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Using Church History Records to Determine Your Genealogy

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/19/2007 | Genealogy

There are many different ways to figure out your genealogy, and church records are just the beginning. In order to use church records to figure out your genealogy, there are several things that you should keep in mind. First of all, you should know that church records are important because they often contain more information than civil records on our ancestors. They not only tell about who came before us, but they also shed a lot of light on the communities that they were living in. These records are invaluable to us, but they are often hard to find.

The first step is figuring out what denomination your ancestors were. You can look in family papers, like diaries and family bibles, or letters, wills or any other type of documents that you have. There will often be clues in these types of documents as to what church your ancestors were a part of. There might be clergy names, or different types of ceremonies that are prevalent in only once church. It is also helpful to know where your ancestors lived. If you can find a local history, you will be able to find a list of churches, and perhaps this will be your answer, because often there was only one church for each small community.

Once you have found a church that your ancestors may have gone to, you need to ask yourself if the church still exists. You can call or write to the church offices and see if the records are available. Even if the church doesnt exist any longer, you might be able to find information. Many times, churches will archive their records, and churches will also try to keep as many records as possible from the past. A good way to find out if this is the case is to visit your local Family History Center or genealogy library.

If you have found a church and found records that are available, you have probably discovered that there are two main types of records. These are records of people, and records of the organization itself. The records of the people are records that will be very helpful to you, weddings, baptisms, burials and confirmations, among other things. However, you should not overlook organization records, as these might include things like meeting minutes, bulletins and histories, all of which might mention your relatives. They will also make clear much of what the community was all about during the time your ancestors lived there.

Remember that once you have discovered all of these items, each new discovery will lead to another. Church records are full of names and dates and places, and each one of these might help you discover more and more about your past, and those that came before you. You should not overlook something, even if it appears to not mean anything to you. You never know when you will get the missing piece to make it all clear.