Australia Church History

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Research procedures and genealogical sources are different for each religion. Hence, it is helpful to understand the historical events that led to the creation of records, such as parish registers, that your family was listed in.

The following book provides an excellent background in to the development of the various religious denominations in Australia:

  • Breward, Ian. A History of the Australian Churches. St. Leonards, N.S.W., Australia: Allen & Unwin Pty. Limited, 1993. (Family History Library Call Number 994 K2bi.)

The following summaries of the major religious influences in Australia may also prove helpful.

The Church of England[edit | edit source]

The Church of England is the largest religious denomination in Australia. The first church service was held in Sydney on 3 February 1788. Until the Church Act of 1836, the Church of England was the state church of the Australian colonies.

The Presbyterian Church[edit | edit source]

The Presbyterian Church was established in Australia by Scottish and Irish settlers. Churches developed as Scottish and Scots-Irish migrants began to settle in the new colony of New South Wales, and then in other colonies as they were established. The earliest congregation began in 1803 in New South Wales.

The Methodist Church[edit | edit source]

The Methodist Church was officially organized in Australia in 1815; however, Methodists began meeting as early as 1812 in Sydney.

The Roman Catholic Church[edit | edit source]

The beginning of Catholicism in Australia was largely based on Irish-born immigrants and their descendants. The first Catholic mass was celebrated in 1803 when two priests were sent to administer to the needs of the Irish community. By 1828, 31 percent of the population was Catholic.

Baptist Church[edit | edit source]

By 1831 the Baptists were holding services. However, they have never comprised more than 1.5 percent of the population.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit | edit source]

The first missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to travel to Australia was William Barrett. He was called as a missionary from England in 1840. The mission was officially opened in 1851 and the first branch was organized in Melbourne in 1852. In 1853 a new mission president arrived with ten elders and the work moved forward. In the beginning years converts tended to emigrate to Utah so the Church grew slowly.