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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, baptism 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 spots all around the church.
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. USA civic vital records only go so far back, therefore, one may find information on ancestors in church records.
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 Jewish/Christian history and both family history blogs.
Some time ago, David and I took a couple of classes at our local Genealogy library. Angela N. Stiffler, from William Jewell College’s Partee Center at Liberty, MO. was one and Barbara Bueller, herself a Lutheran, was the other. 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. Family historians will thank you.

More Repositories and Archives:
Primitive Baptist Library, Carthage, Illinois.

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