Illinois Church Records

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This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

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

Despite the early Catholic missionaries in Illinois, their church had almost totally disappeared from the state by the time of the American Revolution. Later migration of English-speaking Catholics reestablished the church in the state. In 1850 the largest religious denomination in Illinois was the Methodists. Baptists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Congregationalists followed. Episcopalians had organized in the state in 1835, the Disciples of Christ were in Illinois prior to 1830, and the Lutherans grew in numbers with the German and Scandinavian emigration of the 1840s.

In the spring of 1839 a group of five thousand Latter-day Saints, following their expulsion from Ohio and Missouri, were led into Illinois by Joseph Smith. At Nauvoo, originally called Venus and Commerce, they established their Mormon community. The population increased, prosperity increased, and opposition against the Mormons increased. This opposition and dissension within their church ended in the murder of Joseph Smith. In September of 1845 the Mormons were told they were being expelled from the state, an expulsion that led to their migration west.

The Bishop Hill colony of Henry County was founded by a group of Swedish immigrants. Fifteen hundred of them, led by Eric Janson, established a communal existence of a 'Bible only' sect in 1846. The murder of Janson in 1853 led to the 1860 dissolution of this religious community. Most of the Jansonists eventually became Methodists.

The Primitive Baptist Library (416 Main St., Carthage, IL 62321 has a collection of records and materials for this denomination in Illinois and surrounding states.

Some local genealogical societies have published regional church records in their respective quarterlies.

Original forms for the inventory Guide to Church Vital Statistics Records in Illinois; Historical Records Survey (Chicago, 1942) are at the Illinois State Archives. Included in the published inventory are name of county and city/town; church name and address; denomination; date organized; date of lapse, if now defunct; description (by years, volumes, file boxes) of minute book, register book of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, members, and deaths, record book of Sunday school or other organization, and financial record; location and condition of records; general condition of all records; bibliographical information on any published or unpublished historical sketches of the church; and other information, particularly as to origins, history, and previous names of church. Files also include descriptions of records of orphanages, schools, and rest homes affiliated with the respective churches.

A search at The Family History Library (FHL) website for the specific city or town where the church was located may reveal records of the church in its collection.