United States Church Records

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[[Portal:United States of America|Portal:United States of America]]
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{| class="FCK__ShowTableBorders" border="0" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" width="100%" align="center"
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|-
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| width="58%" | <br>''[[United States|United States]] [[Image:Gotoarrow-kelly.png]]&nbsp; [[United_States_Church_Records|Church Records]]''<br><br>
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__TOC__
  
Many original church records of the U[[Portal:United States of America|nited States]] are still at the local church. Others have been gathered into a church or state archives or deposited with a local historical society. To locate them, you must first identify your ancestor's denomination.
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| <br>[[Image:{{Holy Trinity Church}}]]
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'''If you know the denomination:'''
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{{Template:US-church-sidebar}}
  
*Look for their records in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under [STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - CHURCH RECORDS.  
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=== U.S. Church Records  ===
*Write directly to the minister of the local church. The addresses are usually in city or telephone directories. Some denominations, such as the Roman Catholics and Lutherans, also publish directories. Addresses are also listed in Melton's National Directory . . . cited in “Guides to Church Records” below.
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*Write to the historical society or church archives that may have the records.
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*Write to the church headquarters to ask where the records of the specific congregation are located.
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'''If you do not know the denomination of your ancestors:'''
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The United States is a country of religious diversity. Unlike many other countries, there has been no “state church,” except for a few periods in some of the early colonies.
  
*Search marriage records, obituaries, family and local histories, cemeteries, and family Bibles for clues.
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Church records in the United States began in the early 1600s.&nbsp; Unfortunately, the United States did not require a civil registration or recording of births, marriages, and deaths until into the 20th Century. Sometimes church records are the only records containing&nbsp;birth, marriage and death&nbsp;about individuals.&nbsp;Therefore, they are a valuable substitute when vital records do not exist.  
*Check local histories and city directories to determine which churches were in the area or neighborhood at the same time as your ancestors.  
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*Write to a local library or historical society for information on churches in the area. Regardless of your family's past or present denomination, look for family information in the records of other churches in the area.
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The following is a partial list of some of the major denominational archives and sources that can provide more information.  
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Your ancestor may have changed denominations for reasons of convenience or conviction. &nbsp;When the family moved to a new community, they may have started attending a church located there, or they may have changed denominations by conversion.  
  
=== Baptist  ===
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For more information see the [[United States Church History|history of American Churches.]]
  
'''American Baptist - Samuel Colgate Historical Library'''<br>1106 South Goodman Street<br>Rochester, NY 14620-2532<br>Telephone: 716-473-1740<br>Internet: [http://www.baptisthistory.us/ http:www.sbhla.org]
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To learn more about the church records and their repositories, click on a state below.  
  
'''Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archive'''<br>901 Commerce Street, Suite 400<br>Nashville, TN 37203-3630<br>Telephone: 615-244-0344<br>Internet: [http://www.sbhla.org/ www.sbhla.org]  
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{| width="503" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" class="FCK__ShowTableBorders"
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|-
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| valign="top" align="left" |
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*[[Image:Alabama flag.png|border|22x15px|Alabama flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Alabama Church Records|Alabama]]
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*[[Image:Alaska flag.png|border|22x15px|Alaska flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Alaska Church Records|Alaska]]
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*[[Image:Arizona flag.png|border|22x15px|Arizona flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Arizona Church Records|Arizona]]
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*[[Image:Arkansas flag.png|border|22x15px|Arkansas flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Arkansas Church Records|Arkansas]]
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*[[Image:California flag.png|border|22x15px|California flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[California Church Records|California]]
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*[[Image:Colorado flag.png|border|22x15px|Colorado flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Colorado Church Records|Colorado]]
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*[[Image:Connecticut flag.png|border|22x13px|Connecticut flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Connecticut Church Records|Connecticut]]
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*[[Image:Delaware flag.png|border|22x15px|Delaware flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Delaware Church Records|Delaware]]
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*[[Image:District of Columbia flag.png|border|22x11px|District of Columbia flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[District of Columbia Church Records|District of Columbia]]
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*[[Image:Florida flag.png|border|22x15px|Florida flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Florida Church Records|Florida]]
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*[[Image:Georgia flag.png|border|22x14px|Georgia flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Georgia Church Records|Georgia]]
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*[[Image:Hawaii flag.png|border|22x11px|Hawaii flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Hawaii Church Records|Hawaii]]
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*[[Image:Idaho flag.png|border|22x18px|Idaho flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Idaho Church Records|Idaho]]
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*[[Image:Illinois flag.png|border|22x13px|Illinois flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Illinois Church Records|Illinois]]
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*[[Image:Indiana flag.png|border|22x15px|Indiana flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Indiana Church Records|Indiana]]
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*[[Image:Iowa flag.png|border|22x15px|Iowa flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Iowa Church Records|Iowa]]
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*[[Image:Kansas flag.png|border|22x13px|Kansas flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Kansas Church Records|Kansas]]
  
