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Church records and the information they provide vary greatly depending on the denomination and the record keeper. They may contain information about members of the congregation, such as ages; dates of baptism, christening, or birth; death information; and marriage information such as a brides’ maiden name and the names of both sets of parents. Records may include other relatives who were witnesses or members of the congregation. The members of some churches were predominately of one nationality or ethnic group.
Before 1900 the largest religious groups in Kentucky were the Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian Churches. The Family History Library has copies of some original church records, as well as published transcripts and histories.
Many denominations have collected their records into central repositories. You can write to the following addresses to learn where their records are located.
The Baptist Churches in Kentucky have no central repository for their records. Baptist minutes and other records were kept by the clerk of each congregation. Many clerks considered the papers their personal property and upon their death their papers often became the property of their descendants. As a result, many Baptist records were lost or remain unaccounted for. A few clerks passed the records to their successors, and the records remained with the church. Some Baptist records have been donated to public libraries or historical and genealogical societies. At the Archives of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (formerly the Kentucky Baptist Historical Society) there are no congregation records, nor does staff know where specific congregation records may be found. The staff can, however, provide addresses of Kentucky congregations when the name of a church is known. The address of the archive is:
Archives of Kentucky Baptist Convention
10701 Shelbyville Road
Middletown, KY 40243-0433
The mailing address is:
P.O. Box 43433
Louisville, KY 40253-0433
The major repository for Southern Baptist records in Kentucky is the Archives and Special Collections department of:
It has Baptist Church histories and Southern Seminary information and photographs. It also has minutes from Baptist Churches and Baptist Church associations. Mostly the records are from Southern Baptists, but there are also records from American, "colored," and Primitive Baptist congregations. Minute books do not contain birth, marriage, or death information. They may, however, help to verify the membership of an individual, tell if someone was disciplined for offenses, or track the movement of a minister.
Minutes and sacramental records of some Southern Baptist congregations have also been sent to the following Tennessee archive:
Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives
The Southern Baptist Convention Building
901 Commerce Street #400
Nashville TN 37203-3630
Histories of the Baptist Church in Kentucky include:
Baptists in Kentucky 1776–1976. A Bicentennial Volume Middletown Ky Kentucky Baptist Convention 1975 (Not at Family History Library)
Masters Frank M A History of Baptists in Kentucky. Louisville, Kentucky: Kentucky Baptist Historical Society, 1953. (FHL book 976.9 K2ma) This history is currently being brought up to date. It is indexed.
Spencer, John H. A History of Kentucky Baptists: From 1769 to 1885, Including More Than 800 Biographical Sketches. 2 vols. Cincinnati, Ohio: J. R. Baumes, . (FHL book 976.9 K2s; film 896971.) This book includes biographies and is indexed.
The state of Kentucky is covered by two Methodist conferences that oversee the missions and business of the church. The conferences have collected records from churches that have closed. Records of existing congregations are generally still in the churches. The Kentucky Annual Conference oversees the majority of the churches in Kentucky, while the Redbird Missionary Conference oversees the state’s Southeastern counties.
Kentucky Annual Conference
2000 Warrington Way
Browenton Building, Suite 28
Louisville, KY 40222-340
Redbird Missionary Conference
6 Queendale Center
Beverley, KY 40913
For background information about the Methodist Church, see:
Arnold, William Erastus. A History of Methodism in Kentucky. 2 vols. Louisville, Kentucky: Herald Pub., 1935–1936. (FHL book 976.9 K2a; fiche 6048430–1.) This book is indexed and contains a history of the Methodist Church before 1935.
Short, Roy H. Methodism in Kentucky. Rutland, Vermont.: Academy Books, 1979. (Not at Family History Library.)
Records of existing Catholic parishes are generally kept in the individual churches, though copies of the sacramental records are sent to the appropriate diocese. Sacramental records include baptisms and confirmations, which may contain marriage and burial information as well as godparents’ names. The diocesan archives also have some school records. The state of Kentucky is served by the following four Catholic dioceses:
Diocese of Covington
Office of the Archive
P.O. Box 18548
Erlanger, KY 41018-0548
Diocese of Lexington
1310 West Main Street
Lexington, KY 40508-2040
Lexington is a relatively new diocese. It has copies of sacramental records from 1950 to the present; earlier records are in the Diocese of Covington.
Archdiocese of Louisville
212 East College Street
Louisville, KY 40203
Diocese of Owensboro
Catholic Pastoral Center
600 Locust Street
Owensboro, KY 42301
For histories of the Catholic Church in Kentucky, see:
Webb, Benjamin J. The Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky. 1884. Reprint, Utica, KY: McDowell Publications, [198–]. (FHL book 976.9 K2w film 007810) This work is indexed in:
Olson, Mary M. A Complete Index to Webb’s Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky: Including an Appendix on all Catholic Churches and Missions in Kentucky. Rineyville, KY: M. M. Olson, 1983. (FHL book 976.9 K2w index)
Spalding, M. J. Sketches of the Early Catholic Missions of Kentucky, 1787 to 1827. 1844. Reprint, [Melber, KY: Simons, 198–]. (FHL book 976.9 K2sp) It is indexed by surname.
The records of the Presbyterian Churches are kept in the individual congregations. Records are only centralized when a congregation wants to have records archived or when a church closes. Records that have been archived are sent to one of the following two repositories:
Presbyterian Historical Society
425 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147-1516
Presbyterian Historical Society
318 Georgia Terrace
Montreat, NC 38757
Their mailing address is:
Presbyterian Historical Society
P.O. Box 849
Montreat, NC 38757
The above-mentioned archives collect papers of ministers and session, trustee, and women’s missionary society records. These records may contain information about members’ baptisms, marriages, and communions. The staff at the archives do not do research; however, you can do research in person for a small fee. A published guide to the holdings of the archives is mentioned in the "Church Records" section of the United States Research Outline under the heading "Presbyterian."
The Presbyterian Church in Kentucky is coordinated by the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. The library of the seminary does not collect records of any congregations, but it does have ministerial directories with information on many ministers. The staff of the library can direct you to congregations in the state where records may be located. Inquiries to the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary should be directed to:
Louisville Presbyterian Seminary
1044 Alta Vista Road
Louisville, KY 40205
For a history of early Presbyterians in Kentucky, see:
McDonnold, Benjamin Wilburn. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 2nd ed. Nashville, Tennessee: Board of Publication of Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1888. (FHL book 976 K2m; film 369750) This early church covered parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. The book is indexed.
Weeks, Louis. Kentucky Presbyterians. Atlanta, Georgia.: John Knox Press, 1983. (Not at Family History Library.)
A collection of historical, biographical, and genealogical records of the Presbyterian Church in the early days of Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania is:
Shane Manuscript Collection. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1966–1967. (On 36 FHL films, beginning with 498615) An index to the Kentucky papers in this collection is:
Hall, William K. The Shane Manuscript Collection: A Genealogical Guide to the Kentucky and Ohio Papers. Galveston, Texas: Frontier Press, 1990. (FHL book 974.811 A3h; film 2055130 item14) This name index shows the Shane Manuscript reel number and the corresponding FHL film number.
For information on other denominations, see the "Church Records" section of the United States Research Outline.