New England Congregational Church Records discovered and are being gathered, transcribed, and digitized by the Congregational Church Library and Archives.
New England’s Hidden Histories: Colonial-Era Church Records are made available online by the Congregational Library, according to their website, History Matters. The New England church records include digital copies of microfilmed records already in the library archive, and other records discovered by project participants and often donated by individual congregations for safekeeping by the Congregational Library and research access.
According to History Matters:
Congregational church records are an unparalleled source of information about the religious activities of the early colonists, and about many other aspects of early American life as well. They provide a richly detailed view of town governments and social customs, data on births and marriages and deaths, and demonstrate the ways that ordinary people participated in community-wide decision-making — information that is simply not available in any other records from that time.
Surprisingly, despite the great age and historical significance of these church documents, they are mostly scattered across New England, in church closets, bank vaults, or the offices of town clerks. Many have been left exposed to the elements and are in danger of deterioration, or are all but impossible for the average researcher to locate.
Contains “records documenting early Puritan, Congregational, and Christian (denomination) history in New England. These collections describe the founding and operating of these churches, their concerns, difficulties, and triumphs. They speak to the lives of their ministers, the events and concerns of their communities, the civil affairs of the town, and the lives of the people who sat in the pews.”
“In this series you will find records of: church meetings and votes; births, deaths, baptisms, and marriages; church discipline, including admonitions, confessions, censures, and excommunications; ecclesiastical council minutes. Of particular note are the personal conversion narratives, called “relations,” found in several of the collections. These documents, prepared by any individual seeking church membership, offer insight into many under-documented populations including women, children, Native Americans, slaves, and indentured servants.”
Churches in the collections include the following at the time of this writing:
Records “created by individuals and ecclesiastical councils that are not part of a larger church records collection. The collections in this series document early Congregational thought and attitude towards topics such as theology, preaching, and mission work. They speak to a larger cultural context and to a more personal and private context, offering additional perspectives on the time period addressed by New England’s Hidden Histories.”
If you find these New England Church records useful in your research, consider donating time to their transcription efforts.
The Middleboro Transcription Project is an important part of the church records recovery effort, created in response to an unusual find of rare church documents in 2011. We welcome all volunteers and would-be transcribers to investigate.
The efforts of the Congregational Library to aggregate, preserve, transcribe, digital and make available these records is very commendable.
Today the Congregational Library is a thriving center for researchers of all kinds, from professional historians to church members curious about their roots — anyone wanting to understand more about a religious tradition that has deeply informed American culture. The Congregational story is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, beginning with the seventeenth-century Puritans and continuing on through nineteenth-century abolitionists and social reformers to the work of modern-day Congregational churches toward a just and open society.
New England Congregational Church Records discovered – will they help your New England genealogy research?