=== Congregational  ===
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| valign="top" align="left" |
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*[[Image:Kentucky flag.png|border|22x15px|Kentucky flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Kentucky Church Records|Kentucky]]
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*[[Image:Louisiana flag.png|border|22x15px|Louisiana flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Louisiana Church Records|Louisiana]]
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*[[Image:Maine flag.png|border|22x15px|Maine flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Maine Church Records|Maine]]
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*[[Image:Maryland flag.png|border|22x15px|Maryland flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Maryland Church Records|Maryland]]
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*[[Image:Massachusetts flag.png|border|22x13px|Massachusetts flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Massachusetts Church Records|Massachusetts]]
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*[[Image:Michigan flag.png|border|22x15px|Michigan flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Michigan Church Records|Michigan]]
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*[[Image:Minnesota flag.png|border|22x14px|Minnesota flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Minnesota Church Records|Minnesota]]
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*[[Image:Mississippi flag.png|border|22x13px|Mississippi flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Mississippi Church Records|Mississippi]]
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*[[Image:Missouri flag.png|border|22x13px|Missouri flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Missouri Church Records|Missouri]]
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*[[Image:Montana flag.png|border|22x15px|Montana flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Montana Church Records|Montana]]
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*[[Image:Nebraska flag.png|border|22x13px|Nebraska flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Nebraska Church Records|Nebraska]]
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*[[Image:Nevada flag.png|border|22x15px|Nevada flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Nevada Church Records|Nevada]]
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*[[Image:New Hampshire flag.png|border|22x15px|New Hampshire flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[New Hampshire Church Records|New Hampshire]]
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*[[Image:New Jersey flag.png|border|22x15px|New Jersey flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[New Jersey Church Records|New Jersey]]
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*[[Image:New Mexico flag.png|border|22x15px|New Mexico flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[New Mexico Church Records|New Mexico]]
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*[[Image:New York flag.png|border|22x11px|New York flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[New York Church Records|New York]]
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*[[Image:North Carolina flag.png|border|22x15px|North Carolina flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[North Carolina Church Records|North Carolina]]
  
'''Congregational Library'''<br>14 Beacon Street<br>Boston, MA 02108<br>Telephone: 617-523-0470<br>Fax: 617-523-0470<br>Internet: [http://www.congregationallibrary.org/ www.congregationallibrary.org]  
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| valign="top" align="left" |
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*[[Image:North Dakota flag.png|border|22x17px|North Dakota flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[North Dakota Church Records|North Dakota]]
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*[[Image:Ohio flag.png|border|22x14px|Ohio flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Ohio Church Records|Ohio]]
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*[[Image:Oklahoma flag.png|border|22x15px|Oklahoma flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Oklahoma Church Records|Oklahoma]]
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*[[Image:Oregon flag.png|border|22x13px|Oregon flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Oregon Church Records|Oregon]]
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*[[Image:Pennsylvania flag.png|border|22x15px|Pennsylvania flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Pennsylvania Church Records|Pennsylvania]]
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*[[Image:Rhode Island flag.png|border|21x20px|Rhode Island flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Rhode Island Church Records|Rhode Island]]
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*[[Image:South Carolina flag.png|border|22x15px|South Carolina flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[South Carolina Church Records|South Carolina]]
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*[[Image:South Dakota flag.png|border|22x13px|South Dakota flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[South Dakota Church Records|South Dakota]]
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*[[Image:Tennessee flag.png|border|22x13px|Tennessee flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Tennessee Church Records|Tennessee]]
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*[[Image:Texas flag.png|border|22x15px|Texas flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Texas Church Records|Texas]]
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*[[Image:Utah flag.png|border|22x15px|Utah flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Utah Church Records|Utah]]
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*[[Image:Vermont flag.png|border|22x13px|Vermont flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Vermont Church Records|Vermont]]
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*[[Image:Virginia flag.png|border|22x15px|Virginia flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Virginia Church Records|Virginia]]
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*[[Image:Washington flag.png|border|22x13px|Washington flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Washington Church Records|Washington]]
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*[[Image:West Virginia flag.png|border|22x12px|West Virginia flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[West Virginia Church Records|West Virginia]]
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*[[Image:Wisconsin flag.png|border|22x15px|Wisconsin flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Wisconsin Church Records|Wisconsin]]
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*[[Image:Wyoming flag.png|border|22x15px|Wyoming flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Wyoming Church Records|Wyoming]]
  
=== Jewish  ===
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|}
  
'''American Jewish Archives'''<br>3101 Clifton Avenue<br>Cincinnati, OH 45220<br>Telephone: 513-221-1875<br>Fax: 513-221-7812<br>Internet: [http://www.americanjewisharchives.org/ www.americanjewisharchives.org]
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=== Church Records Types  ===
  
'''American Jewish Historical Society Library'''<br>2 Thornton Road<br>Waltham, MA 02154<br>Telephone: 617-891-8110<br>Fax: 617-899-9208<br>Internet: [http://www.ajhs.org/ www.ajhs.org]
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Each denomination has different records they kept&nbsp;in accordance with their theology.&nbsp; Some types of church records that can be found are:  
  
=== Latter-day Saints (Mormons)  ===
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*Christenings/Baptisms
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*Marriages
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*Burials
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*Confirmations
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*Communion
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*Admissions and removals
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*Financial records
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*Sunday School lists
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*Church censuses
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*Church related newsletters
  
'''Family History Library'''<br>35 N. West Temple Street<br>Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3400<br>Telephone: 801-240-2364<br>Fax: 801-240-1584<br>Internet: [http://www.familysearch.org/ www.familysearch.org]
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=== Information found in Church Records  ===
  
Other archives and libraries also have records. For information about records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints see the [http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/Rg/frameset_rg.asp?Dest=G1&Aid=&Gid=&Lid=&Sid=&Did=&Juris1=&Event=&Year=&Gloss=&Sub=&Tab=&Entry=&Guide=LDSRec.ASP LDS Records Research Outline].  
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The information kept in a church record&nbsp;by a specific church depended largely on the denomination of the church and the record keeper. Each denomination may have recorded different information.  
  
=== Lutheran  ===
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Church records contain additional information&nbsp;when they&nbsp;recorded&nbsp;church sacraments or ceremonies.&nbsp; For example, christenings or baptisms often included the birth information of a child, parents of the child, and witnesses or godparents, which were often relatives. &nbsp;
  
'''Concordia Historical Institute'''<br>The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod<br>801 De Mun Avenue<br>St. Louis, MO 63105<br>Telephone: 314-505-7900<br>Fax: 314-505-7901<br>Internet: http://chi.lcms.org/
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=== How to Locate Church Records  ===
  
'''Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA Archives)<br>'''8765 West Higgins Road<br>Chicago, IL 60631-4198<br>Telephone: 773-380-2818<br>Internet: [http://www.elca.org/archives/ www.elca.org/archives/]<br><br>If a local church is still active, it will be able to help find their records. The records of disbanded U.S. churches are at the ELCA Archives in Chicago. The archives has records of many congregations; those on microfilm can be borrowed for a small fee. Partial lists of church records in its collection are:
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Church records are kept at local churches, in church archives, at historical and genealogical societies, and in libraries. &nbsp;Many church records have been pulbished in books and periodicals.
  
*American Lutheran Church (ALC) Archives. ''ALC Congregations on Microfilm''. Dubuque, Iowa: The Archives, [197-?]. (Family History Library&nbsp;fiche [http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlcatalog/supermainframeset.asp?display=titledetails&titleno=269930&disp=ALC+congregations+on+microfilm%20%20&columns=*,0,0 6330690-93].) Arranged by state and city of congregation. The ALC Archives are now part of the ELCA Archives.
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To locate your ancestor in church records you must know:&nbsp;  
*''American Lutheran Church Shelf List Index to Their Church Records Microfilmed as of 1987''. N.p., 1988. (Family History Library book [http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlcatalog/supermainframeset.asp?display=titledetails&titleno=437527&disp=American+Lutheran+Church+shelf+list+inde%20%20&columns=*,0,0 973 K2aL].)
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*A guide to most Lutheran churches and addresses is:
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*''Lutheran Church Directory for the United States 1982''. New York, New York: Lutheran Council in the USA, 1981. (Family History Library book [http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlcatalog/supermainframeset.asp?display=titledetails&titleno=1049302&disp=1982%20%20&columns=*,0,0 973 K24L].)
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=== Methodist  ===
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*Where they lived
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*The denomination
  
