South Carolina Church Records

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Introduction[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 Inventory of (SC) Church Archives 1937-1939 is a free online digitized version of W.P.A. reports describing South Carolina church records. It has been made available online by the South Caroliniana Library. At present (9/27/10), it includes reports from Abbeville, Aiken, Allendale, Lancaster, Richland, and Saluda counties.

The Family History Library has a large collection of Baptist, Methodist, and Church of England (also known as Anglican, and later Protestant Episcopal) church records on microfilm. From the Charleston area, for example, the library has copies of records from the South Carolina Historical Society, Southern Baptist Convention, and local churches. These materials include records of the Methodists (1845 to 1980 on 145 microfiche), Baptists (1868 to 1955), Evangelical Lutherans (from 1778), Congregationalists (from 1732), Protestant Episcopals (from 1713), Lutherans (from 1749), and Society of Friends (from 1719).

Many denominations have collected their records into central repositories (see below). Church repositories are listed in Local and Family History in South Carolina (see For Further Reading).

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 

For Baptists histories, see:

  • Bolt, Ernest C. South Carolina Baptist Churches by Association. Nashville, Tennessee: Historical Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, 196-. FHL film 1001802
  • Townsend, Leah. South Carolina Baptists, 1670-1805. Florence, South Carolina: Florence Printing Co., 1935. Digital Version, FHL book 975.7 K2t

An 1899 directory of Baptist ministers lists biographical details about many ministers born or serving in the state:[2]

  • The Ministerial Directory of the Baptist Churches in the United States of America. Oxford, Ohio: Ministerial Directory Co., 1899. Digital version at Google Books.

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

South Carolina churches.png
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.

Many of these records have been published. Baptisms and marriages from many colonial South Carolina parishes are indexed on FamilySearch. See: Hugh Wallis's IGI Batch Numbers for South Carolina, USA and the South Carolina History Magazine FHL book 975.7 B2s.

See also Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina Archives.

Parishes[edit | edit source]

Pages have been created for each of the colonial South Carolina's parishes. Each page describes its history and cites published copies of each parish's records:

All Saints · Christ Church · Prince Frederick · Prince George · Prince William · St. Andrew's · St. Bartholomew's · St. David's · St. George Dorchester · St. Helena's · St. James Goose Creek · St. James Santee · St. John's Berkeley · St. John's Colleton · St. Luke's · St. Mark's · St. Matthew's · St. Michael's · St. Paul's · St. Peter's · St. Philip's · St. Stephen's · St. Thomas and St. Denis

For a descriptive inventory of surviving colonial and more recent parish registers, see Margaretta Childs, and Isabella G. Leland, "South Carolina Episcopal Church Records," South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 84 (October 1983): 250-63. Digital version at JSTOR ($). WorldCat entry. FHL Book 975.7 B2s v. 84.

History[edit | edit source]

British troops burned many of South Carolina's Anglican churches during the Revolutionary War. Some were rebuilt, others remained in ruins, but many records survive.

  • Anderson, J.S. The History of the Church of England in the Colonies and Foreign Dependencies of the British Empire. 3 vols. London: Rivington, 1856. Digital versions at Internet Archive: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3. [Chapter 18, in Volume 2 and Chapter 30, in Volume 3 (pp. 581-696) cover the Carolinas.]
  • Clarke, P.G. Anglicism in South Carolina, 1660-1976. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1977.
  • Dalcho, Frederick. An Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina from the First Settlement of the Province, to the War of the Revolution; with Notices of the Present State of the Church in Each Parish and Some Account of the Early Civil History of Carolina, Never Before Published. Charleston: E. Thayer, 1820. FHL Film 22657; digital versions at Google Books; Internet Archive.
  • Thomas, Albert S. The Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, 1820-1957. Columbia, S.C.: R.L. Bryan, 1957. FHL Book 975.7 K2ta

Clergy[edit | edit source]

To learn more about the origins of Church of England ministers sent to South Carolina from England during the colonial period, start with these books: 

Society of the Descendants of the Colonial Clergy points researchers to many valuable resources.

Davis created a list of South Carolina ministers (of all denominations) listed in Weis's publication:

  • Davis, Robert S. "Some South Carolina Colonial Ministers, 1681-1776," The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Fall 2004):183-186. FHL Book 975.7 B2sc v. 32

Church of England ministers sent to South Carolina had often been educated at the English universities of Cambridge and Oxford. The website Expert Links: English Family History and Genealogy contains links to many of these university's records available online under the "Occupations" section.

The Clergy of the Church of England website (work in progress) also contains details of many of their ministerial careers before departing for America.

A special society in South Carolina was organized to care for the families of Episcopal clergy:

  • Society for the Relief of Widows and Orphans of the Clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, 1762-1861. Typescript, Charleston Historical Society, Charleston, S.C. Microfilmed 1951. FHL films 23346-23347 Items 1-2

The following church now reaches into three counties (Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester):[3]

  • Saint Barnabus Episcopal (Summerville, 1885-1930)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)[edit | edit source]

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The usage of "Mormon" and "LDS" on this page is approved according to current policy.

Early church records, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for South Carolina Wards and Branches can be found on film and are located at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The film numbers, for each ward, can be locate through the FamilySearch Catalog . Or by refering to Jaussi, Laureen R., and Gloria D. Chaston. Register of Genealogical Society Call Numbers. 2 vols. Provo, Utah: Genealogy Tree, 1982. (FHL book 979.2258 A3j; fiche 6031507). These volumes contain the film numbers for many (but not all) membership and temple record films.

In 1883, many Native Americans of the Catawba Tribe joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Disciples of Christ[edit | edit source]

Huguenot[edit | edit source]

Huguenots made settlements in Colonial South Carolina at Goose Creek, Orange Quarter, St. John's Berkeley, French Santee, New Bordeaux, and Purrysburgh.[4]

Several histories of South Carolina Huguenots have been written, including:

Many Huguenots appear in the following parish registers:

Jews[edit | edit source]

The Jewish faith has been in South Carolina in some form since the late 17th century. In fact the South Carolina's consitution, written by the founding fathers of the colony included the following phrase: Jews, Heathens, and others should have a chance to acquaint themselves with the purity of the Christian religion and by good usage and won over to embrace...the truth."

The Jews who first settled in Charlestown came largely from England and its' possessions. Usually settling in the port towns as merchants some hoped to buy land and become planters.[5]

Histories of the Jews in South Carolina include:

Several old Jewish cemeteries have been preserved in South Carolina, for example, see:

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

For a history of the Methodist Church in South Carolina, see:

Presbyterian and Reformed[edit | edit source]

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

To locate Presbyterian records see:

Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston has jurisdiction over the entire state.[6]

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

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

For a history of South Carolina Quakers, see:

[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. Davis points out that not all ministers participated, see: Robert S. Davis, "Some Baptist Ministers of South Carolina at the Turn of the Century," The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Winter 2004):13-22. FHL Book 975.7 B2sc v. 32
  3. Summerville, South Carolina, Wikipedia. Accessed 12 February 2011.
  4. Mary LeRoy Upshaw Pike and J. Sanders Pike. The Huguenot Crosses of South Carolina. Charleston, S.C.: Huguenot Society of South Carolina, 2001. FHL book 975.7 H2p
  5. Charles Reznikoff. The Jews of Charleston. The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1950
  6. Map of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States of America, Office of Catholic Schools Diocese of Columbus, accessed 3 Nov 2010.