Illinois Church Records
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 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. The Family History Library has microfilms of records from Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist churches and copies of many Catholic records from the Chicago area. The library also has some published histories of various denominations, including the Catholic, Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Brethren, Mennonite, and Baptist churches. See Tracing LDS Families for records of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Illinois.
Church histories frequently provide valuable historical background for the communities the churches serve. Inventories of church archives are also available for several denominations. See United States Church Records for more repositories and major collections.
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. You can write to the following addresses to learn where records of an area are located:
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.
An 1899 directory of Baptist ministers lists biographical details about many ministers born or serving in the state:
- The Ministerial Directory of the Baptist Churches in the United States of America. Oxford, Ohio: Ministerial Directory Co., 1899. Digital version at Google Books.
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 film and are located at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The film numbers, for each ward, can be locate through the Family History Library Catalog. Or by refering to Jaussi, Laureen R., and Gloria D. Chaston. Register of Genealogical Society Call Numbers. 2 vols. Provo, Utah: Genealogy Tree, 1982. (FHL book 979.2258 A3j; fiche 6031507). These volumes contain the film numbers for many (but not all) membership and temple record films.
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 CollectionFHL fiche 6330690–93. The records are arranged by state and city of congregation. Fiche 6330690 includes Illinois.
Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference
United Methodist Church Historical Society
1211 North Park Street
Bloomington, IL 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 is still consolidating its records and establishing policy. Its records cover central and southern Illinois. They have 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, IL 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.
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 
Archives of the Archdiocese of Chicago
Joseph Cardinal Bernadine Archive and Record Center
Attn: Assistant Research Archivist
711 West Monroe
Chicago, IL 60661
Phone: (312) 831-0711
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.
Church histories and records can be found in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search under:
ILLINOIS, [COUNTY], [TOWN]- CHURCH RECORDS
ILLINOIS, [COUNTY], [TOWN]- CHURCH HISTORY
Diocese of Joliet
425 Summit St.
Joliet, IL 60435
Phone: (815) 722-6606
Catholic 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 Rockford
555 Colman Center Drive
P.O. Box 7044
Rockford, IL 61108
Diocese 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:
Drouin Collection 1621-1967 at Ancestry.ca. When searching these databases, be creative in the spellings as well as the various focuses in searching for an ancestor. The French language has many possible spellings for a name, as well as there are errors in the indexing.
This French-Canadian collection has over 15 million genealogical and vital records entries; they were microfilmed by the Institut Généalogique Drouin. In Quebec, under the French Regime, there were two sets of records kept: a copy for the civil government archives and a copy for the ecclesiastical church archives. The Drouin collection is a civil copy of these entries. Please note that the cutoff date of this collection is in the early 1940s; only a small percentage of entries were covered from 1948 to 1967.
This collection is divided into six databases: 1. Quebec Vital and Church Records, 1621-1967 2. Ontario French Catholic Church Records, 1747-1967, 3. Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954, 4. Acadia French Catholic Church Records, 1670-1946, 5. Quebec Notarial Records, 1647-1942, and 6. Miscellaneous French Records, 1651-1941. For details about these six databases, see "The Drouin Collection: Six Databases" .
Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954 ($): This database only contains the French Catholic parish records from the United States; in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. 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.
Many early missions were established by religious denominations to serve the Indians, including:
- Abnaki Mission
- Kaskaskia Mission (1674)
- 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
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