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Church and Synagogue Records for Genealogy

Baptisms, marriages, and burials are recorded in religious records and can be used to verify or substitute for missing genealogical data. This guide provides search strategies for finding these records along with selected online resources.

Introduction

J. & R. Lamb Studios, designer. [Design drawing for stained glass Ark window in warm tones for Hackensack Hebrew Institute a.k.a. Temple Beth El in Hackensack, New Jersey]. 1971. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Historically, most people in the United States have been associated with a church or synagogue. In areas that were slow to adopt civil registration, these religious records can provide documentation of births, marriages, and burials with additional information about family members and friends.

In addition, genealogists and family historians can use materials published by religious bodies in the U.S. to glean biographical details, look for photographs, and follow clerical or rabbinic careers.

The Library of Congress has amassed a collection of print materials relating to churches and synagogues in the U.S., which can help you verify the vital facts about your family members and reveal new information about their lives and times.

In your quest to conduct a “reasonably exhaustive” search for documents about your ancestors, you won’t want to overlook these records. This guide can help you discover and access church and synagogue records you may not have known you needed.


Featured Webcast

One source of vital information about your ancestors who lived in the U.S. is church and synagogue records. Genealogist and author Sunny Morton shares stories from her research using church records for genealogical research.

The following webcast is from a program presented at the Library of Congress on November 20, 2019: