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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Beth's Weekly Moultrie Observer Column - Week 50
(This appears here courtesy of The Moultrie Observer)

Sometimes genealogists overlook the importance of searching church records for their ancestors. All of the denominations keep records and there are genealogical treasures awaiting the researcher.

The Baptist Church has many denominations all of which baptize adults or mature children rather than infants. Baptismal records may or may not have been kept by the minister of the church. In the membership records as kept by local congregations, you usually will not find the ages or parentage although the church minutes may record a transfer of a member, giving the name of the former Baptist congregation.

There were many Baptists in our Southern States, there were also many Baptists in New England and Atlantic Canada.

One of the standard works on the movement of the Baptist church is The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness by Leon H. McBeth.

There's a wonderful article in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly by Wilbur F. Helmbold that gives the genealogical perspective of using Baptist records.

In Baptist research you should search baptismal records of adults, minutes of the congregation and "transfers of letter" into or out of the congregation. You can use those transfer records to trace the migration paths of families. There are also journals, periodicals and histories published by either the local congregation or the general denomination. There are two very good repositories of Baptist materials at The American Baptist Historical Society in Rochester, New York (1106 South Goodman St., Rochester, NY 14620. Call 716-473-1740 or use or email and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in Nashville, Tennessee. Both of these libraries accept genealogical requests.

The Episcopal Church in the United States is part of the Anglican communion, which have their roots in the Church of England. Members of the Church of England, as well as members of the Church of Ireland brought their religion with them to British North American colonies. The Church of England was the established religion in many of the colonies before the Revolution.

Members of other churches, such as Roman Catholic, are often found in the records of the Church of England during this time.

After the War of Independence, the congregations of the Church of England were reorganized as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It was not until 1967 that the alternate name, The Episcopal Church, came into official use.

You will find that The Episcopal Church is organized on a parish and diocesan basis. Each parish has a rector or parish priest and each diocese is administered by a bishop.

In Episcopal records you'll fine baptisms, marriages, burials, confirmations and communicants. Marriage and burial records can include important details like parents' names with mother's maiden name and even occupations and birth places. The Communicant Rolls may indicate when and from where a member transferred into the parish and when and to where a member transferred out.

The individual parishes retain custody of many of the original parish records. Some of the diocesan archives contain original parish registers or microfilm copies. You might find copies of the early registers of parishes in state libraries or archives.

If you wish to contact the Archives of the Episcopal Church: Research Office, 606 Rathervue Pl., PO Box 2207, Austin, TX 78768 or call 512-472-6816 or or email

The Methodist Church has had various denominations over the centuries. They all trace their heritage back to John Wesley, a priest of the Church of England who started Methodist societies in the1740s in England and Ireland as supplementary organizations for members of the Church of England and the Church of Ireland. The earliest Methodist societies in North America began in the colonies of New York and Maryland in the 1760s.

We'll finish our little talk about using church records next time.

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