'''United Methodist Archives Center'''<br>Drew University Library<br>P.O. Box 127<br>Madison, NJ 07940<br>Telephone: 201-408-3189<br>Fax: 201-408-3909<br>Internet: [http://www.gcah.org/ www.gcah.org]
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'''Where they lived:''' It is necessary to know the town or at least the county your ancestor lived in to locate their church records. This will help you&nbsp;narrow down possible churches your ancestors may have attended.<span style="display: none" id="1283981264854S"> Locating your ancestor in the censuses can help you determine where they lived in a particular year.</span>  
  
=== Presbyterian  ===
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'''Determining the Denomination:''' With the religious freedom in the United States, many different churches have thrived throughout the Country’s history. This may make it difficult to determine the denomination of your ancestor.
  
'''Southern Region'''
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Suggestions for determining denomination:
  
Presbyterian Church (USA) Dept. of History<br>318 Georgia Terrace<br>Box 849<br>Montreat, NC 28757<br>Telephone: 704-669-7061<br>Fax: 704-669-5369<br>Internet: http://www.upress.virginia.edu/epub/pyatt/mont01.html
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*Look in home sources for church certificates such as a baptism certificate or a marriage certificate. Also search for funeral notices to see&nbsp;where the funeral took place.
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*Obituaries may mention the church where the funeral took place.
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*Locate the marriage record or certificate for a couple. If they were married by church authority, it will state the name of the clergyman and sometimes the church.
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*Look for the cemetery they were buried in. Some&nbsp;churches have their own cemeteries. If they were buried in a church cemetery, they belonged to the church at one point.
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*The family Bible might reveal which church the family belonged to.
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*County histories may contain information about the local churches in the area.
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*If your ancestor lived in a large city, check the city directory to see what churches were in the&nbsp;neighborhood. Some denominations had congregations by ethnic type (Irish, German, English, African-American).&nbsp;&nbsp;City directories&nbsp;often list the pastor or priest and&nbsp;you may be able to determine&nbsp;the ethnicity of the congregation.&nbsp;
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*Contact the local genealogical society or public library for information on churches in the area.
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*Some communities only had one church, so most residents would have attended that church.  
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*Sometimes an ancestor preferred to attend a church close to his or her home, and was not concerned about the denomination he or she attended. &nbsp;Check churches close to your ancestor's home.  
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*Your ancestor&nbsp;may have traveled some distance to attend a church&nbsp;in the next town or county, if the denomination was important.
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*If you know&nbsp;your ancestor's&nbsp;country of origin, it can give you a clue as to their religion. Some individuals immigrated to avoid religious persecution, and&nbsp;may have belonged to a church not popular or common in their home country. The following table gives the more prominant churches of a particular country and the first denomination you should research for you ancestor. It also gives the American name of the church, if it changed.
  
'''Northern Region'''  
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{| border="1" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" width="500" align="center"
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|-
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| '''Country of Origin'''  
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| '''Prominent Church'''
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| '''Church in U.S.'''
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|-
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| Denmark
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| Lutheran
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| Lutheran
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|-
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| Finland
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| Lutheran
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| Lutheran
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|-
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| France
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| Roman Catholic
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| Roman Catholic
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|-
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| Germany
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| Roman Catholic
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| Roman Catholic
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|-
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| Italy
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| Roman Catholic
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| Roman Catholic
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|-
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| Latin Countries
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| Roman Catholic
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| Roman Catholic
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|-
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| Norway
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| Lutheran
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| Lutheran
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|-
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| Poland
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| Roman Catholic
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| Roman Catholic
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|-
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| Scotland
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| Church of Scotland
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| Presbyterian
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|-
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| Sweden
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| Lutheran
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| Lutheran
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|-
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| England
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| Church of England or Anglicans
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| Protestant Episcopal
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|}
  
Presbyterian Historical Society<br>425 Lombard Street<br>Philadelphia, PA 19147-1516<br>Telephone: 215-627-1852<br>Fax: 215-627-0509<br>Internet: [http://www.history.pcusa.org/ www.history.pcusa.org]
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=== Obtaining Church Records: ===
  
For their obituaries, news clippings, ministerial service, genealogies, histories, and biographical sketches see:
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Once you determine&nbsp;the denomination and where your ancestor lived,&nbsp;try the following to locate church records.
  
