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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:

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).


The description of the book contents is:

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 – see https://genealogical.com/store/how-to-find-your-family-history-in-u-s-church-records/ 

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Disclosure:  I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it.  


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Copyright (c) 2019, Randall J. Seaver

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