U.S. Church Record Libraries and Depositories

When ancestors lived in locations that didn’t require vital record registration at the time, church records can help fill in the gaps when trying to document their lives. Traditionally, though, church records have often been somewhat difficult to access, not only online, but in paper form, too, because they are often housed at the local level. Little by little, this is changing, and some are becoming accessible online.

Here are some sources to check for specific religious denominations. Many of them house mostly historical information, but some biographical data and/or vital records are mentioned. Each link provides detailed descriptions of what is available and how their collections may be accessed.

1. Baptist Church Records:

American Baptist Historical Society
National Association of Free Will Baptists
Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives

The Baptist resources include a few links to other resources and depositories.

2. Church of the Brethren:

Brethren Historical Library and Archives

3. Congregational Church:

Congregational Library and Archives – has a free digital collection on line, based in New England

4. Dutch Reformed Church:

RCA Archives – There is a PDF guide online with information on types of records available at repositories around the U.S.

5. Church of the Latter Day Saints:

Family Search – wiki on Tracing LDS Ancestors with links

6. Lutheran Church:

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Records, 1875-1940 are now on Ancestry.com, but a subscription is required to access them.

Concordia Historical Institute – Missouri Synod – its archives and manuscript collections are searchable.

7. Mennonite Church:

Mennonite Library and Archives (MLA), Bethel College, Kansas – They are building a digital collection, but much is not yet online.

8. Methodist Church:

United Methodist Archives Center – Biographical information may be found about its clergy, but churches hold information at the local level. There are links to help you find local churches.

9. Moravian Church:

 Moravian Church in America – Winston-Salem, North Carolina – The archives has 12,000 memoirs published about its members, some of which I know from personal research date well back into the 1700’s. This library also has the twelve volumes on Records of the Moravians in North Carolina.

Moravian Church Genealogy Links – database of surnames with links found to genealogical records online.

10. Roman Catholic Church :

These records are kept at the local level.

If you are searching for a death date and know approximately when a person died, several dioceses now have large cemetery databases either searchable online or an e-search request can be made.

Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois Catholic Cemeteries
Cleveland, Ohio Catholic Cemeteries Association

11. Society of Friends (Quakers):

Haverford College – catalog can be searched online, but records must be viewed in person.

Quaker Information Center – website has historical links as well as a Genealogical Resources link.

Swarthmore College – Friends Historical Library has some online records.

12. United Church of Christ:

Evangelical & Reformed Historical Society – German Reformed Church merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America in 1934. There is a limited amount of information digitally available.

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