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Religious Records << Teacher's Guide <<

| Objectives | Teacher | Main Idea No.1 | Main Idea No.2 |
| Go Online | Writing | Information |
| Printable Version |

OBJECTIVES

IN THIS LESSON, YOU'LL

TEACHER

This lesson includes opportunities for class discussion and a video presentation. Vocabulary words are included at the end of the lesson, though not specifically brought into the lesson in the form of an assignment. Resulting measurable assignments include a creative writing sample and a letter. While the lesson's main ideas logically build on one another, the activities and assignments suggested can be adapted or omitted according to your needs.

MAIN IDEA NO.1

THE CHURCH'S "VITAL" RECORDS

Births, marriages and deaths were often recorded by the state, but each state started keeping track of these records at different periods of time. For instance, Pennsylvania didn't start recording vital records until 1906. What do you do if you're trying to find the marriage certificate of an ancestor who moved to Pennsylvania in 1880? You look for church records.

Instead of birth records, churches recorded baptisms, which often times meant the baptism of a baby. For this reason, these baptism records are a good substitute for birth records. Instead of death records, churches recorded the burials of members of their congregations. Often these people were buried right on the church grounds.

VIEW ANCESTORS EPISODE 6: RELIGIOUS RECORDS

Episode Description

Meet Greg Spacher, whose digging into Church records uncovers a startling truth about where his family came from. Experts and clergy highlight various religious records and tell how to determine an ancestor's religious affiliation.

Discussion Questions

  • What records might give you clues to the religious affiliation of your ancestor?
  • Why is discovering a religious affiliation sometimes difficult?
  • For immigrant ancestors, how can knowing where they came from help you determine their religious affiliation?
  • A baptismal record can contain what types of information?
  • Where might church records be kept?
  • Why is the following statement by genealogist John Humphrey true or not true: "It was the church records that brought the average man out of his obscurity in the sixteenth century."

MAIN IDEA NO.2

PROVING RELATIONSHIP
You may not have realized it, but as each record gives you clues to your ancestors, you begin to understand more about that ancestor's immediate family. In fact, a good ancestor detective always looks for clues in records that will prove relationship, meaning, clues that will tell you who the ancestor's mother was, or who their older brother might have been. On a marriage certificate, for instance, the witnesses to the marriage are often relatives. But is it the bride's uncle or the groom's father? You may not know who it is, but the record has at least given you a name that you can now look for in other records.

FIELD TRIP!
Visit a local Cathedral, Mosque or Synagogue and talk to that congregation's main record keeper. Find out how long records have been kept there, and what types of information were recorded. Are there duplicate copies made, and where are those records stored?

GO ONLINE

At
http://www.CyndisList.com/topical.htm, you'll find a listing of sources for the records of various religions, including:

  • Catholic
  • Huguenot
  • Jewish
  • LDS & Family History Centers
  • Mennonite
  • Methodist
  • Quaker
  • Other Religion & Churches

If you know...

  • the religion of your ancestor
  • where he or she lived
  • and the years he or she would have attended that church

...you are prepared to write a letter, requesting information from the church archive or library. Include the ancestor's name and the time period in which the person lived in the community. Request baptismal, marriage or burial information for that person. While some organizations may not have the staff available to do a search for you, others will send you what information is available for a modest fee. Record what you learn on your pedigree chart and family group record.

If you're looking for an immigrant ancestor and don't yet know his or her religion, look at what Cyndi's List suggests under "Localities" for clues to religious affiliation based on geography.

If you're looking for an ancestor who is in the States but you still don't know the religion, look for a local history for the area in which that person was living and see if you can discover the prominent congregations in the area.

Often ethnic groups share the same religious affiliation. Cyndi's List can help you there, too.

FOR THE FUN OF IT

http://www.jewishgen.org/
Includes discussion groups, databases, history and how-to help.

http://www.jwa.org/main.htm
This is the homepage of the Jewish Women's Archive, whose mission it is to "uncover, chronicle and transmit the rich legacy of Jewish women and their contributions to our families and communities, to our people and our world."

http://www.rootsweb.com/~quakers/quakinfo.htm
Learn more about Quakers and their role in history.

http://campus.northpark.edu/library/archives/cahl_mission.htm
Take a look at some very old and interesting Evangelical records.

WRITING

Select an event recorded in church records. Pretend that you are the rabbi, priest or other religious leader, recording that event in a history that you're writing about the congregation. What information would you consider important enough to record?

INFORMATION

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED AND . . .
Religious records are "what brought the ordinary man out of obscurity" (1) because they recorded major events in the lives of all church-goers, not just the rich or famous. They can help you fill in the blanks on your pedigree chart and teach you more about what life was like for your ancestors. But, as a good family history detective, you probably want to know more than what you've learned so far. What's another record that could tell you more of your family story?

. . . WHAT'S NEXT?
It doesn't have to be Memorial Day to go to the cemetery. Bring a wreath of garlic if you'd like, but don't miss what you can learn about your ancestors from the places in which they're buried.

(1) John Humphrey, professional genealogist and expert featured in Ancestors, Episode 206: Religious Records.

 
 
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-Teacher's Guide-

Download PDF Version
of the Teacher's Guide

Episode Links

Introduction
Episode 201
Episode 202
Episode 203
Episode 204
Episode 205
Episode 206
Episode 207
Episode 208
Episode 209
Episode 210
Episode 211
Episode 212
Episode 213

 

     
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