Research Notes -
from Park Genealogical Books,
your specialists in genealogy and local history for Minnesota and the surrounding area

Minnesota Church Records and Archives

Often overlooked (or even avoided, because of their seeming complexity) are church records. Minnesota, like many other states, did not require filing of vital records until the 20th century. This results in 'missing' birth, death and marriage records.

For those researchers who are willing to dig more deeply, records made by churches and clergy may be available to help fill those gaps in the family history. For those with curiosity about the lives of their ancestors, denominational histories can reveal who brought the particular church to the area and how it was done.

Churches which still exist usually hold their own records from the date the congregation began, and may also hold records from other churches which have merged to make one congregation. A study of the denominational histories can provide clues to where to search for records. Some of those histories are included with the list of archivists below. While most are out of print, check your local library or your favorite used bookstore.

Denominational archivists can be a good starting point for locating records for churches that have been closed. They are familiar with both denominational and congregational mergers. For example, the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) churches merged with the Methodist churches, to form the United Methodist denomination. Records from an EUB congregation are usually with the often renamed United Methodist church serving the same area. Note that most archives are open limited hours and some charge a fee for the copies and searches they provide. Be sure to include a SASE with your query.

For those whose ancestors came from New England, the records search is made easier with Church Records in Minnesota: A Guide to Parish Records of Congregational, Evangelical, Reformed, and United Church of Christ Churches, 1851-1981, compiled by Anne A. Hage, former Archivist for the Minnesota Conference. Each church on the roster was surveyed in 1980-2 for its holdings, with dates and quantities for twenty types of records. The book also includes data on 80 churches which were no longer active when the survey was made. [This resource is available from Park Genealogical Books.

Another possible source is the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS). The Society microfilmed records from many of the early congregations. These can be found by searching the PALS catalog (a telnet connection). Some parish records have been published in local church histories, genealogical society newsletters and journals, the Minnesota Genealogical Journal, and in the Minnesota Genealogist -check the Subject Index to Minnesota Genealogist, 1969-1994, compiled by Tony Hawkins Richardson. The index includes all articles published in the quarterly journal of the Minnesota Genealogical Society, for the first 25 years. [It, too, is available from Park Genealogical Books.]

While no one can guarantee that every record a researcher wants will be found, a pleasant surprise might just await you in a church record.

Religious Denomination Archival Repositories/Resources/Histories

Archives of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis
Steven Granger, Archivist; Patrick Anzelc, Archives Assistant
226 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102

The Catholic Church in the Diocese of St. Paul, from Earliest Origin to Centennial Achievement, by James Michael Reardon, P.A., St. Paul: North Central Publishing Company, 1952 (out of print)

The archives are held in the manuscript collections at the Minnesota Historical Society. See the PALS catalog.

Fifty Years of Church Work in the Diocese of Minnesota, 1857-1907, by Rev. George Clinton Tanner, D.D., St. Paul: 1909 (out of print)

Lutheran - ELCA (including Scandinavian)
ELCA Region III Archives
Paul Daniels, Archivist
2481 Como Avenue
St. Paul, MN

A Church Is Planted: The Story of the Lutheran Minnesota Conference, 1851-1876 by Emeroy Johnson, Minneapolis: Lutheran Minnesota Conference, 1948 (out of print)

Lutheran - Missouri Synod (German)
Southern District
Buenger Memorial Library, Concordia College
Glenn Offerman, Director
Hamline and Marshall
St. Paul, MN 55104

Missouri in Minnesota, by Glenn W. Offerman. Centennial history of the Minnesota South District, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, going back to the arrival of its first missionary in 1857. The denomination was almost exclusively German. Extensive lists, bibliographic references, photos and an excellent name index. Available from Park Genealogical Books.

United Methodist
Minnesota Annual Conference, United Methodist Church
Kathy Spence Johnson, Archivist
122 West Franklin Ave., Room 400
Minneapolis, MN 55404

History of Methodism in Minnesota, by Chauncey Hobart. First-hand reminiscences and historical materials collected earlier by Conference leaders. Every name index and a new intro with glossary added; reduced reprint of 1887 classic. Available from Park Genealogical Books.

United Church of Christ
The archives are held in the manuscript collections at the Minnesota Historical Society. See the PALS catalog.

Congregational Work of Minnesota, 1832-1920, edited by Warren Upham, D.Sc., Minneapolis: Congregational Conference of Minnesota, 1921 (out of print)

Baptist General Conference
Norris Magnuson, Archivist
Bethel College and Seminary
3949 Bethel Drive
Arden Hills, MN 55112

American Baptist
American Baptist Historical Society
Samuel Colgate Library
1106 S. Goodman St.
Rochester, NY 14620

Minnesota Jewish Historical Society
Linda Schloff, Archivist
Hamline University
Snelling and Hewitt
St. Paul, MN 55104

Presbyterian Historical Society
425 Lombard St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147

(c) 1996 Park Genealogical Books

© 1995 Park Genealogical Books, Roseville MN

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