Virginia Church Records
The Church of England (now Protestant Episcopal) was the established church in Virginia from 1624 to 1786. Between the time of the American Revolution and the year 1900, the largest religious groups in Virginia were the Baptist, Methodist Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches. The Family History Library has histories of the Baptist, Christian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed, United Brethren, and other groups.
The Library of Virginia has many church records. These are described in:
- Clark, Jewell T., and Elizabeth T. Long. A Guide to Church Records in the Archives Branch, Virginia State Library. Richmond, Virginia: Virginia State Library, 1981. FHL Collection 975.5 K23c Includes the history, location, and record inventory of 11 denominations and congregations. In 2002, an updated edition entitled A Guide to Church Records in the Library of Virginia was published. FHL Collection 975.5 K23g
The Family History Library also has many parish records of the Episcopal Church and some church records for other denominations, notably minutes of various Baptist conferences, Society of Friends meeting minutes, and German Reformed and Lutheran parish registers.
Many denominations have collected their records into central repositories. You can write to the following addresses to learn where their records are located, or read more about them in the following publications.
- 1 Baptist
- 2 Church of England (Anglican, Protestant Episcopal)
- 3 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
- 4 Huguenot
- 5 Methodist and Methodist Episcopal
- 6 Presbyterian
- 7 Society of Friends (Quakers)
- 8 Roman Catholic
Virginia Baptist Historical Society
Boatwright Memorial Library
28 Westhampton Way
University of Richmond, VA 23173
- Howell, Robert Boyte Crawford and American Baptist Historical Society. The Early Baptists of Virginia: An Address, Delivered in New York, Before the American Baptist Historical Society, May 10th, 1856. Press of the Society, 1867. Digital book at Google Books.
- Semple, Robert Baylor and George William Beale. A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia. Pitt and Dickinson, 1894. Digital book at Google Books. Includes histories of the oldest Baptist churches in the state.
- Taylor, James Barnett. Lives of Virginia Baptist Ministers. 2nd ed. Richmond: Yale & Wyatt, 1838. Digital book at Google Books.
- Taylor, George Braxton. Virginia Baptist Ministers: 3d Series. J.P. Bell Company, Inc., 1912. Digital book at Google Books.
- Taylor, George Braxton. Virginia Baptist Ministers: 4th Series. J.P. Bell, 1913. Digital book at Google Books.
- Taylor, George Braxton. Virginia Baptist Ministers: 5th Series, 1902-1914, with Supplement. J.P. Bell, 1915. Digital book at Google Books.
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 England (Anglican, Protestant Episcopal)
Before the American Revolution, the state church of Virginia was the Church of England (also called Anglican, and later Protestant Episcopal). Besides keeping parish registers, the church kept many records of a civil nature in their vestry books. In many instances, parish registers containing baptism, marriage, and death records have not survived when vestry books have.
Some early parish registers are incomplete or missing. Many of those still existing are available at the Library of Virginia and many copies are at the Family History Library. Rivah Research charts the survival of Virginia's CoE records in Virginia Parish Registers Information & Location. Many have been published. Baptisms and marriages from most colonial Virginia parishes are indexed in the International Genealogical Index, see: Hugh Wallis's IGI Batch Numbers for Virginia, USA for a breakdown.
You may need to study parish boundaries to determine which parish an ancestor attended. There are three excellent sources, which include maps, written by Charles Francis Cocke:
- Parish Lines, Diocese of Southern Virginia. Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1996. FHL Collection 975.5 K2co 1996
- Parish Lines, Diocese of Southwestern Virginia. Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1960. FHL Collection 975.5 K2c
- Parish Lines, Diocese of Virginia. Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1967. 1978 reprint: FHL 975.5 K2cf 1978
Freddie Spradlin has analyzed references to the formations and boundary changes of Church of England parishes found in Hening's Statutes at Large. His notes are available online at Parishes of Virginia (part of VAGenWeb Project).
