Baptist Church in the United States

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History in the United States[edit | edit source]

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
Birmingham, Alabama
First Baptist Church
Charleston, South Carolina
  • In 2010, 100 million Christians identify themselves as Baptist or belong to Baptist-type churches. In 2017, the Baptist World Alliance has 47 million people. Not all Baptist groups cooperate with the Alliance, notably the Southern Baptist Convention (which actually participated in its founding) does not cooperate with the Alliance, having withdrawn in 2004.
  • Both Roger Williams and John Clarke, his compatriot and coworker for religious freedom, are variously credited as founding the earliest Baptist church in North America. In 1639, Williams established a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island, and Clarke began a Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Island.
  • The Great Awakening energized the Baptist movement, and the Baptist community experienced spectacular growth. Baptists became the largest Christian community in many southern states, including among the black population. The Baptist religion became the largest Protestant denomination in the United States by the early 1800's, when many Baptist churches were organized throughout the middle-Atlantic and southern states.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a Christian denomination based in the United States. It is the world's largest Baptist denomination, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and the second-largest Christian denomination in the United States, smaller only than the Catholic Church according to self-reported membership statistics (see Christianity in the United States). The word Southern in Southern Baptist Convention stems from it having been organized in 1845 at Augusta, Georgia, by Baptists in the Southern United States who split with northern Baptists over the issue of slavery. After the American Civil War most freedmen set up independent black congregations, regional associations, and state and national conventions, such as the National Baptist Convention, which became the second-largest Baptist convention by the end of the 19th century. Source:Wikipedia

Baptist Family Tree[edit | edit source]

  • This Baptist Family Tree diagrams the development and relationship of all the various groups within the Baptist category of churches. Each of the resultant groups could preserve records differently, whether in archives or local churches.

Finding Records[edit | edit source]

Websites[edit | edit source]

Finding Aids[edit | edit source]

  • The Ministerial Directory of the Baptist Churches in the United States of America. Oxford, Ohio: Ministerial Directory Co., 1899. Digital version at Google Books.

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

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
  • There are hundreds of entries of Baptist church records listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:
  • Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog state-wide, county-wide, or for a 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 statewide records:
a. Enter your state name in the "Place" search field of FamilySearch Catalog. You will see a list of topics and, at the top, the phrase "Places within United States, [STATE]".
b. Click on "Church records" in the topic list. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
  • To find county-wide records:
c. From the original page, click on Places within United States, [STATE] and a list of counties will appear.
d. Click on your county.
e. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
  • To find town records:
f. From the list of counties, click on Places within United States, [STATE], [COUNTY] and a list of towns will appear.
g. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
h. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
i. 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.

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.

Addresses:

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.

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png "Baptist" is a type of religion, not the name of a specific religion. There are many organized groups of Baptist-type religions.
Archives for the largest organizations are here. However, the local church your ancestors attended might not have belonged to any of these.

American Baptist Historical Society
2930 Flowers Rd, South
Suite 150
Atlanta, GA 30341
Telephone: 678-547-6680

Mercer-building.jpg


National Association of Free Will Baptists
Executive Office
5233 Mt. View Road
Antioch, TN 37013-2306
Mailing Address:
FWB Executive Office
P.O. Box 5002
Antioch, TN 37011-5002


Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archive
901 Commerce Street, Suite 400
Nashville, TN 37203-3630
Telephone: 615-244-0344

Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]

Baptismal Records: Baptists historically have practiced believer’s baptism, instead of infant baptism. A person is baptized when he or she professes faith (often as a young adult) not soon after birth. Finding a record of an ancestor’s baptism in a Baptist church, therefore, does not document the birth date or approximate age of the person in question. Further, Baptist records normally record only the person’s name and date of baptism. Baptist church records do not record date or place of birth, age, names of parents, siblings, or children.

Marriage Records: Because marriage is not regarded as a sacrament, Baptist churches traditionally have not kept marriage records as part of their church records. Some ministers have kept a private log of marriages performed

Membership: Membership in Baptist churches is recorded only at the local church.

Information about the baptism, marriage, death, or moving in and out are more likely to be found in business meeting narrative minutes than in separate registers. Source: ABHS Genealogy Guide

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 gathering 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.