Monday, June 9, 2014

CHURCH RECORDS - How they can help you with your research.

Were any of  your ancestors Reverends or Ministers or some kind of clergy? Or were they married to someone who was?

I’ve found quite a few in my family.  This has led to some great discoveries in various publications.  

These records can give dates of birth & death and locations, family member’s names, places an ancestor lived and sometimes even physical descriptions.

Probably my first discovery was for my 3rd Great Grandfather, Rev. Isaac C. Hunter.  He was born in 1798 in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania and died 27 Jun 1842 in Gallia County, Ohio.  Certainly a time when there weren’t very many vital records we could try to locate.

I was able to find records about him by using a search engine (such as Google or Bing).  This is a method I use frequently when I am searching for information about an ancestor.  Let’s try this method and see what I come up with.

I entered “Isaac C. Hunter” + reverend into the Google search box.  I got several hits on the first page and continued to check on the following pages.  In fact, today as I was writing this I found some articles that I had not previously seen.  

Examples of what I found:
screenshot rev isaac c hunter

Isaac C. Hunter and Harvey Camp
Isaac C. Hunter and P. Nation

Google Books - Foot Prints of an ItinerantHere is an excerpt from the book.  This article in the book about Rev. Isaac C. Hunter goes from page 301-308.

Hunter - from dying bed of itinerant

From the Western Christian Advocate 15 Jul 1842:

Hunter - western christ advocate

From the Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the years 1839-1845, Volume III, page 349.

HUNTER_Isaac C_obiturary from Minutes of MethEpis Conf 1843

Now, let’s find more information about another ancestor.

My husband’s 2nd Great Grandfather – Rev. George Hall born 4 Jun 1804 in Keene, Cheshire, New Hampshire, died 4 Sep 1878 in Port Gibson, Claiborne, Mississippi.  He is listed as a Minister of the Gospel in the 1870 census in Fayette, Jefferson Mississippi.
I found this online in the Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, page 289.  I only wish the picture on this page was the Rev. George Hall.

HALL_George F_page 289 from Encyclopedia of Presb Church WITH HIGHLIGHTS

Let’s try one more ancestor.  William Gillen.  He wasn’t a Reverend or Minister, but it was his daughter who married the Rev. Isaac C. Hunter, mentioned at the beginning of this post. 

I located his obituary in the Western Christian Advocate. 


NOTE:  I cannot find the excerpt (above) from the Western Christian Advocate online today.  That is why it is imperative that you save the items, pictures, documents etc. that you find, when you find them.  They may not be there later.  Even if you save them to a generic folder on your computer, just save them.

These are just some of the records available to you.  If you find out which denomination your ancestor was in service to, you can find pages online for their historical societies.  I have also made phone calls & written letters with inquiries about my ancestors. 

Here’s a couple of sites I found today:

The Historical Society of the United Methodist Church
Presbyterian Historical Society

I began writing this post yesterday afternoon.  Coincidentally, I received an email from late last night.  The subject of that email was how to use religious records in your research.   Click on the link below and learn even more about how to use religious records to help you find information about your ancestors.  There are many good tips in the article.

How to Use Religious Records in Family History Research

So go and see what you can find.  I would love to hear from you if you make some good discoveries.

A Great Discovery - Ask for Help and You May Get it
Name Lists - How to Use Them (including church records)

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2014   Diane Gould Hall


  1. Thanks for the tips! I have two brothers who were both circuit rider preachers in Tennessee: Reuben/Reubin H. Ward & Pleasant W(illiam) Ward. I tried your tip and unfortunately only got 'hits' on ancestry & some message boards. My great, great grandfather, Reuben, was actually murdered while riding his circuit. My grandmother always told the story that he was on a boat and someone murdered him & threw him into the water. I have since found one little article about his murder, but am still wanting to find more. I want to see if there are any court records for a trial. Anyway, thanks for the reminder! I won't find the record if I don't start looking!

    P.S. I have family (Close & Longwell) in Mifflin County & quite a few surnames in Centre County!

    1. Dana,
      In regards to the records. I sometimes had to make phone calls & write letters to the different denominational societies. If you know the denomination of your circuit rider, there should be records. They may or may not be found online. Good luck with your search.
      My Mifflin and Centre County families are two of my biggest brick walls. The Hunter & Gillen families. I'll keep looking.
      Let me know how the search for the church records goes.
      Thanks for your comment.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.