*Presbyterian Historical Society (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). ''Miscellaneous Biographical Collection''. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1967. (On 69 FHL films starting with 506383.)
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==== From the Church ====
*Benedetto, Robert. ''Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Presbyterian Church, USA''. New York, New York: Greenwood Press, 1990. (FHL book 973 A3ben.) Indexed.
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[http://www.libraryireland.com/ScotchIrishAmerica/Contents.php Ulster Ireland Presbyterian Immigrants] <br>An account of the (mainly) Ulster Presbyterians who immigrated to America in the 18th century and includes genealogical information. It also provides detail on the social and political conditions that the immigrants faced during that period. An extensive index is included.
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If you know the church your ancestor&nbsp;attended, contact the current minister to find out what records are still available. Some churches keep their records and provide a way for you to research the records yourself.  
  
=== Roman Catholic  ===
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If the records can only be viewed at the church, make an appointment with the minister or secretary to examine the records. Remember, the records are the property of the church. There may be instances when the minister or a representive will not allow you to view the records, but will look at&nbsp;a record for you.
  
Records of most parishes are kept in the individual parishes or in diocese offices. Guides to dioceses and parishes are:
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==== From the Church Archives or Denomination Headquarters  ====
  
*''Official Catholic Directory''. Wilmette, Illinois: P. J. Kennedy and Sons, annual. (FHL book 282.025 Of2.)
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When a church closes or the church records are no longer held at the church,&nbsp;the records of their congregation may&nbsp;go the denomination archives, or their church headquarters. Many larger denominations have centralized records and provide a way for the records to be accessed by genealogists. Some denominations still keep their records private and give no access to church records. It is important to contact the church organization&nbsp;to see what is available.  
*Humling, Virginia. ''U.S. Catholic Sources: A Diocesan Research Guide''. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1995. (FHL book 973 K2hu.)
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For older North American church records kept by priests of the Order of the Holy Cross contact:
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For contact information&nbsp;for each denomination, click [[United_States_Church_Records|here]] and choose a church from the list.
  
'''Holy Cross Provincial Archives'''<br>P.O. Box 568<br>South Bend, IN 46556<br>Telephone: 219-631-5371<br>Internet: [http://www.holycross.edu/departments/library/website/archives/jprovincials.html www.holycross.edu/departments/library/website/archives/jprovincials.html]
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==== FamilySearch.org  ====
  
=== Society of Friends (Quakers) ===
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Many christenings and marriages listed in the records of some churches (such as the Congregational, Dutch Reformed, and Lutheran) have been listed in the International Genealogical Index (IGI). This index is available online at:
  
'''Orthodox Records'''
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*[https://familysearch.org/ www.familysearch.org].
  
Magill Historical Library<br>Haverford College<br>Haverford, PA 19041<br>Telephone: 610-896-1175<br>Fax: 610-896-1102<br>Internet: [http://www.haverford.edu/library/special/ www.haverford.edu/library/special/]  
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Hugh Wallis&nbsp;identifies which baptisms, christenings, and marriages of all religious faiths have been indexed in the International Genealogical Index on his website:&nbsp;[http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hughwallis/IGIBatchNumbers.htm IGI&nbsp;Batch Numbers - British Isles and North America].
  
'''Hicksite Records'''
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==== Genealogical and Historical Societies  ====
  
Friends Historical Library<br>Swarthmore College<br>500 College Avenue<br>Swarthmore, PA 19081<br>Telephone: 610-328-8496<br>Internet: [http://www.swarthmore.edu/library/friends/ www.swarthmore.edu/library/friends/]  
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Some churches donated their records to local genealogical and historical societies.&nbsp; Locate a list of [http://www.obitlinkspage.com/hs/ genealogical&nbsp;and historical societies in the United States]&nbsp;or,&nbsp;list of [http://www.daddezio.com/society/hill/index.html genealogical and historical societies in the United States.]&nbsp;See also, Cyndi's List - Societies &amp; Groups:&nbsp;[http://www.cyndislist.com/societies/ http://www.cyndislist.com/societies/]  
  
Important guides to records include:
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==== From College and Public Libraries  ====
  
