Church or Parish Records

The documents available at Churches include:

Church records can provide a wealth of information but are problematical in that not all churches have central repositories for their records. Several churches still have their records at parish level.

Church records are the oldest records that most people ever use preceding the information available from the Department of the interior.

Records for the Dutch Reformed Church in SA are extant almost from the founding of the settlement at the Cape. These records are also centralized in a few church archives, which makes access very much easier.

Information available from Church Records


These generally give the full names and surname of the child, the birth date (but not before 1800 AD) and baptism date, the names of both parents and the names of witnesses. Witnesses are often close relatives that helps in building up family groups.


These will generally give the full names and surnames of both parties, their ages, occupations, whether married after banns or special licence and the names of witnesses, and of the officiant. If you can get photocopies of the original, these are of great interest, as you can build up a collection of signatures of ancestors in instances where it would be impossible to obtain photographs.


Some churches keep records of burials performed from the church or of persons buried on church property. These records vary greatly according to the minister involved. However, they can be a useful source of information.


These can have very varied information that can aid the genealogist. The type of information found depends entirely on the situation. This is therefore a secondary rather than a primary source.


The records available from cemeteries are:

Tombstone inscriptions provide a wealth of information in that they provide information such as date and place of birth and death, age of the deceased at death, place of origin, names of other persons related to the deceased, besides the names, maiden surname and 'pet names' of the deceased.

The limitation is that the availability of the information is dependant on the location of the tombstone and only for as long as the inscription remains legible.

There are of course a great many rural or farm cemeteries outside the jurisdiction of municipalities, considering that South Africa was, until relatively recently, primarily a country of farmers.

The National Council of the Genealogical Society is addressing this problem with their Cemetery Recording Project by which it is hoped to document the headstone inscriptions of all the cemeteries in South Africa, including remote rural farm cemeteries.

This information is indexed by cemetery, and the results are published by the State Archives Service. Copies are available at all archives' depots and at various libraries and institutions that deem it necessary to purchase these volumes.

The cemetery information is also available on computer to which the following institutions have access:

New information is constantly being added, as more cemeteries are processed by the Archives Service.

The published indices can supplement your research by providing a quick reference, to ascertain where a person is buried and thus at which provincial archive depot his death notice is held; or where or when the person was born, which could help you in finding his baptismal entry, and so on.

The indices are particularly helpful for children who died at a young age and for whom there is rarely a death notice.

Burial Registers rarely provide more information than the person's full names, his date of burial and his age at death. Burial registers only exist for cemeteries within municipal boundaries and are of course the property of the town council concerned.

These registers become invaluable when a person is buried in a grave that doesn't have a headstone and the register is the only means of identifying where and when he was buried.