Church of the Brethren in the United States

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Online Records[edit | edit source]

History in the United States[edit | edit source]

  • The Church of the Brethren is a Christian denomination with origins in the Schwarzenau Brethren (German: Schwarzenauer Neutäufer "Schwarzenau New Baptists") that was organized in 1708 by Alexander Mack in Schwarzenau, Germany, as a melding of the Radical Pietist and Anabaptist movements.
  • The first Brethren congregation was established on Christmas Day 1723 in Germantown, Pennsylvania, then a village outside Philadelphia.
  • These church bodies became commonly known as "Dunkards" or "Dunkers", and more formally as German Baptist Brethren.
  • The Church of the Brethren represents the largest denomination descended from the Schwarzenau Brethren, and adopted this name in 1908. The denomination had 122,810 members as of June 2012 and 1,047 congregations in the United States and Puerto Rico as of August 2010.
  • Other than Pennsylvania, the states with the highest membership rates are Virginia, Indiana, Maryland, and West Virginia. Source: Wikipedia

Church of the Brethren Church Records[edit | edit source]

Baptismal Records[edit | edit source]

The Brethren practice adult baptism, therefore there are no records of baptisms of infants. After an adult was baptized, his or her name was added to the church membership list.

Church Membership Lists[edit | edit source]

Although many early church membership lists have been lost, most of those which have survived have been printed in Brethren church history books. Some of these lists are available online at the History and Genealogy: Church Records. More recent membership lists are in the local churches. Use The Brethren Encyclopedia to find the names of churches. See a list of currently Active Congregations with web pages at the History and Genealogy site. Write to the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at Elgin, Illinois, to ask the location of historical records. Check the card catalogs of Brethren College libraries and of area city and county libraries for history books about the congregation which may have printed membership lists.

Church Minutes, District Minutes, and Annual Meeting Minutes[edit | edit source]

Business meetings of a church and of the quarterly and district meetings were recorded in minutes. These unpublished and unindexed records are in manuscript form and usually at the local church. If the church has ceased to exist, the minutes may be at the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at Elgin, Illinois, or at a nearby Brethren college library. Annual Meeting Minutes are published each year and are available at local churches, Brethren college libraries, at the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, and are available for sale. Brethren Press reprints historical annual minutes for the earliest years.

Brethren Cemetery Records[edit | edit source]

The earliest Brethren congregations used public cemeteries. On the frontier, Brethren families had small graveyards on their farms. More recently, cemeteries were located next to meetinghouses, some of which still exist as cemeteries although the church is no longer active. Letters to the various agencies which may have current responsibility for the care of old cemeteries will be necessary. Write to local churches, county cemetery boards, historical societies, local libraries, the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at Elgin, Illinois, and Brethren college libraries in the area. A current project of the Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists is to gather and index records of Brethren Cemeteries.

Brethren Church Histories[edit | edit source]

Since 1900, the publication of district and congregational histories has been encouraged. Look for a history of your family's church in the online card catalogs of Brethren College libraries, in the chapter "Bibliography of the Brethren" in volume three of The Brethren Encyclopedia, and in the online COB-Net Brethren Bibliography under "Local History." After finding a title, write to the Brethren Historical Library.

Finding Records[edit | edit source]

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Archives[edit | edit source]

Brethren Historical Library and Archives
1451 Dundee Avenue
Elgin, IL 60120
Phone: 847-742-5100 Ext. 294
Fax: 847-742-6103 (Be sure to include Brethren Historical Library and Archives on the fax)


Brethren Heritage Center
Brookside Plaza
428 Wolf Creek Street, Suite H
Brookville, Ohio 45309-1297

E-mail: mail@brethrenhc.org Telephone: 937-833-5222

  • Website Emphasis on Schwarzenau Brethren, Old Order churches, and Ohiuo state.

"The Brethren Heritage Center (BHC) has an extensive research library as well as an in-house and online bookstore. Visitors are welcome to use our large conference table and comfortable chairs to do their historical and genealogical research. Assistance in finding materials is always available."


Societies[edit | edit source]