Illinois Church Records
Church records and the information they provide vary significantly depending on the denomination and the record keeper. They may contain information about members of the congregation, such as age, date of baptism, christening, or birth; marriage information and maiden names; and death date. Records may include names of other relatives who were witnesses or members of the congregation. The members of some churches were predominantly of one nationality or ethnic group.
In the decades following statehood, the largest religious groups in Illinois were the Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches. These groups came primarily from the southern states. At the same time, Congregationalists, Lutherans, and members of the Reformed faiths came from the eastern states. Roman Catholics became numerous in Illinois after 1860, especially in the northern industrial areas. Several counties in the northeastern part of the state became havens for Lutheran Scandinavians.
Illinois State Archives has collected some early Illinois church records that were given to the Illinois State Library. There is an inventory of church archives (954.012) to be found at the State Library website.
The Family History Library has microfilm of the records and histories of several religious denominations including Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist churches. To learn what church records are available at the Family History Library go to the Family History Library Catalog and, at the Place-Names Search, type in the name of the town or county where an ancestor lived. From the list of subjects, choose "Church records" which will indicate what records are available for that locale.
Most church records are scattered and remain in the custody of existing churches. Some, however, have been collected into central repositories, especially those from congregations that have merged or disbanded. To find the existance of records, you may wish to write to the addresses given below to learn where records of an area are located. For churches not listed on this page, see United States Church Records for further information on repositories and collections.
- 1 Non-Denominational
- 2 Baptist
- 3 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
- 4 Disciples of Christ
- 5 Episcopal
- 6 Lutheran
- 7 Mennonite
- 8 Methodist
- 9 Presbyterian
- 10 Roman Catholic
- 11 Society of Friends - Quaker
- 12 Websites
- 13 References
Ruth E. Browning abstracted names and events from The Christian Messenger and created an every– name index. The Christian Messenger was a religious newspaper during the 1800's which included "letters with information about the churches, obituaries, death notices, names of subscribers, letters from preachers, etc." The information abstracted from this newspaper came from numerous counties in Illinois.
For more information on "The Restoration Movement" of the 1800's see the wikipedia article "Restoration Movement."
American Baptist Historical Society
1106 South Goodman Street
Rochester, NY 14620
Phone: (716) 473-1740
The American Baptist Historical Society in Rochester, New York, is national in scope, though records in the archive cover primarily the eastern United States. The records are mostly statistical in nature. They may have some information about ministers and missionaries, but they may have little more than lists of lay members. Any records of births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths were kept by the choice of the minister, not by mandate of the church. The departing minister may or may not have left his records with the church or a succeeding minister.
- The Ministerial Directory of the Baptist Churches in the United States of America. Oxford, Ohio: Ministerial Directory Co., 1899. Digital version at Google Books.
This 1899 directory of Baptist ministers lists biographical details about many ministers born or serving in the state:
- Smith, Justin A. A History of the Baptists in the Western States East of the Mississippi, Philadelphia : American Baptist Publication Society, 1896. Ancestry.com ($) Digital version at Google Books.
The website of Primitive Baptist Churches in Illinois have prepared guides for genealogists who wish to learn about their religious ancestors, see, for example: Church and Family History Research Assistance for Gallatin County, Illinois Primitive Baptists.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Early church records, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for Illinois Wards and Branches can be found on microfilm and are located at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The film numbers for each ward can be accessed through the Family History Library Catalog, or by refering to:
Disciples of Christ
History of the Disciples of Christ in Illinois, 1819-1914 (1915) is available online.
There was little Episcopal activity early in central and southern Illinois, but a church was organized in Chicago in 1824. Some records are kept at the Historiographer's office, Episcopal Diocesan Center, 821 South Second St. in Springfield, Illinois 61704. See the Episcopal Church Wiki page for further information on a National level.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA Archives)
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago IL 60631-4198
Phone: (800) 638-3522 or (773) 380-2700
Fax: (773) 380-1465
The ELCA Archives (formerly known as the ALC Archives or Archives of the American Lutheran Church) is the central archive for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States. If a church unit is still active, the archives will help locate its records. If a church has been disbanded, its records will be located in the archives. The archives will accept genealogy requests by mail. It has microfilm copies of records for many congregations, which can be borrowed for a small fee. A partial list of church records in the archive collection is listed in:
- ALC Archives. ALC Congregations on Microfilm. Dubuque, Iowa: The Archives, 197–?. FHL fiche 6330690–6330693. The records are arranged by state and city of congregation. Fiche 6330690 includes Illinois.
A bibliography of Illinois Lutheran Church Records and Histories can be found at The Genealoger.com Lutheran Genealogy.
Illinois Mennonite Historical and Genealogical Society
675 State Route 116
Metamora, IL 61548-7732
Phone: (309) 367-2551
The Library collection includes holdings in genealogy and Anabaptist history for research.
Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference
United Methodist Church Historical Society
1211 North Park Street
Bloomington, Illinois 61701
Phone: (309) 828-5092, ext. 227
The Illinois Great Rivers Conference UMC Historical Society was recently created through the merger of the Southern and the Central conferences and its records cover central and southern Illinois as well as records of some disbanded congregations. Members of the staff will do some searching of those records for a small fee.
Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary
2121 Sheridan Road
Evanston, Illinois 60201
Phone: (847) 866-3909
The Archive of the Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary houses the records of the Northern Illinois Conference of the Evangelical Methodist Church. In addition to records of disbanded churches, it has records of many Scandinavian congregations. The archive has no direct phone line, so you will need to make inquiries by mail. Selected records of the archive have been microfilmed and are in the Family History Library collection.
Find-A-Church gives a listing of Methodist churches in Illinois arranged by town and city.
Prior to 1815 there were not many Presbyterians who came to Illinois and established their first church at Sharon in 1816. They cooperated closely in mission work with the Congregationalists in Illinois.. To learn more about where to write for records, see the Presbyterian Church Wiki page.
Archdiocese of ChicagoArchives of the Archdiocese of Chicago
Joseph Cardinal Bernadine Archive and Record Center
Attn: Assistant Research Archivist
711 West Monroe
Chicago, Illinois 60661
Phone: (312) 831-0711
The diocese includes the counties of Cook and Lake
The telephone number of the Archive and Record Center accesses a voice mail menu. Selecting the "reference" option allows a caller to place a request for genealogical research.
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of parish records from the Archdiocese of Chicago to 1915. These may be accessed by typing Chicago, Illinois at the Place-names Search of the library catalog. Once at the list of subjects for Chicago, choose "Church records." Diocese of Belleville
222 South Third Street
Belleville, IL 62220
Phone: (618) 277-8181
The diocese includes the counties of: Alexander, Clay, Clinton, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Marion, Monroe, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, Saline, St. Clair, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, White, and Williamson
Many of the Catholic Church records in the Belleville Diocese are available online through FamilySearch in the collection Illinois, Diocese of Belleville, Catholic Parish Records, 1729-1956. These records are also available at the St. Louis County Library and the Belleville Public Library.
The book A Time of Favor: The Story of the Catholic Family of Southern Illinois by Betty Burnett contains a great deal of historical context that will help genealogists better understand their ancestors' lives.
Diocese of JolietDiocese of Joliet
425 Summit St.
Joliet, IL 60435
Phone: (815) 722-6606
The diocese includes the counties of: DuPage, Ford, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall, and Will.
Diocese of PeoriaCatholic Diocese of Peoria
419 NE Madison Avenue
Peoria, IL 61603
Phone: (309) 671-1568
The diocese includes the following counties: Bureau, Champaign, DeWitt, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Knox, LaSalle, Livingston, Logan, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McLean, Mercer, Peoria, Piatt, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Stark, Tazewell, Vermilion Warren and Woodford.
Diocese of RockfordDiocese of Rockford
555 Colman Center Drive
P.O. Box 7044
Rockford, IL 61108
The diocese includes the counties of:Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Kane, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside, and Winnebago.
Diocese of SpringfieldDiocese of Springfield
Catholic Pastoral Center
1615 West Washington St.
P.O. Box 3187
Springfield, Illinois 62708-3187
Phone: (217) 698-8500
The diocese includes the counties of: Adams, Bond, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Jasper, Jersey, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Menard, Moultrie, Pike, Sangamon, Scott, and Shelby.
The Drouin Collection
Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954 ($) (Ancestry).
This database contains the French Catholic parish records from the United States. It is the U.S. part of the U.S. and French-Canadian Drouin Collection. It includes the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. For more details on these records and the rest of the Drouin Collection see "The Drouin Collection: Six Databases"
The types of records include baptisms, marriages, and burials as well as confirmations, dispensations, censuses, statements of readmission to the church, and so on. They are written mainly in French, as well as English, Latin, and Italian.
When searching this database, be creative in the spellings when searching for an ancestor. The French language has many possible spellings for names and there are always indexing errors as well.
Many early missions were established by religious denominations to serve the Indians, including:
- Abnaki Mission
- Kaskaskia Mission (1674)
Society of Friends - Quaker
University of Illinois University Library
Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
322 Library, 1408 W. Gregory Drive
Urbana, Illinois 61801
The Illinois Historical Survey at the University of Illinois holds the main body of records for meetings in Illinois with the earliest records beginning in 1828.
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Records, 1828-2011.Includes 85 volumes. 
Records may also be found at the Lilly Library in Richmond, Indiana
Lilly Library, Earlham College Archives
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana 47374-4095
Friends Collection and College Archives
Online database for Illinois Quaker records is found at Ancestry.com ($)
See Outfitters.com for further information on Quakers in Illinois.
- Church Angel lists churches in Illinois by cities and towns.
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:
- Illinois Genealogy Resources, Church and Religious Records www.genealoger.com/illinois/il_church_records.htm
- Ruth E. Browning, Name Index to the Christian Messenger at http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/resources/index/index.html
- Davis points out that not all ministers participated, see: Robert S. Davis, "Some Baptist Ministers of South Carolina at the Turn of the Century," The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Winter 2004):13-22. FHL Book 975.7 B2sc v. 32
- George K. Schweitzer, Ph.D. Sc.D, Illinois Genealogical Research (Knoxville, Tennessee), p. 82 FHL book 977.3 D27s
- Map of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States of America, Office of Catholic Schools Diocese of Columbus, accessed 3 Nov 2010.
- Ellen T. Berry, David A. Berry ‘’Our Quaker Ancestors’’ (Baltimore, Maryland : Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1987)