GENEALOGY AND RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS
For most of our history religious faith and communities based on belief have been central to the lives of Americans both "old" and "new." Freedom of religion motivated early settlers from England and ethnic churches provided important support for later 19th and 20th century immigrants. Churches and synagogue have been part of many Americans' lives from cradle to grave and as such leave a rich cultural record and resources for genealogists. Inspired by the Vatican Splendors exhibit religious records are our theme for this issue.
Church and Synagogue Records
MHS has manuscripts resources primarily for Christian and Jewish denominations. Records may include baptisms, marriages, funerals, and other religious events. Records can include lists of members; minutes of congregational or parish meetings, minutes of women's, laymen's, missionary, and youth organizations; financial records; Sunday School records; and bulletins. Synagogue records contain similar types of information relevant to Jewish religious traditions. While MHS holds records for over 300 individual congregations in Minnesota, they represent only a small number of those that have existed in the state. Most records remain within their institutions. Happily, some records are on microfilm and available on Interlibrary Loan. To check for the records of an individual congregation please search our catalog under the name of the church/synagogue and the name of the city.
A New Resource for Norwegian Churches
Minnesota Historical Society has acquired a new source relating to Norwegian Lutheran churches in Minnesota. Through a generous donation, the MHS has purchased 336 reels of microfilm containing records of over 500 Minnesota congregations that were formerly part of the American Lutheran Church before its merger into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. As the records are cataloged and made available, they will be a wonderful source for genealogists, local historians, and students of emigration history.
The microfilms contain congregational meeting minutes, records of ministerial acts (baptisms, confirmations, marriages, funerals), financial records, compiled histories of individual congregations, and some records of auxiliary congregational organizations such as choirs, ladies aids, men’s groups, and youth groups. Occasionally, membership lists and communicant records are included. The records date from the 1850s into the 1950s and cover churches throughout Minnesota.
Researchers should be aware that most of these records are in Norwegian, so those wishing to use them will need to know at least a few Norwegian words that will be identified in the inventory. Because the Minnesota Historical Society has only one positive copy of each reel these records must be used at the History Center; they are not available for Interlibrary Loan. For reels that are cataloged and available for use, please contact the Reference staff.
When Church and State Interact
When doing family history research in faith-related records, one doesn’t often think of searching government archives for information. For those genealogists interested in a particular church’s history, however, or who have family members who were clergy, these records can contain useful information. Two record groups within the Minnesota State Archives are particularly helpful.
The Minnesota Secretary of State’s Corporation Division records include Record of Religious Corporations from 1885–1929, along with Record of Catholic Church Incorporations from 1877–1912. These records document the registration of the institution as a legal entity with the state and specify its administrative details, such as names of officers. There is one volume of Religious Corporations and three volumes of Catholic Church Incorporations. The Religious Corporation Records contain documents for individual churches, dioceses, and faith-based missions and societies. The Catholic Church Incorporations provide documentation for individual churches, and the name of the pastor of each church at the time of incorporating is included.
District courts were established in Minnesota counties shortly after the formation and organization of each county. As early as 1858, ministers were required by law to file a copy of their credentials of ordination with the clerk of district court "in some county" in order to lawfully perform marriages. This filing did not have to occur in the county in which the minister actually performed marriages. These records may include certificates of ordination or ordination credentials. MHS holds ordination records for approximately two-thirds of the counties in Minnesota, and the best way to search for such records is by using the Library’s catalog. Entering the search terms “clergy registers court” (without the quotes) will provide a results list of Minnesota county district courts that hold such records. Most of the volumes containing these records have a name index.
A marriage also creates a legal record - it's not just a party! The Library does have a small collection of county marriage records that are the legal documentation of marriages in the county. These records include the year (date) of the marriage and the name/title of the officiate. With these tidbits you can check a city directory and maybe locate the name of the church where the wedding took place. And then check the newspapers for the details! Consult our catalog to see which counties we have records for, or order them online.
CLASSES AND WORKSHOPS
Swedes Meeting October 18 and 24
The Swedish Genealogical Society of Minnesota will hold a quarterly meeting on Saturday October 18 from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. at the Minnesota Genealogical Society (1185 Concord St. N. in South Saint Paul). Mary Bakeman will be the featured speaker.
Then on Saturday October 24 join Dee and Ray Kleinow for a Swedish Genealogy Workshop from 9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. at the American Swedish Institute (2600 Park Ave. in Minneapolis). To register call 612-871-4907.
Norwegians Meeting October 25
The Norwegian-American Genealogical Association will meet on Saturday October 25th from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the Minnesota Genealogical Society ( 1185 Concord St. N. in South Saint Paul). The featured speaker will be MHS Librarian Alison Purgiel speaking on "From Immigrant to Citizen--Genealogy Research in Naturalization Records." For further information contact: Bob O’Neill at email@example.com or Marilyn Sorensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Church Records Class at MHS November 18
On Tuesday evening, November 18, Ruth Bauer Anderson will present "Church Records at the MHS Library" from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Anderson will discuss the different church records available at the Minnesota Historical Society. Information will include individual congregations records, the WPA records of churches in Minnesota, the Congregational Conference of Minnesota, Episcopal Church materials, church histories and directories, cemeteries, and photographs.
- November 18, 2008, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
- Fraternal Congress Classroom
- $10; $8 for MHS members
- Registration required.