*Hinshaw, William Wade. ''Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy''. Six Volumes. [http://www.erhs.info/ www.erhs.info] Ann Arbor, Michigan: Edwards Brothers, 1936-1950. (FHL book 973 D2he; film 432597-606; fiche 6051371-79.)
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Many local&nbsp;universities and public libraries have copies of church records.&nbsp; Most have websites and list their holdings online.&nbsp; Locate a list of [http://www.utexas.edu/world/univ/state/ universities in the United States.]&nbsp; Locate a list of [http://www.publiclibraries.com/ public libraries in the United States]. Locate a list of [http://www.gwest.org/gen_libs.htm#utah genealogy libraries in the United States.]
*Hill, Thomas C. ''Monthly Meetings in North America: An Index''. Second Edition. Cincinnati, Ohio: N.p., 1993. (FHL book 973 K22h 1993; film 1698282 item 11.) Alphabetical by monthly meeting. Gives address and sometimes location of records.
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=== United Church of Christ ===
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==== From Family History Centers ====
  
(Merger of the Evangelical and German Reformed churches and some Congregational churches)
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The [[Family History Library|Family History Library]]&nbsp;(FHL) has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm for churches in the United States.&nbsp;These include records of many denominations, particularly the [[Society of Friends (Quakers) in the United States|Society of Friends (Quaker)]], [[Presbyterian Church in the United States|Presbyterian]], [[Congregational Church in the United States|Congregational]], [[Lutheran Church in the United States|Lutheran]], Reformed, and [[Roman Catholic Church in the United States|Roman Catholic]] churches.&nbsp;
  
'''Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society and Archives'''<br>555 West James Street<br>Lancaster, PA 17603<br>Telephone: 717-290-8711 or 717-393-0654<br>Internet: [http://www.erhs.info/ www.erhs.info]  
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The library also has an extensive collection of records&nbsp;for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This includes [[LDS Membership Records|membership records]], [[LDS Temple Records|temple records]], and [[LDS Census|church censuses]].
  
The '''Family History Library '''has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm.  
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Microfilms of these church records&nbsp;can be loaned to [[Introduction to LDS Family History Centers|Family History Centers]]&nbsp;(FHC) located around the world. [http://www.familysearch.org/eng/Library/FHC/frameset_fhc.asp Locate a Family History Center].  
  
These include records of many denominations, particularly the Quaker, Presbyterian, Congregational, Lutheran, Reformed, and Roman Catholic churches in the eastern, southern, and midwestern states.  
+
Search&nbsp;the [http://www.familysearch.org/eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp Family History Library Catalog (FHLC)] available online to see what records are available on microfilm to order into your local Family History Center:
  
The library also has an extensive collection of records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This includes membership records, temple records, and church censuses. Although these records pertain to all states and many countries, they are described in more detail in the Utah Research Outline and in the LDS Records Research Outline.  
+
#Go to [http://www.familysearch.org/eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) online].
 +
#In the&nbsp; “Place-names Search” of the[https://familysearch.org/#form=catalog FHLC], type in the town or city your ancestor lived in. If no church records are found, search the county. <br>
  
Church records are generally found in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under [STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - CHURCH RECORDS. Histories of churches are listed under [STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - CHURCH HISTORIES.  
+
#The [http://www.familysearch.org/eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp FHLC] will give you a list of possible places that match what you typed. Click on the correct match.
 +
#Church records are located under the topic of: Church Records. Click on this topic and you will see a list of all the church records available for this particular place in the [http://www.familysearch.org/eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp FHLC].  
 +
#Scan the list of church records available and determine if the church is the right denomination and covers the correct time period.
 +
#Click on the link for the church record you want to search.
 +
#Click in the upper right hand corner button, "View Film Notes."
 +
#This screen will tell you the film number for the record you want to search.
 +
#With the appropriate microfilm number, you can now [[Ordering Microfilm or Microfiche from a Family History Center|order the microfilm from a Family History Center near]] you.
  
Many christenings and marriages listed in the records of some churches (such as the Congregational, Dutch Reformed, and Lutheran) have been listed in the International Genealogical Index (IGI). This index is available online at:  
+
=== Why Can't I find the Church Record:  ===
 +
 
 +
There are many reasons why an individual may not be found in a church record:
 +
 
 +
*The family didn't attend a church.
 +
*The church records were destroyed or lost.
 +
*The church denomination you ancestor attended did not keep records.
 +
*The church your ancestor attended closed and the records were transferred to another local church of the same denomination&nbsp;or the denomination's central archives.
 +
*The minister of your ancestor may have been a circuit rider (itinerate preacher).&nbsp; Sometimes the preacher's records are preserved in the denomination's central archives or he may have left the records with one of the parishes he serviced.&nbsp; Sometimes a pastor took the records to the next church. To locate the records, find out where the pastor died and contact libraries and societies in the area to see if they have the records.
 +
 
