Minnesota Church Records

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Minnesota Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
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Historical Background[edit | edit source]

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The majority of Minnesotans are Protestants, including a large Lutheran contingent, owing to the state's largely Northern European ethnic makeup. Roman Catholics (of largely German, Irish, French and Slavic descent) make up the largest single Christian denomination. A 2010 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that 32 percent of Minnesotans were affiliated with Mainline Protestant traditions, 21 percent were Evangelical Protestants, 28 percent Roman Catholic, 1 percent each Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Black Protestant, and smaller amounts of other faiths, with 13 percent unaffiliated. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, the denominations with the most adherents in 2010 were the Roman Catholic Church with 1,150,367; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 737,537; and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod with 182,439.[1]

Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]

To effectively use church records, become familiar with their content. Click on these links to learn about a specific record type:

Finding the Records[edit | edit source]

Look for online records.[edit | edit source]

Ancestry.com, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com can be searched free of charge at your local family history center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Online databases are incomplete. This can lead to two common errors:

  1. Near matches: Researchers might mistakenly accept an entry very similar to their ancestor, thinking it is the only one available. Only use information that matches your ancestor in date, place, relationships, and other details.
  2. Stopping research: Researchers might assume the database proves church records do not exist. Actually the record is still out there, just not in this incomplete collection of records. Keep searching!

FamilySearch Indexes[edit | edit source]

Ancestry.com Indexes[edit | edit source]

Dutch Reformed[edit | edit source]

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

Presbyterian[edit | edit source]

Quaker (Society of Friends)[edit | edit source]

Other Collections[edit | edit source]

Look for digital copies of church records in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The Family History Library (FHL) has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm for churches in the United States.
  • Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under the state, county, or town.
  • If you find a record that has not yet been digitized, see How do I request that a microfilm be digitized?
  • Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
  • To find records:
a. Click on the records of United States, Minnesota.
b. Click on Places within United States, Minnesota and a list of counties will appear.
c. Click on your county if it appears.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Click on Places within United States, Minnesota [COUNTY] and a list of towns will appear.
f. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
g. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
h. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Consult available finding aids.[edit | edit source]

These aids generally provide lists of records that are known to exist and information on their location.

  • Guide to Church Vital Statistics Records in Minnesota: Baptisms, Marriages, Funerals. (Online) St. Paul, Minnesota: Historical Records Survey, 1942. (Family History Library book 977.6 K23h; microfilm 962275 item 2.) This list is by county, then town or city. It mentions the church records of some congregations that existed at the church in 1940 and gives the years that the records were available.
  • Directory of Churches and Religious Organizations in Minnesota (Online). St. Paul, Minnesota: Historical Records Survey, 1941. (Family History Library book 977.6 K24h; microfilm 1036193 item13; microfiche 6051165.) This volume contains an incomplete list of churches; many congregations were missed. Information is arranged first by denomination, then district or conference, then the name of the church. Entries include the address of the church, year of incorporation, and often the name of the minister in 1941.
  • Hage, Anne A., Church Records in Minnesota: A Guide to Parish Records of Congregational, Evangelical, Reformed, and United Church of Christ Churches, 1851–1981. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minnesota Conference, United Church of Christ, 1983. (Family History Library book 977.6 K2h.) This source mentions the kinds and dates of records at each church up to 1981.
  • ALC Congregations on Microfilm. Dubuque, Iowa: The Archives, [197–?]. (Family History Library microfiche 6330690–93 [set of 4.]) No circulation to Family History Centers. Arranged by state and city of congregation. The microfiche number for Minnesota is 6330691. There are over 200 churches listed in Minnesota with the city, name of the church, type of records, county, and their microfilm or microfiche number.
  • Hobart, Chauncey. History of Methodism in Minnesota. 1887. Reprint, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota: Park Genealogical Books, 1992. (Family History Library book 977.6 K2hc.) This history contains a glossary of terms used in nineteenth-century Methodism and an every-name index to biographies included in the work.
  • Campbell, E. V. History of the Churches of the Presbytery of St. Cloud. St. Cloud, Minnesota: Journal Press, 1907?. (Family History Library microfilm 1845852 item3.) Gives information about the organization and early life of the Presbyterian Church especially in St. Cloud area.
  • A Church Is Planted: The Story of the Lutheran Minnesota Conference, 1851'1876 Emeroy Johnson, (Minneapolis: Lutheran Minnesota Conference,
  • Catholic Church. Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Official Minnesota Catholic Directory, 1989: Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Diocese of Crookston, Diocese of Duluth, Diocese of New Ulm, Diocese of St. Cloud, Diocese of Winona. St. Paul, Minnesota. The Catholic Bulletin, 1988. (Family History Library book 977.6 K24c.) This directory gives the address and telephone number of each church and includes a list of towns and the diocese to which the town belongs. These directories are updated yearly.

Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]

Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.

  • Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
  • To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
  • Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
  • A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
  • If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
  • See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.
  • Each denomination page offers an online address directory of local churches for that denomination.

Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been deposited for preservation in government archives or in libraries. Watch for links to digitized, online records offered by the archives. Some archives provide research services for a fee. For others, if you cannot visit in person, you might hire a researcher.

Here you will find archive information unique to the state. Many more archives are kept by denomination. For denominational archives, go to Searching for Church Records by Denomination.

