Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Church Records and Christian History

Recently, our church cleared out some closets. The matter of what to do with old church documents such as address directories, baby dedication records, baptismal records, board minutes, old Sunday church bulletins, death records, membership transfer records, old newsletters, and so forth came up for discussion. To my knowledge, the collection hasn’t been cataloged since our 50th anniversary celebration several years ago and boxes, photograph scrapbooks, and filing cabinets have been stashed away in various available cubbyholes in our church.

Grandview Church of the Nazarene
These papers are not only important to document our church family history, but are also important to family historians/genealogists as well as to Christian university students and seminarians for various research papers and projects. American civic vital records only go so far back, so then, one may find information on ancestors in church records if they still exist.

David has always been interested in Christian history since his student days at Mid-America Nazarene University in Olathe, KS., particularly the Reformation period. I only became recently interested in church history when we began to homeschool our son in his fifth grade year of elementary school. We looked for a Christian-based history curriculum beginning in our home states since we live close to many important US history sites we could visit on field trips to supplement the curriculum. Not finding any, I began my own little research project which has since "blossomed” into a bigger project than I realized, namely, a timeline of Missouri and Kansas Christian history and two family history-related blogs, this one and the History Nut

Some time ago, David and I went to a genealogy lecture at our local Genealogy library. Angela N. Stiffler, former director of William Jewell University's Partee Center at Liberty, MO. was one speaker and the other was Barbara Bueller, herself a Lutheran. Both spoke of the importance of Christian and family research in Missouri which has been gleaned from church, ministerial, and district accounts. Since that time, I’ve gotten acquainted with Nancy Erhlich, a Heartland Presbyterian Church Historian and Stan Ingersol, the Nazarene Archivist. They all say the same, either keep your collection together (some churches now have a heritage room), transcribe it into a church history book (send a copy to your local genealogy library) or donate it to your local denominational archivist before you toss the records in the trash bin. Paper copies are best as technology changes way too fast. Family historians will thank you.

A Transcribed Example of Church Minutes:
Lulbegrud Primitive Baptist Church Minutes: 1793-1804. 

Example: a copy of my husband's church membership transfer document. Click on image to enlarge if you wish to view details.

More Repositories and Archives
Allen County, Indiana Public Genealogy Library Bible Records 
Bible Records Online
Primitive Baptist Library, Carthage, Illinois. Head Librarian: Eld. Robert Webb.

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