A Genealogy Researcher Creates a Church History and a New Resource

Genealogists are always looking for new resources. Sometimes, they, as our RecordClick Pro Joan Shurtliff has done,
get to create new material. For her church’s fiftieth anniversary celebration, she has gotten to write a church history.
Being written by a genealogy researcher of the highest order, this church history is a document future ancestry researchers will worship.

A Genealogy Researcher always is looking for new resources. Ancestry research is truly a continual search because there are always new data bases, histories and ledgers that are being written and located. This RecordClick genealogist relishes the hunt.

This year, however, the shoe has been on the other foot. The church in which I was raised is celebrating a fiftieth anniversary and does not have a written history. Somehow, my name came up and I was asked to be on the Anniversary Committee. My brother and daughter are also on this committee. We are all known for being history buffs. Do you think this may have played a role in our having been selected?

Well, this genealogy researcher was tasked with writing a history.

Some committee members had the idea that it shouldn’t be too long. After all, their thinking went, someone did write a one-page history, complete with a picture, a number of years ago.  And, their thinking continued, the church’s youth put together a little booklet of memories for the fortieth anniversary.  Mind you, neither of these “histories” included the wonderful lists of member families that long-timers– and most every genealogy researcher –looks for with anticipation. We genealogists know for sure that there is just something special about seeing names in print.

Of course, the genealogy researcher side of me kicked in while writing this church history. While it hasn’t become a huge volume, the size of it did increase substantially–beyond some several generic pages.

I, being an experienced genealogy researcher, have been keeping a good number of family history questions in mind as I have been compiling this history:

  • How did we get here?
  • Why was this location selected for the church?
  • Who were we?
  • Who were the people that made the organization of the church possible?
  • What has happened?
  • What are some of the major events in the church family and what role did they play in the development of the church?
  • And, most important for the genealogy researcher, what records are available and where are these documents?

The congregation is Methodist, so the search has taken me to a number of places.

This genealogy researcher found the answers to “How did we get here?” and “Why was this location selected” at the conference archives. These archives are at the Wesleyan University library in Lincoln, Nebraska.

This professional genealogist next found that the “Who were we?” and “Who were the people” inquiries moved the information hunt from archives to our church facility. Yes, the archives had some information on the original founding of our church and a few items were available at our local church building, but for the original deeds, this genealogy researcher went to the local courthouse. Glad I did because these deeds provided information found nowhere else!

Our current pastor has spent a good deal of time putting records into spread sheets on the computer. He has a membership list, baptisms, marriages and funerals. There are also files and files of financial records. The spread sheets are a great help, just as a genealogy researcher would expect. However, Methodist pastors are not known for meticulous record keeping. Some are very good, others not so. One thing this professional genealogist decided early on in this process was that there wasn’t going to be room for all the information I would find. The book is just a history, after all.

Some of the vital information found and not found by this genealogy researcher in these records includes:

MEMBER INFORMATION

FOUND:

  • Charter members and current members

OMMITTED:

  • Dates
  • Name of spouse if married in the church
  • Date received
  • How the information was received (by transfer of membership or profession of faith)
  • From where the member transferred
  • Minister
  • If the member was removed from the roll, how he or she was removed
  • If one transferred a membership, to where it was transferred
  • Date removed

BAPTISMS

FOUND:

  • Name of individual baptized
  • Date of birth
  • Date of baptism
  • Officiating clergy
  • Parents.

OMMITTED:

  • Address and place of baptism

MARRIAGES

FOUND:

  • Groom;
  • Bride
  • Date of marriage
  • Officiating minister
  • Place of ceremony

OMITTED:

  • Addresses

FUNERALS

FOUND:

  • Name of individual
  • Date of death
  • Cemetery
  • Location of cemetery
  • Officiating minister

OMMITTED:

  • Nothing

The documents also include a variety of mostly candid pictures as well as information about various church activities and individuals of the congregation. This genealogy research, cum historian, has a goal of identifying as many people in the pictures as I am able. That means meeting in person with some of the members who can remember what people looked like 25 or 30 years ago. In the short run, that should help people who attend the anniversary celebration. In the long run, at some future point in time, another genealogy researcher may find a picture, perhaps, of an ancestor in a family tree.

Of course, there is way more information to be found than will be available in this anniversary history book. I am sure the same is true of many church histories. Yet, this book may help in a search by some future genealogy researcher who in his or her journey back in time might go beyond this anniversary history, too. The genealogy researcher of the future should also contact the church administration that is serving at the time and should always remember to look at those church financial records. The genealogist never knows which ancestor may be mentioned.

After this fiftieth anniversary volume is completed, this genealogist plans to be sure that copies are donated to the Methodist Archives in Lincoln and to the county museum. A history like this should be available for researchers of all types—including the genealogy researcher.

The experienced team of RecordClick genealogists are here to help you. When you hire a RecordClick genealogy researcher, you will get the information that makes your family history unique.

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