 +
=== Sources  ===
 +
 
 +
For a history of religions in the United States see:
 +
 
 +
*Ahlstrom, Sydney E. ''A Religious History of the American People''. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1972. (FHL book 973 K2ah.)
 +
 
 +
'''Wiki articles describing online collections are:'''
 +
 
 +
*[[Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Ohio, Cleveland Trinity Lutheran Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Ohio Episcopal Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Ohio Toledo Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Ohio RLDS Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Ohio, Grace Episcopal Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Ohio, Crawford County Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Ohio Lutheran Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Ohio Presbyterian Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Ohio Roman Catholic Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Pennsylvania, Schuylkill County Digital Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[New Jersey, Calvary United Methodist Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[New York, New York City, Saint Peter's Lutheran Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[New York, New York City, Church of the Transfiguration Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[New York, Frank S. Rowland Church Register (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
 +
*[[Virginia, Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]
  
*[http://www.familysearch.org/ www.familysearch.org].
+
{{Place|United States}}
  
 
[[Category:Record_Types_of_the_United_States]]
 
[[Category:Record_Types_of_the_United_States]]

Revision as of 01:11, 17 April 2013


United States Gotoarrow-kelly.png  Church Records

Contents



Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes Church). Oldest church building in America.


U.S. Church Records

The United States is a country of religious diversity. Unlike many other countries, there has been no “state church,” except for a few periods in some of the early colonies.

Church records in the United States began in the early 1600s.  Unfortunately, the United States did not require a civil registration or recording of births, marriages, and deaths until into the 20th Century. Sometimes church records are the only records containing birth, marriage and death about individuals. Therefore, they are a valuable substitute when vital records do not exist.

Your ancestor may have changed denominations for reasons of convenience or conviction.  When the family moved to a new community, they may have started attending a church located there, or they may have changed denominations by conversion.

For more information see the history of American Churches.

To learn more about the church records and their repositories, click on a state below.

Church Records Types

Each denomination has different records they kept in accordance with their theology.  Some types of church records that can be found are:

  • Christenings/Baptisms
  • Marriages
  • Burials
  • Confirmations
  • Communion
  • Admissions and removals
  • Financial records
  • Sunday School lists
  • Church censuses
  • Church related newsletters

Information found in Church Records

The information kept in a church record by a specific church depended largely on the denomination of the church and the record keeper. Each denomination may have recorded different information.

Church records contain additional information when they recorded church sacraments or ceremonies.  For example, christenings or baptisms often included the birth information of a child, parents of the child, and witnesses or godparents, which were often relatives.  

How to Locate Church Records

Church records are kept at local churches, in church archives, at historical and genealogical societies, and in libraries.  Many church records have been pulbished in books and periodicals.

To locate your ancestor in church records you must know: 

  • Where they lived
  • The denomination

Where they lived: It is necessary to know the town or at least the county your ancestor lived in to locate their church records. This will help you narrow down possible churches your ancestors may have attended.

Determining the Denomination: With the religious freedom in the United States, many different churches have thrived throughout the Country’s history. This may make it difficult to determine the denomination of your ancestor.

Suggestions for determining denomination:

  • Look in home sources for church certificates such as a baptism certificate or a marriage certificate. Also search for funeral notices to see where the funeral took place.
  • Obituaries may mention the church where the funeral took place.
  • Locate the marriage record or certificate for a couple. If they were married by church authority, it will state the name of the clergyman and sometimes the church.
  • Look for the cemetery they were buried in. Some churches have their own cemeteries. If they were buried in a church cemetery, they belonged to the church at one point.
  • The family Bible might reveal which church the family belonged to.
  • County histories may contain information about the local churches in the area.
  • If your ancestor lived in a large city, check the city directory to see what churches were in the neighborhood. Some denominations had congregations by ethnic type (Irish, German, English, African-American).  City directories often list the pastor or priest and you may be able to determine the ethnicity of the congregation. 
  • Contact the local genealogical society or public library for information on churches in the area.
  • Some communities only had one church, so most residents would have attended that church.
  • Sometimes an ancestor preferred to attend a church close to his or her home, and was not concerned about the denomination he or she attended.  Check churches close to your ancestor's home.
  • Your ancestor may have traveled some distance to attend a church in the next town or county, if the denomination was important.
  • If you know your ancestor's country of origin, it can give you a clue as to their religion. Some individuals immigrated to avoid religious persecution, and may have belonged to a church not popular or common in their home country. The following table gives the more prominant churches of a particular country and the first denomination you should research for you ancestor. It also gives the American name of the church, if it changed.
Country of Origin Prominent Church Church in U.S.
Denmark Lutheran Lutheran
Finland Lutheran Lutheran
France Roman Catholic Roman Catholic
Germany Roman Catholic Roman Catholic
Italy Roman Catholic Roman Catholic
Latin Countries Roman Catholic Roman Catholic
Norway Lutheran Lutheran
Poland Roman Catholic Roman Catholic
Scotland Church of Scotland Presbyterian
Sweden Lutheran Lutheran
England Church of England or Anglicans Protestant Episcopal