Minnesota Historical Society
345 West Kellogg Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55102

Phone: (615)259-3000
Toll-Free: 800-657-3773

  • Church Records Guide
  • Has a good collection of records for Quakers, the Episcopal Church, and the United Church of Christ

The Minnesota Genealogical Society
1385 Mendota Heights Road, Suite 100
Mendota Heights, MN 55120-1367

Telephone:(651) 330-9312

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

ELCA Region3 Archives
2481 Como Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55108-1496
Phone: (651) 641-3205

  • Archives hold records for closed churches. For open churches write directly to the local church.

Though not a current synodical archives, the Lutheran Church Archives at Gustavus Adolphus College holds administrative records of Minnesota affiliates of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), and its predecessors, the Augustana Synod and the United Lutheran Church in America. Predecessor and supporting synods have included the Minnesota Conference and Synod, the Red River Valley Conference and Synod, and the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest. In addition, there are congregational histories, biographical filesregarding clergy and church leaders, andmicrofilmed Swedish Lutheran church records (ending about 1930).

College and Lutheran Church Archivist/Academic Librarian
Gustavus Adolphus College
800 West College Avenue
St. Peter, MN 56082-1498
Phone:(507) 933-7572
E-mail: archives@gustavus.edu

Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]

Office of Archives and Records Management
Archdiocese of St. Paul Archives

226 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102
Phone: (651) 291-4400
Fax: (651) 290-1629

The archives of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis maintain microfilm copies of baptism, marriage, and death records for most parishes in the counties of Ramsey, Hennepin, Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Goodhue, Le Sueur, Rice, Scott, Washington, and Wright. We do not, as a rule, have copies of first communion, confirmation, or burial records. Sacramental records are not public records. However, the Archdiocese recognizes that sacramental records have value to family historians and we therefore make nearly 100 years’ worth of sacramental records available to genealogists. Records created before January 1, 1920 are available for genealogy research, except in cases where particular records are restricted by canon law. To protect confidentiality, all genealogical research is done by Archives and Records Management staff. No genealogical research is done by parishes. We cannot accommodate on-site researchers. If the sacramental record you are looking for is located in the archdiocesan archives, you will receive a scanned copy of the register entry."

The Archdiocese of St. Paul has records dating back 150 years that include early sacramental records and correspondence between church and government. They also have correspondence from the Catholic Colonization Society based in Chicago. This correspondence deals with finding and placing Catholic immigrants.
The Archdiocese includes the counties of: Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Goodhue, Hennepin, Lesueur, Ramsey, Rice, Scott, Washington and Wright.[2]

Diocese of New Ulm Archives
1400 6th Street N.
New Ulm, MN 56073-2099
Phone: (507) 359-2966
Fax: (507) 354-3667

The Diocese of New Ulm has digitized, microfilmed records available at the Family History Library. Search under the name of the county or the town.

The diocese includes the counties of: Big Stone, Brown, Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Nicollet, Redwood, Renville, Sibley, Swift, and Yellow Medicine.[2]

Diocese of Crookston
The Chancery Office
1200 Memorial Drive
PO Box 610
Crookston, MN 56716
Phone: (218) 281-4533
Fax: (218) 281-3328

  • Contact the Chancellor's Office for permission to use sacramental records are on microfilm thete.
  • Contact the local parish first.

The diocese includes the counties of: Becker, Beltrami, Clay, Clearwater, Hubbard, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake and Roseau.[2]

Diocese of Duluth Archives
2830 East 4th Street
Duluth, MN 55812
Phone: (218) 724-9111
Fax: (218) 724-1056

The diocese includes the counties of: Aitkin, Carlton, Cass, Cook, Crow Wing, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, Pine and St. Louis.[2]

Diocese of St. Cloud Archives
214 South 3rd Avenue
St. Cloud, MN 56301
Phone: (320) 251-2340
Fax: (320) 251-0470

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1248
St. Cloud, MN 56302

  • Many parish records in the Diocese of St. Cloud have been indexed and are accesible on the computers in the Stearns History Museum in St. Cloud, Minnesota. One can search a single parish or all indexed parishes in one search. These indexes are not online, but staff will conduct searches for you for a fee. Contact the Museum about specific parishes and years indexed.
Stearns History Museum
235 33rd Avenue South
St. Cloud, MN 56301

Phone: 320.253.8424

The diocese includes the counties of: Benton, Douglas, Grant, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pope, Sherburne, Stearns, Stevens, Todd, Traverse, Wadena and Wilkin.[2]

Diocese of Winona-Rochester Archives
55 West Sanborn Street
Winona, MN 55987
Phone (507) 454-4643
Fax (507) 454-8106

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 588
Winona, MN 55987

The diocese includes the counties of: Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston, Jackson, Martin, Mower, Murray, Nobles, Olmsted, Pipestone, Rock, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan, Winona and Wabasha.[2]

Correspond with genealogical or historical societies.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been given to historical societies. Also, historical societies may be able to tell you where the records are being held. To find a society near you, consult these lists:

Next, go to the Wiki article for your ancestors' denomination.[edit | edit source]

There are frequently additional, nationwide or regional archives and online collections for each denomination. Find the article for your ancestors' denomination and follow the instructions there to access these sources.

Wiki Articles for Records of Major Religious Denominations

Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]

You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by organizing in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:

  • name, including middle name and maiden name
  • names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
  • exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
  • names and approximate birthdates of children
  • all known places of residence
  • occupations
  • military service details

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.pngCarefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Minnesota: Religion" in Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota#Religion. Accessed 8 July 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Map of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States of America, Office of Catholic Schools Diocese of Columbus, accessed 3 Nov 2010.