South Carolina Church Records

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This entry was originally written by Johni Cerny and Gareth L. Mark for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the South Carolina Family History Research series.
History of South Carolina
South Carolina Vital Records
Census Records for South Carolina
Background Sources for South Carolina
South Carolina Maps
South Carolina Land Records
South Carolina Probate Records
South Carolina Court Records
South Carolina Tax Records
South Carolina Cemetery Records
South Carolina Church Records
South Carolina Military Records
South Carolina Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
South Carolina Archives, Libraries, and Societies
South Carolina Immigration
African Americans of South Carolina
South Carolina County/District Resources
Map of South Carolina

In the absence of early marriage and vital records, South Carolina church records play an important role in genealogical research. 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. All of the extant parish registers have been published; most have appeared in The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine or in book form. Extant records of the Protestant Episcopal Church may also be found in the Dalcho Historical Society, Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, 1020 King St., Charleston, SC 29403. See also Margaretta, Leland, and Isabella G. Childs, “South Carolina Episcopal Church Records,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 84 (October 1983): 250-63.

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. See William F. Medlin, Quaker Families of South Carolina and Georgia (N.p.: Ben Franklin Press, 1982). South Carolina Quaker records are included in William Wade Hinshaw, ed., Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, vol. 1 (1936; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994).

French Huguenots began to settle permanently in South Carolina in 1685 when land grants were issued along the shoreline. While most of the group’s early records have been lost, some publications speak of early members and their families. See Transactions of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina, (1888-present), the publication of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina, 25 Chalmers St., Charleston, SC 29401.

Presbyterians established their denomination in South Carolina during the early eighteenth century and later became associated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church. See Inventory of the Church Archives of South Carolina Presbyterian Churches: 1969 Arrangement with Indexes (South Carolina Historical Records Survey, Works Progress Administration, 1969). Write to the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, P.O. Box 847, Montreat, NC 29757, or Presbyterian College Library, Due West, SC 29325. See also Richard N. Cote, “South Carolina Religious Records: Presbyterian Records,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 85 (April 1984): 145-52.

Lutherans also established themselves in South Carolina during the eighteenth century with the arrival of German and Swiss settlers. Early Evangelical Lutheran records are excellent genealogical resources. Write to Lutheran Theological Seminary Library, Columbia, SC 29203.

The first Roman Catholic parish was established at Charleston in 1789. Known for keeping excellent records of christenings, marriages, and burials, the church has preserved its registers at the Charleston Diocesan Archives, Chancery Office, 119 Broad St., P.O. Box 818, Charleston, SC 29402.

The Baptist Church is contemporary South Carolina’s largest religious group, despite the fact that it was not established there until 1783. The South Carolina Baptist Historical Collection can be found in Special Collections, James B. Duke Library, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613 [1]. A list of South Carolina Baptist church records on microfilm available through interlibrary loan can be found at http://library.furman.edu/specialcollections/baptist/baptist_microfilm.htm.

Methodists arrived in South Carolina about the same time as the Baptists (1783). Methodist records include conference records, membership lists, and historical and biographical information. Write to South Carolina Methodist Conference Archives, Sandor Teszler Library, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC 29301.

For a complete list of South Carolina’s church records that have been microfilmed, see the Department of Archives and History website. The The Family History Library (FHL) also has a sizable collection of those records. The South Caroliniana Library of the University of South Carolina in Columbia houses some church records.

See also Richard N. Cote, “South Carolina Religious Records: Other Denominations,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 86 (January 1985): 50-61. Cote’s article discusses records of the following religious groups: African Methodist Episcopal Church; Congregational; Unitarian and Universalist Churches; the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); French Protestant (Huguenot) Church; Jews; Lutheran Church; Roman Catholic Church; and Society of Friends (Quakers).

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