Resources for US Church Records
Was your ancestor a church member?
One way to determine the religious affiliations of your ancestors is to search for their obituaries and cemetery records. Pay attention to family traditions, children’s names, and marriage returns; the style, translation, and language of old family Bibles. Check for local histories, and county history biographies (often called “mug books”). Local histories frequently mention early churches or the predominant denominations in their localities. Also, check local newspapers and deed book entries for your ancestor’s surnames.
Resources for US Church Records
Church Histories & Records in Ancestry.com – Card Catalog
“Church records contain information about births, marriages, deaths, baptisms, and christenings. Prior to the 1800s (when many Western countries began taking censuses), church records are often the most reliable documentation of major life events.”
- “Identify a denomination first, and use it in your search; church records are organized by denomination.
- Customarily, weddings took place in the bride’s church.
- Look for clues in a family Bible, baptismal certificates, wedding announcements”
“Our Parish records page contains a search field for all parish records in the UK and Ireland, as well as search tips and a list of parish collections for the region.”
“Our collection of U.S. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America records …” “Search our entire collection of Church Histories & Records to find church histories…”
US Church Records Cyndis List (From: http://www.cyndislist.com/religion/ ) 341 links
- General Resources
- Libraries, Archives & Museums
- Locality Specific
- Maps & Geography
- People & Families
- Professional Researchers, Volunteers & Other Research Services
- Publications, Software & Supplies
- Queries, Message Boards & Surname Lists
- Records: Born, Married, Died & Buried
- Shakers: United Society of Believers in the Second Coming of Christ
- Social Networking
- Societies & Groups
- LDS – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Types of Church records:
- Admissions and removals
- Financial records
- Sunday School lists
- Church censuses
- Church related newsletters
US Church Records FamilySearch
Since vital records in most of the United States did not begin until about 1900, the exception being some New England states, church records can be especially useful as a substitute for birth, marriage, and death information, and they add to the historical information about your ancestor.
Types of Church Records
- A baptism or christening could be either for a child or an adult, depending on the church and would include the name, date, and place of this event. An actual birth date may be included in some cases.
- A church marriage record gives the name of the bride and groom, the date of marriage, the ages of the couple, the residence of the couple, and parents sometimes.
- Burial records include the name of the deceased, the date of burial, place of burial, the age of the deceased and may include the date and place of death, the name of the spouse, or the name of the parents.
- Church membership records give the name of the person and the date and the place the list was made. They may also give the spouse’s name, the date of admission, and letters of admission or dismissions.
Additional Church Records
|Letters of transfer Admissions/removals|
|Sunday School lists Church-censuses|
Church related newsletters
Church Archives or Central Headquarters: The church records you are seeking may have been sent to the headquarters of the church. Contact that church to see if they allow public access to their records and to see what kinds of records are available. For contact information for each church, go to WIKI > United States Church Records and click on a church from the list.
|Country of Origin||Church in Original Country||First Arrived in U.S.||Name of Church in U.S. and Website||Location in U.S.||Kinds of Records Kept|
|Southern Europe: France, Southern Germany, Italy, Spain, Southern Switzerland||Catholic Church Based on the designation of the Apostle Peter by Jesus Christ||1565 (Spain) 1649 (Eng) 1700s (Spain)||Catholic Church Website and this Website||Florida, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Maryland, Louisiana.||Births and christenings, marriages, burials, and deaths.|
|England||Congregational Church (Separatists, Puritans) Influenced by theology of Robert Browne||1620||The Disciples of Christ, Christian Church, or United Church of Christ Website||Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut (State Church in New England until 1833.)|
US Church Records RootsWeb
|Religious Institutions Records – Exploring church records of Colonial America|
One way to determine the religious affiliations of your ancestors is search through obituaries and cemetery records. Pay attention to family traditions, children’s names, and marriage returns; the style, translation and language of old family Bibles, and check local histories, and county history biographies (often called “mug books”). American local histories frequently mention early churches or the predominant denominations in their localities. Don’t overlook local newspapers and deed book entries. Many of our forebears’ names appeared in the local newspapers.
Religious institutions/church records may include:
- Membership lists. These may include new and departing members, and those who excommunicated or censured.
- Minutes of various organizations within a church.
- Biographical notes on members and pastors.
- Notes on funerals — sometimes including the names of those who attended.
A number of state and county historical societies as well as state archives have obtained copies of church records. There also are church-supported colleges that act as repositories for the records of their own denomination. By reading the county histories of those areas in which your families resided at different times you will learn the names of the churches (at least the early ones) that were established, and often there will be membership lists or biographical information about the early religious leaders. America has, almost from its beginning, been a country of religious diversity. Many of our immigrant ancestors came here for, or because of, religious reasons. The value of certain church records to genealogists: dates and places of birth, christening, marriage, death and burial records.
