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How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records Scores Great Reviews

We were delighted to receive two stellar reviews of our new book, How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records, by Sunny Morton and Harold Henderson. The first appeared in Randy Seaver’s daily column, “Genea-Musings,” and the second, in ‘A Week of Genealogy,” written by Dr. Margaret McMahon. We’ve reprinted both of them in their entirety below:


How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records


Sunny Jane Morton and Harold A. Henderson, C.G., How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist’s Guide; with Specific Resources for Major Christian Denominations before 1900 (Baltimore, MD : Genealogical Publishing Co., 2019). 143 pages, $29.95 (soft-cover).

“Genea-Musings,” by Randall J. Seaver, December 10, 2019

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

Sunny Jane Morton and Harold A. Henderson, CG have written an excellent book about United States Church records:

Records created by the major Christian denominations before 1900 in the United States are an underutilized resource for family historians. In these records, you may find ancestors’ births, maiden or married names, marriage details, deaths, family relationships, other residences, and even immigrants’ overseas birthplaces. You may uncover information about ancestors who have been unnamed in other records–women, children, ethnic minorities, immigrants, and the poor. You may find details about your ancestors recorded long before the existence of civil records. 

However, it is not always an easy task to track down U.S. church records. How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records is a unique, peer-reviewed publication that takes researchers step-by-step through the process of identifying, locating, and gaining access to these genealogical gems. 

Included in this book are hundreds of links to church research resources, as well as chapters devoted to specific resources for the major Christian denominations before 1900. More than 30 archivists, historians, and genealogical experts in specific faith traditions have contributed their knowledge to these denominational chapters.

The book chapters cover:

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 

Index
In my opinion, church records are one of the most under-utilized records by American family historians and genealogists.  The records that may be available include:  births; relative’s names; national origin or ethnicity; baptisms; confirmations; marriages; memberships and migrations;deaths, funerals and burials; and participation in ministries.  Each denomination may have some of these record types.

Church records may be found in published books; original records in church offices; church and other archives; imaged and indexed records, including transcriptions in books and journals, and microfilmed original records on FamilySearch.  Ancestry.com has several sets of church denomination records.  The book provides a list of WPA Church Inventories by state.

For each denomination discussed, there are sections for historical background, the available records, how to access the records, other records of interest, and a list for further reading.

This work is well organized, well written by expert genealogists, and very useful for researchers trying to find family history for their ancestral families.  Using these records may unlock family stories and mysteries that are only in church records.

My opinion is that this book is the best available and most up-to-date resource for this record class, and will be a valuable addition to my family history personal library.

This book can be ordered through Genealogical Publishing Company HERE



Book Review: “How To Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records” 

Posted by Dr. Mac  (Dr. Margaret McMahon) – “A Week of Genealogy” on Dec 21, 2019.

I was excited at the opportunity to review “How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist’s Guide” by Sunny Jane Morton and Harold A. Henderson, CG. The book contains specific resources for researching ancestors in major Christian Denominations before 1900 in the United States. That excitement lasted throughout the whole book. 

While censuses are great for providing us with a backbone of an individual’s or family’s timeline, Church records can help us learn the web of connections between family members and those who were close to them. The choice of Church may also give us the underlying motivations for major stories in our ancestors’ history. At the very least they provide us knowledge of the important institution and tenets with which our ancestors allied themselves.

This book is a game changer for religious research. Up until now, genealogists may have or may not have known the importance of church records, but conquering them was a hit-or-miss effort. These skills were usually taught by an experienced genealogist. A genealogist would learn a little about whom to contact and what to ask for, and that could still be a hit-or-miss effort. Experience was the only teacher.

In Section 1, Chapters 1 through 5 take the genealogist through the basics of researching Church Records. Section 2 addresses specific Christian denominations in the United States: Anglican/Episcopal, Baptist, Congregational, Dutch Reformed/Reformed Church in America, Latter-Day Saint (Mormon), Lutheran, Mennonite and Amish, Methodist, Quaker (Religious Society of Friends), Presbyterian and Roman Catholic. Each chapter contains a short history of the religion, important facts about it, followed by information about the records and how to find them. Every chapter also includes a section with resources for learning more. 

One unexpected hidden gem in this book is that this approach may prove useful for those researching enslaved African-American ancestors. Some church records for them may exist in the Anglican/Episcopal Church, covered in Chapter 6. 

I read this book from cover-to-cover, impressed by the amount of research put into each topic. The authors were clearly focused on putting useful and actionable information into genealogists’ hands. The authors are knowledgeable researchers, but put forth the additional effort of having experts in each religion review their material. 

If you are thinking about trying to find your Christian ancestors in Church records, and you should be, this book is for you. This is an invaluable reference for those researching Christian Churches in the United States. 

“How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist’s Guide” by Sunny Jane Morton and Harold A. Henderson, CG, is available from the Genealogical Publishing Company.

The Blog Post can be viewed HERE.


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