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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Beth's Weekly Moultrie Observer Column - Week 51
(This appears here courtesy of The Moultrie Observer)

We're talking about using church records for genealogical research this time and specifically about Methodist resources of use to family searchers.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was officially organized in 1784 in Baltimore and included Methodist churches in both the United States and Canada. The Methodist Protestant Church was established in this country in 1828 and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South separated in 1844 from the Methodist Episcopal Church. The three American branches were united in 1939. In 1968, The United Methodist Church (the largest group of Methodists now in the United States) was formed by the unification of The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church.

Local churches usually keep records of membership, marriages, baptisms and deaths. The records of memberships were sometimes called "class lists." The churches also kept registers of "probationers," the individuals who were undergoing preparation for admission to membership.

The membership/class lists indicate when a member was admitted and from what denomination if it was different from Methodist. You'll also find when a member left that church.

Some of the conferences of the United Methodist Church have established conference archives. Contact the General Commission on Archives and History, United Methodist Church, PO Box 127, Madison, NJ 07940. Call 201-822-2787. Go to  on the Internet.

Various branches of the Presbyterian faith in North America have merged and divided through the years. The majority of the Presbyterian congregations now in the United States are part of the Presbyterian Church (USA). There are a number of smaller groups, such as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Presbyterian registers vary according to congregation. You may find records of birth and baptism, marriage and death/burial along with session minutes and communion rolls.

If you are to find immigrant origins, they are usually in the session minutes or the communion rolls. The session is the governmental body for the local congregation. In order to be accepted into a particular congregation, an interview had to take place between the prospective communicant and the session. You'll also find the acceptance or rejection of the communicant in the session minutes. There are transfers of membership from other congregations in this information too.

Major repositories where registers have been gathered include the Presbyterian Church (USA) Department of History in Philadelphia; the Presbyterian Church (USA) Department of History in Montreat, North Carolina and at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Contact the Presbyterian Church (USA) Department of History, 425 Lombard St., Philadelphia, PA 19147 or call 215-627-1852. On the Internet: or email

There are a few really good Internet resources too. You might go to Cyndi's List: Religion and Churches Page at or The Hall of Church History at

I ran across this and thought it was fun...and, so, will share it with you.

If you have the name "Elizabeth" in your family, there are a whole slew of nicknames (many I'd never thought of) which include Elisabeth, Bessy, Beth, Betsy, Bethis, Betsey, Betty, Bitsy, Eliza, Elisa, Lisa, Lise, Liz, Lizzie or Libby!

If you don't subscribe to our publication, The Family Tree, we surely do invite you to do so! Sort of amazingly, it's the largest genealogical publication in the world and also the largest Scottish publication outside Scotland (although there's Spanish, Italian, Spanish, Jewish and every other ethnicity we can find news about in its pages too), in the world...and it comes from Moultrie, Georgia!

Just send or bring us a postage contribution of $6.00 or more and ask to be put on the list. If you come by the library, you're welcome to as many back issues as we have.

Return to Beth's Index Page


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