South Africa Church Records

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South Africa
Church Records

For information about records for non-Christian religions in South Africa, go to the Religious Records page.

Dutch Reformed Church

The Dutch Reformed Church tradition is made up of three sister churches: the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK), the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk (NHK), and the Gereformeerde Kerke (GK).

Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK)

The Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, or NGK, was first established in 1665 with the arrival of Johan van Arckel in Cape Town. The church was subordinate to Amsterdam's control and an extension of the Dutch Reformed Church. It held a monopoly over the the Cape; the Huguenots that arrived in 1688 initially were allowed to hold services in French but were eventually absorbed into the NGK. One exception was allowed - a Lutheran church was established in Cape Town to service the German employees of the Dutch East Indies Company, or VOC. The NGK kept ties to the Netherlands until the early nineteenth century. In 1795, the United Kingdom assumed control over the Cape Colony, and the church became increasingly influenced by the British. With the establishment of an autonomous synod in the Cape in 1824, all connection was severed to the Dutch Reformed Church in Amsterdam, and an independent church was set up in the Cape. Scottish Presbyterian ministers began presiding over some congregations.

The NGK was Cape-centric, and neglected the outlying areas in the interior of South Africa. Many of the boers involved in the Great Trek were distrustful of the Cape government, as well as the British-influenced NGK. In 1853, the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk, or NKH, was established, and in 1860 it became the state religion of the South African Republic, in what was later to become the Transvaal. Another schism in 1859 led to the creation of the Gereformeerde Kerke, or GK.

A seminary was established in the Cape, eliminating the need for overseas-trained clergymen. As Cape-born ministers began leading the church, it started to become more conservative, and embraced a newly-emerging Afrikaans identity. After the devastating Anglo-Boer War (1900-1902), the church worked to help the Afrikaners to rebuild their lives, and the church became a place for Afrikaner nationalism.

The NGK today is the largest of the sister churches in South Africa, boasting over 1.1 million members in 1,162 congregations in South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, and parts of Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk (NKH)

Gereformeerde Kerke (GK)

The Gereformeerde Kerke (GK) was established in Rustenburg in 1859 over a dispute about hymnals.  The main church (NGK) introduced a new hymn book; church members were threatened with excommunication for refusing new songs they considered blasphemous.  The GK church has 415 congregations all over South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

Some Records are available online

Indexed records available on FamilySearch:

Methodist Church

Anglican Church

Indexed records available on FamilySearch:

  • Military records (baptisms, marriages and burials) - Cape Province, 1795-1803 (search International Genealogical Index- IGI)

Catholic Church

Lutheran Church

Other Churches

Records Online