Manhattan Church Records


Church Records

HISTORICAL  The first churches established in New York during the 17th century were the Dutch Reformed, French Protestand and Lutheran churches.  As New Englanders continued to migrate to New York, the Congregational Church (Puritans) and Society of Friends (Quakers) grew.  Many New Yorkers joined both the Baptists and Presbyterians.  By 1775 the Presbyterian Church ws the largest denomination in New York.

In the mid-1800s, the Methodist Church was the largest, followed by the Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Dutch Reformed, Congregational, Roman Catholic, Society of Friends, Universalist, Lutheran, Union, Christian, Unitarian and Jewish.

Since the, the Roman Catholic Church has been the largest denomination due to the large number of immigrants from Ireland and eastern and southern Europe.


TYPES OF RECORDS  In Many respects the records of most churches are not unlike vital records.  They deal with the same essential identifying data -- births, marriages, deaths -- only in a slightly different way.  Rather than the actual birth, the church ordinarily reports the baptism or christening, usually a few days later.  Instead of a marriage license or bond, the church keeps a record of the actual marriage and of the banns.  And instead of the death, the church is more like to record the burial.  But because of the near proximity of these dates, time wise, they serve the same purpose, and they were generally kept in a much earlier time period than were civil vital records.  They are generally kept in books called registers.

Another kind of church record that has special genealogical value is the record which indicates removal to or arrival from another congregation.  Most churches kept records of this type so that faithful members would be welcomed into the church when they moved to a new location, but each church had a different name for them.  The Society of Friends called them certificates of removal, the Protestant Episcopal Church (Church of England) called them letters of transfer, the Baptists called them letters of admission, the Congregationalists called them dismissions, and the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) called them certificates of membership.  These records are useful because they allow a family to be traced with relative ease from one locality to another, sometimes a very difficult matter without such assistance. 

Other types of church records include, confirmations, lists of communicants, membership lists, excommunication, all of which are frequently recorded in the registers, plus vestry minutes and proceedings (Protestant Episcopal Church), sessions minutes (Presbyterian Church) and other minutes which include financial reports, disciplinary actions and fines towards backslider, and (for the Friends) disownments and manumissions.  these records often contain information of significant family history value.

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LOCATIONS OF RECORDS (a partial list)
  • Church of origin
  • New York State Library, Albany
  • Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, French Reformed, German Reformed
    • Holland Society of NY Library, New York City
  • New York Genealogical & Biographical Society, New York City
  • Society of Friends Records Committee, New York City
  • Presbyterian defunct parishes of Manhattan
    • Union Theological Seminary Library, New York City
  • Yivo Institute of Jewish Research, New York City
  • New York Yearly Meeting Archives (Quaker), New York City

  • Inventory of the Church Archives in New York City, WPA, 1940

  • The Roman Catholic Church of NYC, The Historical Records Survey, WPA

  • The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, by Val D. Greenwood

  • New York Research Outline, Family History Library


Go to LDS Available Records

Go to Available Catholic Records



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