Searching Church Records
By Lisa South - Certified Genealogist
Before you begin searching...
Before you begin searching for your ancestors in church records, you have to determine with which church those ancestors were affiliated. Often this information is passed down through the family. An obituary, family bible or artifact often will give you your clue. If you do not know which church(s) your ancestors attended, or if there were no churches of their denomination close to where they lived, you should conduct a "spiral" map search. Through land records, locate where your ancestor lived. Search the history of that area (many county histories will mention the churches that were established in that county) and find which churches were there at that time and locate the churches and your ancestor's property on your map. Starting from your ancestor's home draw a spiral out. Search the records of the closest church and continue until you have found the records of your ancestors or have established that they are not on any of the church records.
Once you locate the church your ancestors attended, determine if that Church's records have been published. Many are online and many can be searched at your local LDS Family History Library. If the records have not been published, find out if the old records are still in the custody of that church. If not, question the minister; he might know if the records have been collected to a central repository. Find out if local libraries or historical societies have collected church records. If the church is not extant, the chamber of commerce or older people in the community may know where the records are being stored.
Remember, church records are made to fill the needs of the church not the needs of the genealogist, so some church records give very little genealogical information while others are a veritable gold mine.
Tracking down Church records can take a lot of money (in the form of long distance phone calls, trips, etc) and time. Before you make that investment, you'll definitely want to check OneGreatFamily.com to see if the work has already been done by other family genealogy enthusiasts, and which sources they may have already identified. All to we end up duplicating the efforts of others, doing the same research someone else has already been done. OneGreatFamily automactically searches for you and identifies connections between your efforts and the efforts of other members working on the same family tree even while you sleep.
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