Florida Church Records

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This entry was originally written by the Florida Pioneer Descendants Certification Program Committee of the Florida State Genealogical Society, Inc. for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

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As in most former frontier societies, early Florida church records are sporadic, but they can be valuable when located. An incomplete but voluminous list of Florida churches that existed in the 1930s is the WPA volume Preliminary List of Religious Bodies in Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.: Historical Records Survey, 1939). The original survey forms from which the volume was compiled are now in the State Library of Florida's Florida Room. Another complete WPA set is available at the library of the Florida Historical Society. Church records can also be found at holdings of most libraries and archival depositories throughout the state; denominational representatives should be consulted for locations of their repositories. The most noted repository is the P. K. Yonge Library at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Other good sources include:

  • Guide to the Supplementary Vital Statistics from Church Records in Florida. 3 vols. Jacksonville: Historical Records Survey, 1942.
  • The Pioneer Churches of Florida. Chuluota, Fla.: The Mickler House Publishers, 1977.

Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic faith accom-panied the earliest Spanish settlers to Florida. Records for Saint Augustine's Roman Catholic Cathedral Parish include marriages, baptism, and burials and begin in 1594, and are maintained by the parish's current archivist at St. Augustine Catholic Diocese, 11625 St. Augustine Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32241-4000. The P. K. Yonge Library owns copies of the St. Augustine diocese records, in addition to the Diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas (1576'1803) records. In 1941, the Historical Records Survey (WPA) published a two-volume set of the Roman Catholic Records, St. Augustine Parish, White Baptisms, 1784'1791 and 1792'1799. See also:

  • Catholic Church History, 1539'1989, West Coast of Florida. Brandon, Fla.: St. Petersburg Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, 1989.
  • Gannon, Michael. The Cross in the Sand: The Early Catholic Church in Florida, 1513'1870. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1983.

Baptists. For information and an excellent bibliography, see Edward Earl Joiner, A History of Florida Baptists (Jacksonville, Fla.: Convention Press, 1972). Many of the Baptist associations and their records are described in Inventory of the Church Archives of Florida: Baptist Bodies (Jacksonville, Fla.: Historical Records Survey, 1939'40). Most of the Florida Baptist records have been sent to Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, 901 Commerce St., Ste. 400, Nashville, TN 37203-3630.

Methodists. Two churches existed in Fernandina as early as 1822 (under the South Carolina Conference) and more than 10,000 members by statehood. See:

  • Temple, Robert M. Jr. Florida Flame: A History of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Nashville: Parthenon Press, 1987.
  • Brooks, William Erle. From Saddlebags to Satellites: A History of Florida Methodism. Fort Lauderdale: Tropical Press, 1965.
  • Lazenby, Marion Elias. History of Methodism in Alabama and West Florida: Being An Account of the Amazing March of Methodism Through Alabama and West Florida. Nashville: Parthenon, 1960.
  • Thrift, Charles Tinsley. The Trail of the Florida Circuit Rider: An Introduction to the Rise of Methodism in Middle and East Florida. Lakeland, Fla.: The Florida Southern College Press, 1944.

Episcopalians. By 1845 there were parishes at Apalachicola, Jacksonville, Key West, Pensacola, and Tallahassee, in addition to others in several smaller towns. In 1840 Florida Presbyterian churches were divided among the Florida, Georgia, and Alabama Presbyteries. The P. K.Yonge Library has the publications of the Protestant Episcopal Church: Diocese of Florida: Journal, 1838'1984, and Diocese of Central Florida: Diocese, 1894'1984. See also:

  • Bentley, George R. The Episcopal Diocese of Florida, 1892'1975. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1989.
  • Cushman, Joseph D. A Goodly Heritage: The Episcopal Church in Florida, 1821'1892, Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1965. Includes a bibliography.

Presbyterians. In 1840 Florida Presbyterian churches were divided among the Florida, Georgia, and Alabama Presbyteries. See James R. Bullock, Heritage and Hope: A Story of Presbyterians in Florida. Orlando, FL: Synod of Florida, Presbyterians Church, 1987