The forerunner to the Probate Court was the Court of the Ordinary. The founding of the Colony in 1670 led to the creation of the original Probate Court. In the court's early days, the Royal Governors or their secretaries were the only Ordinaries in the province. Beginning in 1778, the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly was to appoint Ordinaries for each of the province's seven court districts. However, appointments did not occur until 1782, due to the presence of British forces in South Carolina. When the last Royal Governor fled after the adoption of the Federal Constitution on June 21, 1788, the General Assembly appointed an Ordinary to fulfill the duties of the office. 

In 1787, duties of the District Ordinaries transferred to county courts. Within a year of the abolishing of county courts in 1799, the South Carolina General Assembly created 24 circuit court districts and appointed Ordinaries in 1815. The South Carolina Constitution of 1868 replaced the Court of the Ordinary with the Probate Court. Changes to the South Carolina Constitution in 1895 required the Probate Court to be dependent on the General Assembly for funding and legal procedures.

Interesting Facts

  • Georgetown County holds copies of wills and estate papers from 1865 to the present. For colonial records, see the South Carolina Department of Archives and History or the Charleston County Probate Court.
  • Records of marriage licenses date from 1911, kept by churches before 1911.
  • Probate Court matters are generally conducted without a jury in accordance with state law, all parties have the right to request a jury trial.