How religious records can help your family research
Religious records are created by churches, synagogues, mosques and so on to record their members' events, such as baptisms, christenings, marriages and burials.
You may also find other religious records such as marriage banns, congregation membership, church censuses, Sunday school lists or even pew rentals.
Religious records helped identify who belongs to a particular congregation, and they provided evidence of birth, marriage, death and relationships of family members. This was especially important in areas where religious organisations may have had the responsibility of providing poor relief and education through church-sponsored schools to their local population.
In some area's that were slower to adopt civil registration and before western countries taking census records, the most reliable documentation before the 1800s was church records. Historically, most people were associated with some church or synagogue. Even if your ancestor didn't follow religion in their private life, they might have lived in a country with an established religion, and you may still find them in the records of that religion.
These religious records can be used to help verify or even find new information on your ancestors. You may find tidbits of information sprinkled throughout the document. You may learn ancestors address, maiden name, family member or friends names, occupations and ages.
Helping you determine what church your ancestor belonged to:
- Ask family members if there is an old family bible? Is anyone in your family baptised, and if so, what religion? Look at your ancestor's marriage certificate; this may mention if they were married by someone associated with a church.
- What churches were available in the area, which your ancestor lived? Was there an established religion in the region?
- Look at cemetery records. Was your ancestor buried in a church cemetery? or a particular denomination in a graveyard?
- Look for an obituary or funeral notice from your ancestor; it may mention the church your ancestor attended.
Places to find church records:
- The Church, Synagogue or Mosque may hold historical records themselves
- Local Archives
- Local Libraries or University Libraries
To help you record your documents, including your religious records for each ancestor, I have put together this FREE ancestor profile scribble sheet.
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