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South Africa Church Records

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

African Orthodox Records[edit | edit source]

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Records for the African Orthodox Church are not available online. Some records are located at the Pitts Theology Library at Emory University.

Online Resources and Websites[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The African Orthodox Church was founded in South Africa in 1924. The church was founded by African Church priests who were dissatisfied with their Church and wanted to run an independent church for black Christians. One of the leaders of the Church, Daniel William Alexander, traveled throughout South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, and elsewhere baptizing followers, training priests, and establishing parishes.[1]

Anglican Records[edit | edit source]

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Only a small percentage of Anglican records are available online. The records are in Afrikaans and English.

Online Resources and Websites[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The Anglican Church first entered South Africa in 1795 and then in 1806 with British troops, civil servants, and settlers. The first missionary arrived in 1821 and the first bishop in 1848.[2]

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

Baptism registers usually list:

  • Date and place of baptism
  • Child's name and gender
  • Date and place of birth
  • Parents' names and their residence
  • Occupation of father
  • Names of sponsors or witnesses
  • By whom the baptism was performed

Marriage registers usually list:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Race of the bride and groom
  • Name and age of groom
  • Groom's birthplace, marital status and occupation
  • Groom's residence at time of marriage
  • Name and age of bride
  • Bride's birthplace, marital status and occupation
  • Bride's residence at time of marriage
  • Marriage by license or banns
  • Names of witnesses
  • Name of minister and religious denomination

Burial registers usually list:

  • Date and place of burial
  • Name and age of deceased
  • Residence at time of death
  • Who performed burial ceremony

Dutch Reformed Records[edit | edit source]

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Many records for the Dutch Reformed Church are available online. The records are in Dutch, Afrikaans, and English.

Online Resources and Websites[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The Dutch Reformed Church was introduced to South Africa by the Dutch East India Company's settlement in 1652 at Cape Town. 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).

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. The dispute was concerning hymnals: the main church (NGK) introduced a new hymn book and church members were threatened with excommunication for refusing new songs they considered blasphemous.

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 almost 1.1 million members in 1,158 congregations in South Africa, Namibia, eSwatini, and parts of Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. The NHK today has 130,000 members in 300 congregations in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The GK church has 415 congregations all over South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. [3][4][5]

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch Reformed Church was the only officially recognized Church denomination in South Africa; many white residents belonged to it. In later years, especially during the 19th century, other church denominations were created, leading to a decline in the membership in the Church.

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

Baptism registers usually list:

  • Name
  • Date and place of baptism
  • Date of birth
  • Names of parents, sometimes including mother's maiden name
  • Name of person performing baptism

Marriage registers usually list:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Names and ages of bride and groom
  • Race of bride and groom
  • Country of birth and marital status of bride and groom
  • Occupation and residence of bride and groom
  • Marriage by license or banns
  • Names of persons giving consent
  • Names of witnesses
  • Name of officiant at ceremony

Burial registers usually list:

  • Date and place of burial
  • Name and age of deceased
  • Residence at time of death
  • Who performed burial ceremony

Membership records usually list:

  • Full name of member
  • Date of birth or age
  • Date of baptism
  • Where they joined
  • Pastor that oversaw joining

Church meeting minutes usually list:

  • Name
  • Date of baptism
  • Membership status
  • Name of mission
  • Marital status or relationships may also be listed

Methodist Records[edit | edit source]

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Only a small percentage of Methodist records are available online. The records are in Afrikaans and English.

Online Resources and Websites[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Methodism arrived in South Africa with British soldiers in 1806. A mission in the Cape was established in 1816. More missions were established in the next decades as Methodism expanded north.[6]

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

Baptism registers usually list:

  • Date and place of baptism
  • Name and gender of child
  • Parents' names, including maiden name of mother
  • Parents' residence
  • Child's age or date of birth
  • Name of person who solemnized the baptism

Marriage registers usually list:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Full name and age of groom
  • Groom's marital status, occupation, and residence
  • Full name and age of bride
  • Bride's marital status, occupation, and residence
  • Marriage by license or banns
  • Names of person(s) giving consent for the marriage
  • Names of witnesses

Burial registers usually list:

  • Name and age of deceased
  • Residence of deceased
  • Date and place of burial
  • Name of person presiding at burial

Other Denominations[edit | edit source]

Baptist Records[edit | edit source]

The Baptist Church entered South Africa in 1820 along with British emigrants. The first chapel was built in 1823. More chapels were constructed in the next decades as more Baptism emigrants entered South Africa and others joined.[7] For information on specific Baptist denominations, see Baptist Union of Southern Africa and Nazareth Baptist Church.

Pentecostal Records[edit | edit source]

The Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa is the largest Pentecostal denomination in South Africa. It was founded in 1908. Pentecostalism was brought to South Africa by American missionaries.[8] For more information, see Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa.

Roman Catholic Records[edit | edit source]

Currently, roughly 6% of the South African population are Catholics.[9] For more information, see Catholic Church in South Africa.

Zion Christian Records[edit | edit source]

The Zion Christian Church was founded in 1924 and spread throughout southern Africa.[10] For more information, see Zion Christian Church.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "African Orthodox Church Exhibit, January 2009," Pitts Theology Library, http://www.pitts.emory.edu/collections/digitalcollections/exhibits/africanorthodox/index.cfm, accessed 8 January 2019.
  2. Wikipedia Contributors, "Anglican Church of Southern Africa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_Church_of_Southern_Africa, accessed 18 September 2018.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (NGK)," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_Reformed_Church_in_South_Africa_(NGK), accessed 18 September 2018.
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (NHK)," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_Reformed_Church_in_South_Africa_(NHK), accessed 18 September 2018.
  5. Wikipedia contributors, "Reformed Churches in South Africa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformed_Churches_in_South_Africa, accessed 18 September 2018.
  6. Wikipedia Contributors, "Methodist Church of Southern Africa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methodist_Church_of_Southern_Africa, accessed 18 September 2018.
  7. Wikipedia Contributors, "Baptist Union of Southern Africa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptist_Union_of_Southern_Africa, accessed 18 September 2018.
  8. Wikipedia Contributors, "Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_Faith_Mission_of_South_Africa, accessed 18 January 2019.
  9. Wikipedia Contributors, "Catholic Church in South Africa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_South_Africa, accessed 18 January 2019.
  10. Wikipedia Contributors, "Zion Christian Church," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zion_Christian_Church, accessed 18 January 2019.

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