Abingdon · Accomac · Accomack · Albemarle · Amherst · Antrim · Appomattox · Argall's Gift · Augusta · Bath · Beckford · Berkeley · Blisland · Blount Point · Botetourt · Boutracy · Bristol · Bromfield · Brunswick · Bruton · Camden · Cameron · Charles City · Charles · Charles River · Chickacoan · Chickahominy · Chippokes · Chiskiack · Chotank · Christ Church (Lancaster Co.) · Christ Church (Middlesex Co.) · Chuckatuck · Cople · Cornwall · Cumberland · Dale · Denbigh · Dettingen · Drysdale · East · Elizabeth City · Elizabeth River · Fairfax · Fairfield · Farnham · Flowerdew Hundred · Fluvanna · Frederick · Fredericksville · Hamilton · Hampton · Hanover · Harrop · Henrico · Hog Island · Hungars · James City · Jordan's Journey · Kecoughtan · Kingston · King William · Lancaster · Lawnes Creek · Lee · Leeds · Lexington · Littleton · Lower (Elizabeth City Co.) · Lower (Isle of Wight Co.) · Lower (Lancaster Co.) · Lower (Nansemond Co.) · Lower (Northampton Co.) · Lower (Stafford Co.) · Lower (Upper Norfolk Co.) · Lower Suffolk · Lunenburg · Lynnhaven · Machodick · Manchester · Marston · Martin's Brandon · Martin's Hundred · Meherrin · Middle Plantation · Middletowne · Montgomery · Mulberry Island · New Poquoson · Newport · Nomini · Norborne · Northampton · North Farnham · Nottoway (Prince Edward Co.) · Nottoway (Southampton Co.) · Nutmeg Quarter · Occohannock · Overwharton · Patrick · Petsworth · Piankatank · Piscataway · Poropotank · Portsmouth · Potomac · Raleigh · Richmond · Rockbridge · Rockingham · Russell · St. Andrew's · St. Anne's (Albemarle Co.) · St. Anne's (Essex and Caroline Cos.) · St. Asaph's · St. Brides · St. David's · St. George's (Accomack Co.) · St. George's (Spotsylvania Co.) · St. James Northam · St. James Southam · St. James's (Goochland Co.) · St. James's (Mecklenburg Co.) · St. John's · St. Luke's · St. Margaret's · St. Mark's · St. Martin's · St. Mary's · St. Mary's Whitechapel · St. Patrick's · St. Paul's (Hanover Co.) · St. Paul's (King George Co.) · St. Peter's · St. Stephen's (King and Queen Co.) · St. Stephen's (Northumberland Co.) · St. Thomas · Shelburne · Sittenburne · Smith's Hundred · South · Southampton · South Farnham · Southwark · Stafford · Stanley Hundred · Stratton Major · Suffolk · Tillotson · Trinity (Lancaster Co.) · Trinity (Louisa Co.) · Truro · Upper (Elizabeth City Co.) · Upper (Isle of Wight Co.) · Upper (Lancaster Co.) · Upper (Nansemond Co.) · Upper (Northampton Co.) · Upper (Stafford Co.) Upper Suffolk · Varina · Wallingford · Ware · Warrosquyoake · Warwick · Washington (Westmoreland Co.) · Washington (Washington Co.) · Waters Creek · West · West and Shirley · Westbury · Westover · Weyanoke · Wicomico · Wilmington · York · Yorkhampton
Histories and Guides
During the last half of the eighteenth century, the Church of England in Virginia lost much of its membership to dissenting religions. Many of the grand church buildings fell into disrepair. In the nineteenth century, "Many Virginians had a deep sense of living among the ruins of a more glorious past."
- Anderson, J.S. The History of the Church of England in the Colonies and Foreign Dependencies of the British Empire. 3 vols. London: Rivington, 1856. Digital versions at Internet Archive: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3. [All three volumes include material on the history of the Church of England in Virginia.
- Axelson, Edith F. A Guide to Episcopal Church Records in Virginia. Athens, Georgia: Iberian Publishing, 1988. FHL Collection 975.5 K27a. Includes parish register and vestry book inventories.
- Goodwin, Edward L. The Colonial Church in Virginia: With Biographical Sketches of the First Six Bishops of the Diocese of Virginia, and Other Historical Papers, Together with Brief Biographical Sketches of the Colonial Clergy of Virginia. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Morehouse Pub., 1927. FHL Collection 975.5 K2g.
