USGenWeb Archives Church Records Project


Church Records

Church records rank as the best available sources for information on birth, marriage and death for the periods before civil registration of vital statistics. They are also among the most under-used major records in American genealogy. Identifying and locating the records of churches, especially considering the hundreds of denominations, is a daunting although not impossible task. Church records are more accessible now than they ever were before.

The value of church records also should not be discounted for periods following civil registration.

Types of Church Records

  • Baptism and Christening Records ~ Baptism or christening records almost always list at least the name of the person baptized, the date and place of birth, and the date and place of baptism. For infant baptisms, parents names and place of residence were often listed as well.

  • Marriage Records ~ In most areas, church marriage records predate civil marriage records by many decades. Almost all American denominations have recorded marriages, although some denominations considered marriage a civil contract. While some records provide only the names of the bride and groom, and the date of marriage, others additionally provide ages, residences, birthplaces and religion, occupations, parents, etc.

  • Death Records ~ Death registers provide burial locations, and often an ancestorís birthplace.

  • Confirmation Records ~ Confirmation records often contain the date of the event and sometimes the place, age, or other data.

  • Membership Records ~ Although often simple lists of names, membership records can be valuable in reconstructing your familyís history. By the late 19th century, many churches kept fairly good membership records.

  • Obituaries ~ Obituaries can often be found in the denominational or diocesan newspapers. Many contain more information than what might be found in published newspapers, especially about an ancestorís activities in church functions.

  • Meeting Minutes ~ Meeting minutes are of obvious historical value although they may contain little in the way of genealogical information.

  • Other church records include but are not limited to Disciplinary Records, Family Registers, Church Annuals & Directories, and church histories.
Locating and Obtaining Access
to Church Records

Most church records remain with the individual church, although in some denominations, records are archived at the regional level, and in other cases, at the diocesan level. There are also many special collections of church records. Access to these records will vary widely. I was just talking to a woman who couldnít obtain records from a church in another state due to the reticense of the minister, but she later found them on microfiche at her local FHC, and with more information than she had hoped for, so donít give up.

The Family History Library and its family history centers contains many church records on microfilm and microfiche. The online Family History SourceGuide can assist you in locating these church records for your area of interest.

Local Historical Societies are sometimes the repository for the stateís older church records.

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The USGenWeb Archives Church Records Project was founded 1 August 2000
Church Records Project Coordinator - Kelly Mullins
Assistant Coordinator - Tina S. Vickery
HTML coding & original page design by Kelly Mullins

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Information last updated on Saturday, 17-Jun-2000 12:11:26 MDT.
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