South Carolina Church Records
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. Lutherans, Huguenots, and Quakers also serviced many South Carolinians. Between the American Revolution and the year 1900, the largest religious groups in the state were Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians.
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. Church repositories are listed in Local and Family History in South Carolina (see For Further Reading). You can also write to the following addresses to learn where their records are located.
South Carolina Baptist Historical Collection
James B. Duke Library
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. FHL book 975.7 K2t
An 1899 directory of Baptist ministers lists biographical details about many ministers born or serving in the state:
- 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)
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 in the International Genealogical Index, see: Hugh Wallis's IGI Batch Numbers for South Carolina, USA and the South Carolina History Magazine FHL book 975.7 B2s.
Pages have been created for each of colonial South Carolina's parishes. Each pages 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. (FHL Book 975.7 B2s v. 84), WorldCat entry, digital version at JSTOR ($).
British troops burned many of South Carolina's Anglican churches during the Revolutionary War. Some were rebuilt, others remained in ruins, but many records survive.
- Anderson, J.S. The History of the Church of England in the Colonies and Foreign Dependencies of the British Empire. 3 vols. London: Rivington, 1856. Digital versions at Internet Archive: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3. [Chapter 18, in Volume 2 and Chapter 30, in Volume 3 (pp. 581-696) cover the Carolinas.]
- Clarke, P.G. Anglicism in South Carolina, 1660-1976. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1977.
- Dalcho, Frederick. An Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina from the First Settlement of the Province, to the War of the Revolution; with Notices of the Present State of the Church in Each Parish and Some Account of the Early Civil History of Carolina, Never Before Published. Charleston: E. Thayer, 1820. FHL Film 22657; digital versions at Google Books; Internet Archive.
- Thomas, Albert S. The Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, 1820-1957. Columbia, S.C.: R.L. Bryan, 1957. FHL Book 975.7 K2ta
- Fothergill, Gerald. A List of Emigrant Ministers to America, 1690-1811. London: E. Stock, 1904. Digital versions at Ancestry ($); Google Books; Internet Archive, 1965 reprint: FHL book 973 W2f 1965
- Weis, Frederick Lewis. The Colonial Clergy of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Boston, Mass.: Society of the Descendants of Colonial Clergy, 1955. FHL book 975 D3wc; digital version at World Vital Records($).
Society of the Descendants of the Colonial Clergy points researchers to many valuable resources.
Davis created a list of South Carolina ministers (of all denominations) listed in Weis's publication:
- Davis, Robert S. "Some South Carolina Colonial Ministers, 1681-1776," The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Fall 2004):183-186. FHL Book 975.7 B2sc v. 32
Church of England ministers sent to South Carolina had often been educated at the English universities of Cambridge and Oxford. The website Expert Links: English Family History and Genealogy contains links to many of these university's records available online under the "Occupations" section.
The Clergy of the Church of England website (work in progress) also contains details of many of their ministerial careers before departing for America.
A special society in South Carolina was organized to care for the families of Episcopal clergy:
- Society for the Relief of Widows and Orphans of the Clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, 1762-1861. Typescript, Charleston Historical Society, Charleston, S.C. Microfilmed 1951. FHL films 23346-23347 Items 1-2
- Saint Barnabus Episcopal (Summerville, 1885-1930)
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
In 1883, many Catawbs joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Disciples of Christ
- Ware, Charles Crossfield. South Carolina Disciples of Christ: A History. Charleston, S.C.: Christian Churches of South Carolina, 1967. FHL book 975.7 K2w
Huguenots made settlements in Colonial South Carolina at Goose Creek, Orange Quarter, St. John's Berkeley, French Santee, New Bordeaux, and Purrysburgh.
Several histories of South Carolina Huguenots have been written, including:
- Hirsch, Arthur Henry. The Huguenots of Colonial South Carolina. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1928. FHL book 975.7 F2h; digital version at World Vital Records ($). Wallace Davis published an index in 1989: FHL book 975.7 F2h index.
Many Huguenots appear in the following parish registers:
- Clute, Robert F. The Annals and Parish Register of St. Thomas and St. Denis Parish in South Carolina from 1680 to 1884. Charleston, S.C.: Evans & Cogswell, 1884. FHL book 975.7 A1 no. 33; digital versions at Ancestry ($); Google Books; another Google Books version; Internet Archive; World Vital Records ($).
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 persuasion...be won over to embrace...the truth."
The Jews who first settled in Charles town came largely from England and its' possessions. Usually settling in the port towns as merchants some hoped to buy land and become planters.
Histories of the Jews in South Carolina include:
- Elzas, Barnett Abraham. The Jews of South Carolina from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Philadelphia, Pa.: J.B. Lippencott Co., 1905. Digital version at Google Books; 1972 reprint: FHL book 975.7 F2je
- Gergel, Belinda Friedman and Richard Gergel. In Pursuit of the Tree of Life: A History of the Early Jews of Columbia, South Carolina and the Tree of Life Congregation. [Columbia, S.C.]: Tree of Life Congregation, 1996. FHL book 975.771/C1 K2g
- Reznikoff, Charles and Uriah Z. Engelman. The Jews of Charleston: A History of an American Jewish Community. Philadelphia, Pa.: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1950. FHL book 975.7915 F2r
Several old Jewish cemeteries have been preserved in South Carolina, for example, see:
- Elzas, Barnett Abraham. The Old Jewish Cemeteries at Charleston, S.C.: A Transcript of the Inscriptions on Their Tombstones, 1762-1903. Charleston, S.C.: Daggett Print., 1903. FHL book 975.791/C1 V2e; digital versions at Ancestry ($); Family History Archives; Google Books; Internet Archive; and World Vital Records ($).
South Carolina Methodist Conference Archives
Sandor Teszler Library
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:
- Shipp, Albert Micajah. History of Methodism in South Carolina. Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1884. Digital version at Google Books; FHL film 908353 Item 2. The appendix includes biographical sketches.
Presbyterian and Reformed
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:
- Inventory of the Church Archives of South Carolina Presbyterian Churches; 1969 Arrangement with Indexes. N.p.: South Carolina Historical Records Survey, WPA, 1969. FHL film 906117 and FHL film 906118
- Howe, George. History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina. 2 vols. Columbia, South Carolina: Duffie and Chapman, 1870-1883. Digital versions of Volume 2 at Google Books and Internet Archive. FHL book 975.7 K2h; This volume covers the history of the church to 1800. James D. McKain published an index in 1995: FHL book 975.7 K2h index
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston has jurisdiction over the entire state.
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)
For a history of South Carolina Quakers, see:
- Bowden, James. The History of the Society of Friends in America. 2 vols. London: W. & F.G. Cash, 1850-1854. Digital version of Vol. 1 at Google Books; FHL book 973 F2bj v. 1 [Volume 1 includes Carolina.]
- 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
- Summerville, South Carolina, Wikipedia. Accessed 12 February 2011.
- 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
- Charles Reznikoff. The Jews of Charleston. The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1950