- Hawks, Francis Lister. A Narrative of Events Connected with the Rise and Progress of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia: To Which is Added an Appendix, Containing the Journals of the Conventions in Virginia from the Commencement to the Present Time. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1836. Digital version at Google Books.
- Meade, William. Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia. 2 vols. 1857. Reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1966. Digital versions of volume 1 at Ancestry ($) and Internet Archive. Digital version of volume 2 at Internet Archive. FHL Collection 975.5 K2m 1966. Mostly histories of early parishes but includes 6,900 names of individuals.
- Upton, Dell. Holy Things and Profane: Anglican Parish Churches in Virginia. Yale University Press, 1997.
For images and brief histories of Virginia's colonial churches, see:
- Colonial Churches: A Series of Sketches of Churches in the Original Colony of Virginia: With Pictures of Each Church. Richmond, Va.: Southern Churchman Co., 1907. Digital versions at Ancestry ($); Google Books; Internet Archives; 1990 reprint: FHL Collection 975.5 K2cc.
To learn more about the origins of Church of England ministers sent to Virginia from England during the colonial period, start with these books:
- Fothergill, Gerald. A List of Emigrant Ministers to America, 1690-1811. London: E. Stock, 1904. Digital versions at Ancestry ($); Google Books; Internet Archive, 1965 reprint: FHL Collection 973 W2f 1965
- Weis, Frederick Lewis. The Colonial Clergy of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Boston, Mass.: Society of the Descendants of Colonial Clergy, 1955. FHL Collection 975 D3wc; digital version at World Vital Records ($).
Society of the Descendants of the Colonial Clergy points researchers to many valuable resources.
Church of England ministers sent to Virginia were often educated at the English universities of Cambridge and Oxford. The website Expert Links: English Family History and Genealogy contains links to many of these university's records available online under the "Occupations" section.
The Clergy of the Church of England website (work in progress) also contains details of many of their ministerial careers before departing for America.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Early church records, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for Virginia 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.
Methodist and Methodist Episcopal
The Library of Virginia has some Methodist church records in manuscript form and some on microfilm. See the guide by Jewell Clark mentioned previously.
Presbyterian Church Archives
Union Theological Seminary in Virginia
3401 Brook Road
Richmond, VA 23227
Telephone: (800)229-2990 or (804)355-0671
- Rachael, William M.E. "Early Minutes of Hanover Presbytery," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Jan., 1955):53-75; Vol. 63, No. 2 (Apr. 1955):161-185. FHL Collection 975.5 B2v v. 63; digital version at JSTOR ($). [The Hanover Presbytery covered Virginia.]
Society of Friends (Quakers)
Quakers were carefully observed during the Revolutionary War, see:
- Gilpin, Thomas. Exiles in Virginia: With Observations on the Conduct of the Society of Friends during the Revolutionary War; Comprising the Official Papers of the Government Relating to that Period. 1777-1778. 1848. Digital book at Google Books.
Hinshaw abstracted many Virginia Quaker records:
- Hinshaw, William Wade. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy. 6 Vols. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Edwards Brothers, 1936-1950. Volume VI covers Virginia Monthly Meetings. FHL Collection 973 D2he 1969; digital version at Ancestry ($). To locate copies nearest you, use WorldCat.
Several histories of Virginia Quakers have been written, including:
- Bowden, James. The History of the Society of Friends in America. 2 vols. London: W. & F.G. Cash, 1850-1854. Digital version of Vol. 1 at Google Books; FHL Collection 973 F2bj v. 1 [Volume 1 includes Virginia.]
Virginia is divided into three Roman Catholic dioceses. Virginia's Eastern Shore falls under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Wilmington (Accomack and Northampton counties). Virginia's Northern Neck and northeast region fall under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Arlington (Arlington, Clarke, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, King George, Lancaster, Loudoun, Madison, Northumberland, Page, Prince William, Rappahannock, Richmond, Shenandoah, Stafford, Warren, Westmoreland counties). The remainder of Virginia's counties fall within the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Richmond.
Diocese of Richmond
7800 Carousel Lane
Richmond, VA 23294-4201
- 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
- Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia 1740-1790 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1982), 417.
- Map of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States of America, Office of Catholic Schools Diocese of Columbus, accessed 3 Nov 2010.