Sunny’s stated goal with her presentation was: How might YOU use church records to answer your own genealogy questions?
In answer to Lisa’s question to her about what is the most unique thing about U.S. church records, Sunny’s answer was: their diversity! “Think how many churches there are, even in a tiny rural town. Each one is unique, even if it is part of a bigger “mother” organization. It was a very U.S. “thing” for folks to do their own thing and that philosophy spilled over to their churches too. A group could, and often did, carve out their own church from the parent church.
Think of “church records” as looking through a lens at a uniquely American town, a unique ancestor and his unique time. “We’re always looking for things to make our ancestor more alive and more interesting………. We want more of his/her social history and church records might give us that part of his story.”
Think of the many and varied kinds of “church records:” registers, histories, jubilee celebrations and certainly the expected vital records. “Churches reflect the history of a town. Even if a person did not believe, nor was a member of a certain church, they might have joined friends/family in that church’s social activities …… maybe the only “fun” in town!
Sunny cited a study showing an immigrant’s home town is most likely to show up in church records…. Some 70% and way above any other kind of record.
TIP: Be sure to research/check both civil and church records for vital records, especially marriage.
TIP: Many denominations have regional archives which could have records of a closed church…. IE, go from the top down if bottom up doesn’t work.
TIP: Obituary might give church name; then go after the records of that church.
TIP: Part of a story she shared was using PERSI to find a list of members in a small rural (black) church……this list was published as a local group’s publishing of their local records.
TIP: Cannot apply what record you find in XX church as something you’ll find in another denomination’s records. Must ask: why did that denomination keep records? And then ask where are they?
**In church records you might/can/will find many unique stories and often answers to stubborn, long-standing questions.