Obtaining Church Records:

Once you determine the denomination and where your ancestor lived, try the following to locate church records.

From the Church

If you know the church your ancestor attended, contact the current minister to find out what records are still available. Some churches keep their records and provide a way for you to research the records yourself.

If the records can only be viewed at the church, make an appointment with the minister or secretary to examine the records. Remember, the records are the property of the church. There may be instances when the minister or a representive will not allow you to view the records, but will look at a record for you.

From the Church Archives or Denomination Headquarters

When a church closes or the church records are no longer held at the church, the records of their congregation may go the denomination archives, or their church headquarters. Many larger denominations have centralized records and provide a way for the records to be accessed by genealogists. Some denominations still keep their records private and give no access to church records. It is important to contact the church organization to see what is available.

For contact information for each denomination, click here and choose a church from the list.

FamilySearch.org

Many christenings and marriages listed in the records of some churches (such as the Congregational, Dutch Reformed, and Lutheran) have been listed in the International Genealogical Index (IGI). This index is available online at:

Hugh Wallis identifies which baptisms, christenings, and marriages of all religious faiths have been indexed in the International Genealogical Index on his website: IGI Batch Numbers - British Isles and North America.

Genealogical and Historical Societies

Some churches donated their records to local genealogical and historical societies.  Locate a list of genealogical and historical societies in the United States or, list of genealogical and historical societies in the United States. See also, Cyndi's List - Societies & Groups: http://www.cyndislist.com/societies/

From College and Public Libraries

Many local universities and public libraries have copies of church records.  Most have websites and list their holdings online.  Locate a list of universities in the United States.  Locate a list of public libraries in the United States. Locate a list of genealogy libraries in the United States.

From Family History Centers

The Family History Library (FHL) has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm for churches in the United States. These include records of many denominations, particularly the Society of Friends (Quaker), Presbyterian, Congregational, Lutheran, Reformed, and Roman Catholic churches. 

The library also has an extensive collection of records for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This includes membership records, temple records, and church censuses.

Microfilms of these church records can be loaned to Family History Centers (FHC) located around the world. Locate a Family History Center.

Search the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) available online to see what records are available on microfilm to order into your local Family History Center:

  1. Go to Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) online.
  2. In the  “Place-names Search” of theFHLC, type in the town or city your ancestor lived in. If no church records are found, search the county.
  1. The FHLC will give you a list of possible places that match what you typed. Click on the correct match.
  2. Church records are located under the topic of: Church Records. Click on this topic and you will see a list of all the church records available for this particular place in the FHLC.
  3. Scan the list of church records available and determine if the church is the right denomination and covers the correct time period.
  4. Click on the link for the church record you want to search.
  5. Click in the upper right hand corner button, "View Film Notes."
  6. This screen will tell you the film number for the record you want to search.
  7. With the appropriate microfilm number, you can now order the microfilm from a Family History Center near you.

Why Can't I find the Church Record:

There are many reasons why an individual may not be found in a church record:

  • The family didn't attend a church.
  • The church records were destroyed or lost.
  • The church denomination you ancestor attended did not keep records.
  • The church your ancestor attended closed and the records were transferred to another local church of the same denomination or the denomination's central archives.
  • The minister of your ancestor may have been a circuit rider (itinerate preacher).  Sometimes the preacher's records are preserved in the denomination's central archives or he may have left the records with one of the parishes he serviced.  Sometimes a pastor took the records to the next church. To locate the records, find out where the pastor died and contact libraries and societies in the area to see if they have the records.

Sources

For a history of religions in the United States see:

  • Ahlstrom, Sydney E. A Religious History of the American People. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1972. (FHL book 973 K2ah.)

Wiki articles describing online collections are: