Massachusetts Church Records

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This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG, for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

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

One expects an ample supply of church records in a state whose history is so interwoven with religious principles and dissension, and such is the case in Massachusetts. Many exist in either published form by themselves or in numerous periodicals or noted in several collections of inventories. Some early church records of vital events were included in the Systematic Series (see Vital Records) and are included in published versions (book and CD-ROM) of individual towns. Church records in Massachusetts often contain other genealogical information such as admissions and dismissals, which could indicate migration. Original records not held by the church itself are often deposited in central denominational libraries. The Corbin Collection (see Massachusetts Vital Records) includes many church records for the western part of the state. An extensive collection on CD-ROM by Robert J. Dunkle and Ann S. Lainhart, The Records of the Churches of Boston (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002) includes entries from nineteen churches in the city.

The following will guide the researcher to finding the appropriate records in Massachusetts for some of the historically largest or prominent denominations:

Baptist. Southern (1800-1960) and American Baptist (1699-1872) church records for Boston are on microfilm at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in Nashville, Tennessee and American Baptist-Colgate Historical Library, Rochester, New York.

Congregational. See Harold F. Worthley, Inventory of the Records of Particular (Congregational) Churches of Massachusetts Gathered 1620-1805 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970) and the Congregational Library, 14 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108.

Episcopal. See WPA, Inventory of Church Archives of Massachusetts: Protestant Episcopal Church, which was produced in 1942, and the Diocesan Library and Archives, 138 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02111.

Jewish. Records can be found at the American Jewish Historical Society Library, 160 Herrick Rd., Newton Centre, MA 02459, which is located at Hebrew College.

Methodist. See the Boston University School of Theology Library, 745 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215 for Methodist records.

Roman Catholic. See James M. O'Toole, 'Catholic Church Records: A Genealogical and Historical Resource,' Register 132 (1978): 251-63, and Archives of the Archdiocese of Boston, 2121 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton, MA 02135.

Society of Friends (Quakers). See Rhode Island Historical Society and Peabody Essex Institute.

Unitarian-Universalist. See An Inventory of the Universalist Archives in Massachusetts, compiled by the WPA in 1942, and Andover-Harvard Divinity School Library, 45 Francis Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138-1994.