United States Church Records
Many original church records of the United 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.
If you know the denomination:
- Look for their records in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under [STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - 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.
- Write to the historical society or church archives that may have the records.
- Write to the church headquarters to ask where the records of the specific congregation are located.
If you do not know the denomination of your ancestors:
- Search marriage records, obituaries, family and local histories, cemeteries, and family Bibles for clues.
- Check local histories and city directories to determine which churches were in the area or neighborhood at the same time as your ancestors.
- 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.
The following is a partial list of some of the major denominational archives and sources that can provide more information.
American Baptist - Samuel Colgate Historical Library
1106 South Goodman Street
Rochester, NY 14620-2532
National Association of Free Will Baptists
5233 Mt. View Road
Antioch, TN 37013-2306
FWB Executive Office
P.O. Box 5002
Antioch, TN 37011-5002
Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archive
901 Commerce Street, Suite 400
Nashville, TN 37203-3630
Baptist History Homepage, A Source for Original Baptist Documents has digital versions of many Baptist histories, biographies, and other items of interest to genealogists who discover Baptist ancestry in the United States of America.
Church of the Brethern
Brethren Historical Library and Archives
1451 Dundee Avenue
Elgin, IL 60120
Phone: 847-742-5100 Ext. 294
Fax: 847-742-6103 (Be sure to include Brethren Historical Library and Archives on the fax)
14 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
Archives of the Episcopal Church
606 Rathervue Place
P.O. Box 2247
Austin, Texas 78768
Phone: (512) 472-6816
Fax: (512) 480-0437
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
8-10 East 79th St.
New York, NY 10075
Tel: (212) 570-3500
Fax: (212) 774-0251
American Jewish Archives
3101 Clifton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45220
American Jewish Historical Society Library
2 Thornton Road
Waltham, MA 02154
Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Family History Library
35 N. West Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3400
Other archives and libraries also have records. For information about records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints see the Tracing LDS Ancestors.
Concordia Historical Institute
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
801 De Mun Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63105
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA Archives)
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631-4198
German-Russian Lutheran Ancestry
Odessa3.org - This site contains German-Russian emigrant ancestry in pocket settlements in mid-west states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska . Contains transcribed minutes of meetings, membership lists (some with parentage listed), birth, deaths, and marriages.]
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:
- American Lutheran Church (ALC) Archives. ALC Congregations on Microfilm. Dubuque, Iowa: The Archives, [197-?]. (Family History Library fiche 6330690-93.) Arranged by state and city of congregation. The ALC Archives are now part of the ELCA Archives.
- American Lutheran Church Shelf List Index to Their Church Records Microfilmed as of 1987. N.p., 1988. (Family History Library book 973 K2aL.)
- A guide to most Lutheran churches and addresses is:
- Lutheran Church Directory for the United States 1982. New York, New York: Lutheran Council in the USA, 1981. (Family History Library book 973 K24L.)
United Methodist Archives Center
Drew University Library
P.O. Box 127
Madison, NJ 07940
Mennonite Obituaries Index 1930-2001 online. Index is from The Mennonitische Rundschau. Index covers the world and includes the following:
• Given Name
• Maiden Name
• Birth Year
• Death Year
• Place of death
There is also a Mennonite Immigrants list for the years 1872-1904
The Index provides the following information:
• Given Name
• Estimated Birth Date
• Arrival Age
• Stated Occupation
• Individual RIN
• Spouse RIN
• Parent RIN
• Ship Name
• Ship Code
Presbyterian Church (USA) Dept. of History
318 Georgia Terrace
Montreat, NC 28757
Presbyterian Historical Society
425 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147-1516
For their obituaries, news clippings, ministerial service, genealogies, histories, and biographical sketches see:
- Presbyterian Historical Society (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Miscellaneous Biographical Collection. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1967. (On 69 Family History Library films starting with 506383.)
- Benedetto, Robert. Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Presbyterian Church, USA. New York, New York: Greenwood Press, 1990. (Family History Library book 973 A3ben.) Indexed.
Ulster Ireland Presbyterian Immigrants
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.
Records of most parishes are kept in the individual parishes or in diocese offices. Guides to dioceses and parishes are:
- Official Catholic Directory. Wilmette, Illinois: P. J. Kennedy and Sons, annual. (Family History Library book 282.025 Of2.)
- Humling, Virginia. U.S. Catholic Sources: A Diocesan Research Guide. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1995. (Family History Library book 973 K2hu.)
For older North American church records kept by priests of the Order of the Holy Cross contact:
Holy Cross Provincial Archives
P.O. Box 568
South Bend, IN 46556
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" at https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/The_Drouin_Collection:_Six_databases .
Early UnitedStates 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.
Society of Friends (Quakers)
Magill Historical Library
Haverford, PA 19041
Friends Historical Library
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081
Important guides to records include:
- Hinshaw, William Wade. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy. Six Volumes. www.erhs.info Ann Arbor, Michigan: Edwards Brothers, 1936-1950. (Family History Library book 973 D2he; film 432597-606; fiche 6051371-79.)
- Hill, Thomas C. Monthly Meetings in North America: An Index. Second Edition. Cincinnati, Ohio: N.p., 1993. (Family History Library book 973 K22h 1998; film 1698282 item 11.) Alphabetical by monthly meeting. Gives address and sometimes location of records.
United Church of Christ
(Merger of the Evangelical and German Reformed churches and some Congregational churches)
Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society and Archives
555 West James Street
Lancaster, PA 17603
Telephone: 717-290-8711 or 717-393-0654
Family History Library Collection
The Family History Library has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm.
These include records of many denominations, particularly the Quaker, Presbyterian, Congregational, Lutheran, Reformed, and Roman Catholic churches in the eastern, southern, and midwestern states.
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 main page and in the Tracing LDS Ancestors.
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.
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.