakotas Conference
United Methodist Church

McGovern Library
1200 W. University Ave.
Mitchell, SD 57301-4398
Phone: 605-995-2134
Fax: 605-995-2893

Episcopal[edit | edit source]

The Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota
500 South Main Avenue
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Phone: (605) 338-9751
Fax: (605) 336-6243

  • Episcopal archives only keep records for closed churches. For all open churches, contact the parish.

Raynor Memorial Libraries
1355 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53233
Information Desk: (414) 288-7556

Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]

Diocese of Rapid City
606 Cathedral Drive
Rapid City, SD 57709
Phone: (605) 343-3541

"So far, all parishes within our diocese of Rapid City’s sacramental record books have been scanned, cumulating a 5+ year diocesan wide project. This backup of sacramental records is paramount for security in case of a disaster such as flood or fire, in which some of our parishes have found a total loss to their records. Our archives space is very limited, yet we do our very best to accommodate all research requests for those seeking their sacramental records or genealogical research."
  • Also, the local parish will have details about existing records and their location: Parish Finder

The diocese includes the counties of: Bennett, Butte, Corson, Custer, Dewey, Fall River, Gregory, Haakon, Harding, Jackson, Jones, Lawrence, Lyman, Meade, Mellette, Pennington, Perkins, Shannon, Stanley, Todd, Tripp and Ziebach

Diocese of Sioux Falls
523 N. Duluth Ave.
Sioux Falls, SD 57105
Phone: (605) 334-9861

The diocese includes the counties of: Aurora, Beadle, Bon Homme, Brookings, Brown, Brule, Buffalo, Campbell, Charles Mix, Clark, Clay, Codington, Davison, Day, Deuel, Douglas, Edmunds, Faulk, Grant, Hamlin, Hand, Hanson, Hughes, Hutchinson, Hyde, Jerauld, Kingsbury, Lake, Lincoln, Marshall , McCook, McPherson, Miner, Minnehaha, Moody, Potter, Roberts, Sanborn, Spink, Sully, Turner Union, Walworth and Yankton

A dissertation about the history of the Catholic Church is Mary Claudia Duratschek, The Beginnings of Catholicism in South Dakota (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1943; FHL book 978.3 K2dand FHL film 1036266 item 4

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. William Chamberlin Hunt and United States Bureau of the Census, Religious Bodies: 1906 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1910), Vol. 1:353. Digital version at Google Books.