How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist’s Guide: Book Review

DISCLAIMER – I have received several complimentary items, including this book, to review. These perks do not influence my opinions of the publications in any way!

Having said that, I do believe that the Genealogical Publishing Company, which has been in business for many decades, has a long standing reputation for producing quality work.

How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist’s Guide with Specific Resources for Major Christian Denominations before 1900, by Sunny Jane Morton and Harold A. Henderson, CG, was published in 2019.

Morton’s and Henderson’s book title clearly lets the reader know what it is about – finding and using records of major Christian denominations from the 19th century and earlier times.

The Introduction also acknowledges the contributions of a number of religious historical librarians and other experts in the field.

The book is 134 pages, plus index, packed full of details about all the types of church records that might be found – everything from pew rentals to meeting minutes to those treasured records of baptisms, marriages and burials.

CONTENTS

Introduction

Part 1: Family History Research in Church Records

  1. What’s in Church Records
  2. How to Identify Your Ancestor’s Church
  3. How to Find and Order Church Records
  4. Tips for Working with Old Church Records
  5. More Records about Church Life

Part 2: The Denominations

6. Anglican/Episcopal
7. Baptist
8. Congregational
9. Dutch Reformed/Reformed Church in America
10. German Churches: Reformed and Sectarian
11. Latter-Day Saint (Mormon)
12. Lutheran
13. Mennonite and Amish
14. Methodist
15. Quaker (Religious Society of Friends)
16. Presbyterian
17. Roman Catholic

Chapter 1 gives an overview of the various kinds of records kept by church congregations, but with the caveat that some churches might have even richer records, while others might have far fewer.

Chapters 2-5 provide the foundation of basic knowledge needed to efficiently seek out church records pertaining to our ancestors.

Part 2, as you can seen gives detailed information about specific mainstream Christian religions in the United States.

Each of those chapters begins with “Quick Stats” – when the church first organized in America, areas of the country in which it is most predominant, the main ethnic origin and any affiliated faiths.

Each chapter is then formatted in the same way, discussing Background, “About” the Records, How to Access Membership Records, Other Records of Interest and concluding with Further Reading.

Given that many Americans have a family tree that is a melting pot of ethnicities and, therefore, religions, this book is a treasure trove of information for genealogists. For example, in my own family tree, I have ancestors who were members of the Congregational, Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Churches. Four of those five denominations are covered in this book and the fifth – the Greek Catholic Church – is very similar to Roman Catholicism.

I can say enough positive things about this book. Each chapter is an excellent synopsis of possible records and how to find them in each church repository.

With the exception of baptisms, marriages and burials, many genealogists don’t delve deeper into church holdings. There is so much more that might be found about the daily lives of our ancestors.

Every American family researcher should have Morton’s and Henderson’s book in his/her reference library.

How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist’s Guide by Morton and Henderson can be ordered online ($29.95) from the Genealogical Publishing Company.

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