Mayflower Plymouth Village North Bridge at Concord

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

Plymouth Village

North Bridge at Concord

Church Records

We use church records when birth, marriage, and death certificates are not available from other sources. Most churches keep registers for baptism, confirmation, marriages and burials. Going through these registers can give you dates for these events in a person’s life. Many church registers have been filmed and are available either at Ancestry or a Family History Center, or a Family History Center Affiliate Library. Even the small town churches in Southwest Nebraska have been filmed and available for viewing.
During the nineteenth century, back country, circuit riding preachers kept journals of the services, marriages, funerals, and baptism they performed. Many of these journals can be found at the historical archives of the church they represented. I have used a journal like this in my own research. The journal was for a Baptist Minister Peleg Burroughs who ministered in the Tiverton and Little Compton, RI area during the Revolutionary War years. He did have a church but rode a circuit to visit his parishioners on almost a daily basis. He wrote about his visits as well as recorded the services he performed. His talks with my ancestors gave me a brief look at what my ancestors were doing on a particular day in their life. I don’t know that my ancestors ever went to his church because the children’s baptisms are recorded in the Congregational church records. My 4th great grandmother’s family was Quaker so this opens up another avenue of research possibilities. Many of the Quaker Records have been collected and indexed at the Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
The earliest church record I have for one of my ancestors is from the St. James Parish church in Bristol England. It is for the year 1572 and is the record of the marriage of my tenth great grandparents. The record comes from the Gloucester archives and it is apparent that it is not an original record. The pages from this register record the Baptism, the marriages, and the burials for a calendar year, one after the other. When the records are written like this they had to have been transcribed from another source. They are not the original record. Given the year of the record, I know the chances of finding another source are very remote. One problem with the record is it records only the bride and groom and the date of the marriage. If the original church record could be found it may list the parents’ names and witnesses. Our goal for any record is to find the original record of an event. Transcription errors do happen, and some events may not be transcribed and that information is then lost.
The best church records I have seen are those from the Lutheran Churches in Germany. The information contained in these records can help you fill out a family pedigree quickly. When the German immigrants came to America, they brought these record keeping methods with them and set them up in the churches when they established them. From my own research I found that families can be traced from the churches here to where they originated from in Germany.

What you may find in the church registers.

Baptism Register

  1. Name
  2. Date of Birth
  3. Date of Baptism
  4. Fathers name
  5. Mothers name
  6. Witnesses

Confirmation Register

  1. Name of Conferment
  2. Date of Birth
  3. Date of Baptism
  4. Date of Confirmation
  5. Fathers name
  6. Mothers name

Marriage Register

  1. Grooms name
  2. Grooms age
  3. Grooms fathers name
  4. Grooms mothers name
  5. Marriage date
  6. Brides name
  7. Brides Age
  8. Brides fathers name
  9. Brides mothers name
  10. Witnesses

Burial Register

  1. Name of deceased
  2. Age
  3. Death date
  4. Cause of death
  5. Parents names
  6. Spouse name
  7. Children’s names
  8. Where buried

Congregation Register


The register will have a list of the church congregation. May or may not list by family group.