Virginia Church Records

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This entry was originally written by Johni Cerny and Gareth L. Mark for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the Virginia Family History Research series.
History of Virginia
Virginia Vital Records
Census Records for Virginia
Background Sources for Virginia
Virginia Maps
Virginia Land Records
Virginia Probate Records
Virginia Court Records
Virginia Tax Records
Virginia Cemetery Records
Virginia Church Records
Virginia Military Records
Virginia Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Virginia Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Virginia Immigration
African Americans of Virginia
Virginia County Resources
Virginia City Resources
Map of Virginia

Unlike New England, colonial Virginia left few early church records. The first Virginians were members of the Church of England, or Anglican Church, which became the Episcopal Church in 1786. Early parish registers are incomplete and challenging to use. Parish boundaries changed rapidly and are hard to pinpoint without Charles Francis Cocke's Parish Lines, Diocese of Virginia (1967; reprint, Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1978). This volume begins with a fine introduction to the Church of England's beginnings in the colony. Companion volumes by Cocke include Parish Lines, Diocese of Southwestern Virginia (1960; reprint, Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1980) and Parish Lines, Diocese of Southern Virginia (1964; reprint, Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1979).

Since colonial times, many religious groups have established congregations in Virginia, including Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Quaker or Friends, to name a few. Except for the Quakers, few of these groups kept records containing such genealogical information as birth, marriage, and death dates. A number of church vestry books and registers have been published and are available at the Library of Virginia and the FHL. See Jewell T. Clark and Elizabeth Terry Long, comps., A Guide to Church Records in the Archives Branch, Virginia State Library and Archives (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1981) for a complete inventory of church records at the Library of Virginia. See also Edith F. Axelson, A Guide to Episcopal Church Records in Virginia (Athens, Ga.: Iberian Publishing Co., 1988) for a county-by-county listing of all known records of the denomination.

Several religious denominations have collections of historical, membership, and other congregational records. Contact the organizations below for information about their holdings.

Baptist Church Records

Virginia Baptist Historical Society
Boatright Memorial Library
University of Richmond
P.O. Box 34
Richmond, VA 23173

Congregation Beth Ahabah

Museum and Archives Trust
1111 W. Franklin St.
Richmond, VA 23220-3700

The core collection of the archives includes documents of Beth Shalome and Beth Ahabah congregations of Richmond.

Virginia United Methodist Historical Society

Randolph Macon College
McGraw-Page Library
P.O. Box 5005
Ashland, VA 23005-5505

Presbyterian Church Records

Union Theological Seminary in Virginia
3401 Brook Rd.
Richmond, VA 23227