South Carolina Death Records and Death Index

It may surprise you to learn how often genealogists face this particular set of circumstances. They are aware of when their ancestor was born, when they may have married, when their children were born but they just can’t find out when they died.

There are a fair few instances where the only information missing is the death date which can be very frustrating. This is why knowing what death records may be available to you can be vital in your research.

It is important to note that one of the biggest issues in finding a death record can be looking in the wrong place. You may be surprised how often people miss records because they are looking in the wrong county and sometimes even the wrong state.

In this post we will be looking at South Carolina state death records and indexes to try and help you find those elusive ancestors. So if you are confident that your ancestor likely died in the state of South Carolina then read on and hopefully we can help you out.

About South Carolina

First settled by the English in 1670 South Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies and was the eighth state to ratify the Constitution on May 23rd 1788. It’s early economy was agricultural and relied heavily on the use of slave labor.

So heavy was this reliance that in 1730 two thirds of the population consisted of slaves of African descent. This likely was instrumental in South Carolina being the first state to secede from the Union at the onset of Civil War. In fact it was at Fort Sumter that the first shots of the war were fired on April 12th 1861.

Social Security Death Index 1935 – 2014

All American citizens, naturalized immigrants and resident aliens require a Social Security number for proof of identification and authorization to work. This number follows us throughout our life and when we die this nine digit code is very important.

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database of death records that was compiled from the United States Social Security Administration Death Master File. This was until 2014 when the rules changed and public access to the Death Master File had to take place through a certification program.

Those researching the deaths of ancestors in this state will likely find that most people who have died between 1936 and 2014 can be found on the Social Security Death Index. This does however only hold true if the person had a Social Security number when they died.

It is estimated that since 1973 the SSDI recorded 93% to 96% of the deaths of individuals aged 65 or over. The index was updated frequently and by June of 2011 there were 89,835,920 records available.

The index can be found on websites such as FamilySearch and and offers details such as:

  • Given name and surname (middle initial since the 1990s)
  • Date of birth
  • Month and year of death (Full date of death for accounts active after 2000)
  • Social Security number
  • State or territory Social Security number was issued
  • Last place of residence when alive including ZIP code

Click here to search Social Security Death Index 1935 – 2014

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

This is more or less an extension of the information you can find from the Social Security Death Index. It has been extracted from the SSDI records but features more details. It does not include all of the names found in the SSDI however but there are at least 49 million names included.

In this record you may find additional information such as:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Parents' names who, if deceased, would have been over 75 when you are viewing the records (may be redacted if under 75)
  • Citizenship status
  • Gender
  • Sometimes race or ethnic group

Click here to search U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

South Carolina Death Certificates and Index, 1915-1970

This index comes from so will require a paid subscription to the site to make full use of it. It contains digital images of death certificates as well as various other death indexes recorded during the time period.

This collection can produce information such as:

  • Name of deceased
  • Death date
  • Death place
  • Age at time of death
  • Gender
  • Race or color
  • Death certificate number
  • Birth date
  • Birthplace
  • Marital status
  • Spouse’s name
  • Residence
  • Occupation
  • Parents’ names
  • Cause of death
  • Name of informant
  • Burial date
  • Burial place

Click here to search South Carolina Death Certificates and Index, 1915-1970

South Carolina Death Records and Index, 1915-1965

This collection was created by the South Carolina Department of Health arranged by years and then subsequently alphabetically. It is available on FamilySearch for free as long as you have a registered account with them.

In this index you can find 40 years of recorded death certificates for South Carolina in digital image form. From these documents you can discover all the same information as listed in the index above. This index however only has the state death certificates but not the other indexes as above.

Click here to search South Carolina Death Records and Index, 1915-1965

South Carolina Death Index, 1915-1967

The South Carolina Department of Archives History offers this index completely free for people to search. It will help you locate certificate numbers for death certificates which can be used to order a copy of the original document.

Click here to search South Carolina Death Index, 1915-1967

South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964

If you know your ancestor died in a particular county in a certain year this FamilySearch collection may be of use to you in finding out more about them. The reason you need to know the county and generally when they died is because this has not been made searchable by name.

When seeking an ancestor's probate records in this collection you may have to read through a lot of digitized pages before you find them. There is always the risk that their records are not in this collection so be ready for some old school genealogy research and the possibility of not finding the information you need.

Click here to search South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964

Death Records Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County

Death records dated prior to the standardized state vital record mandates tended to be recorded by county clerks and would remain at that level of government. This is why it is always a good idea to see what the counties have in terms of genealogical records.

County Death Records Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County
  • See Richland County


South Carolina, like the other original colonies, has a long history and as such there are plenty of records concerning the people who lived and died in the state. There are online collections with the big genealogy websites as well as on the county level from historical societies and the like.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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