Church records often predate civil vital records, and can fill gaps in those instances where civil records are missing. Additionally, church records may consist of minutes, financial records, annual reports, publications, correspondence, clippings, photographs, programs, genealogical charts, even blueprints of church buildings. Moreover, they may include scattered records of various church organizations including missionary and women’s societies.
- Puritans established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They and the Separatists of Plymouth Colony were the first of many groups known as Congregationalists. In 1660 approximately 85 percent of the total (white) population of the Colonies was Anglican or Congregationalist.
- The Anglican Church (the Church of England, also known as Protestant Episcopal or Episcopal) was also well established in colonial Virginia.
Colonial Jewish settlements were in New York (at the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in 1654, most of them being refugees from the Dutch colony of Recife, Brazil), Savannah, Georgia, Philadelphia, Charleston, South Carolina, Newport, Rhode Island and Richmond, Virginia.
In New York and New Jersey, the Dutch Reformed groups were well established by the late 1600s.
Society of Friends (Quakers) began arriving from England, Wales, and Germany in the late 1600s. Many of them settled near Philadelphia, and by 1700 the society had influence in most of the New England and Middle Atlantic colonies. Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, Ohio, and Georgia.
Several groups of the Evangelical, German Reformed and German Lutheran faiths settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s; along with the various German Pietists, such as the Mennonites, Dunkards, Brethren, and Amish
US Church Records RootsWeb (cont.)
If your ancestors arrived from Scotland and Northern Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries, they likely were Presbyterians. By mid-18th century this denomination had nearly as many members as the Anglican and Congregationalist churches. From Maryland, the Presbyterian Church spread throughout the colonies and formed churches in all 13 of them.
The Baptists, led by Roger Williams who organized a church at Providence, Rhode Island in 1639, and John Clarke, who established one at Newport about the same time, grew to become the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. by the early 1800s.
The Methodists, found mostly in the South prior to 1775, numbered fewer than 7,000 at that time, but prospered during the Revolutionary War and doubled their membership.
In 1654 Roman Catholics from England founded Maryland. However, later they were restricted by law in that colony and others. These restrictions were not lifted until after the Revolution.
- Canadian Baptist Archives. http://www.macdiv.ca/students/baptistarchives.php
- American Baptist-Samuel Colgate Historical Library. http://www.crcds.edu/ABHSLib.asp Southern Baptist Historical Library & Archives http://www.sbhla.org/
- Brethern Historical Library and Archives http://www.cob-net.org/fobg/library.htm
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) http://www.lds.org/
- Episcopal. Archives of the Episcopal Church, USA. http://www.episcopalarchives.org/
- Huguenots. The National Huguenot Society http://huguenot.netnation.com/
- Greek Orthodox http://www.goarch.org/
- Jewish. American Jewish Historical Society Archives http://www.ajhs.org/
- JewishGen: The Home of Jewish Genealogy http://www.jewishgen.org/
- Lutheran. http://www.elca.org/archives/
Concordia Historical Institute – Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod http://chi.lcms.org/
Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania Historical Library and Archives http://www.mhep.org/library2.html
Centre for Mennonite Brethern Studies (Canadian Conference of MB Churches) http://www.mbconf.ca/mbstudies/
- Methodist Archives and Research Centre, Joyn Rylands University Library of Manchester. http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/specialcollections/collections/methodist/
- Methodist (United) http://www.umc.org/
Southern Methodist University; Bridwell Library for Perkins School of theology, SMU.
- Moravian Church http://www.moravian.org/
- Pentecostal http://www.iphc.org/
- Presbyterian Historical Society http://history.pcusa.org/
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) http://www.libertynet.org/pacscl/phs/
- Quakers. Religious Society of Friends http://www.quaker.org/
- Roman Catholic http://www.cyndislist.com/catholic.htm
- Catholic Family History Society of London, England http://www.catholic-history.org.uk/cfhs/
- American Baptist Historical Society, 1106 S. Goodman St., Rochester, NY 14620-2532
- American Jewish Archives 3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220
- Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, 500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081
- General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 127, Drew University, Madison, NJ 07940
- Historical Foundation Presby – Reformed Churches, Assembly Drive, Box 847, Montreat, NC 28757
- Huguenot Historical Society, Box 339, New Paltz, NY 12561
Presbyterian Historical Society, 425 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147-1516