Dutch Reformed Church in the United States

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History in the United States[edit | edit source]

Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow
Tarrytown, New York
  • The Reformed Church in America (RCA) is a mainline Reformed Protestant denomination in Canada and the United States. It has about 196,308 members. From its beginning in 1628 until 1819, it was the North American branch of the Dutch Reformed Church.
  • The Dutch Reformed Church started in the United States in 1628 in New Amsterdam, New Netherlands (now known as New York City, New York).
  • In 1819, it was known as the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church. Its current name is Reformed Church in America.
  • In 1857, a group of more conservative members in Michigan led by Gijsbert Haan separated from the RCA. They organized the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC), and other churches followed.

Finding the Records[edit | edit source]

Look for online records.[edit | edit source]

Some records have been digitized and posted online, where they are easily searched. More are being added all the time. Partner websites such as Ancestry.com, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, and American Ancestors can be searched free-of-charge at any Family History Center.

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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 "so it must be mine". Only use information that matches your ancestor in date, place, other relationships, and 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!

Ancestry.com records may be used free-of-charge at any Family History Center.

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

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
  • There are thousands of entries of digitized Episcopal 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.

Consult available finding aids.[edit | edit source]

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

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.

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.

Archives of the Christian Reformed Church in North America
Heritage Hall
1855 Knollcrest Circle SE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546-4402

Phone: 616.526.6313
Fax: 616.526.7689
Text Us: 616-214-3355

"In 1962, the Historical Committee of the Christian Reformed Church was instructed by Synod to collect the records of local, active congregations and microfilm their minutes (council, elders, deacons, the executive committee and the congregation), returning the originals to the congregation, so that a back-up set of records was available to local congregations should anything happen to their original set. The microfilm is stored in our vault, and the originals are returned to the congregation sending them."

Privacy restrictions apply.

Many of the records are included in U.S., Selected States Dutch Reformed Church Membership Records, 1701-1995, index and images, Ancestry.com, ($) and U.S., Dutch Christian Reformed Church Vital Records, 1856-1970, index and images, Ancestry.com, ($)

Archives of the Reformed Church in America
21 Seminary Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Email: rgasero@rca.org

The records of the Archives are available by appointment for research use. You are welcome to undertake your own research or use the services of a local researcher. Costs for a researcher hired by the Archives would be $30/hour for the first hour and $20/hour for each hour after that. Research could include providing digital copies of pertinent materials.

Recent records of the Reformed Church in America are restricted. However, many records from the first three centuries (approximately 1630 through 1950) of the life and ministry of the RCA are available for scholarly research. These include the records of congregations, classes, regional synods, the General Synod, and mission fields.

Genealogy Research: Unfortunately, the RCA Archives does not have the staff or financial resources to do genealogical research for family historians. However, we can tell people what records are available and guide them in the right direction for further research.

Most of our congregational records have been digitized and made available on Ancestry.com at U.S., Dutch Christian Reformed Church Membership Records, 1856-1970, index and images, Ancestry.com, ($), and U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989, index and images, Ancestry.com, ($) That site would provide the least expensive and most efficient method to research Reformed church congregational registers.

Holland Society of New York
New Netherland Research Center
New York State Library
222 Madison Avenue
Albany, NY 12230

Phone: (518) 474-5355

Holdings: Dutch Reformed birth, marriage, and death records for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Digitized and indexed in U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989, index and images, Ancestry.com, ($)

New England Historic
Genealogical Society

New England Historic Genealogical Society Library
New England Historic Genealogical Society
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116-3007

Phone: 1-888-296-3447

Manuscript and published records for New York, New Jersey, and other states. Online catalog is free to search; membership required to search databases.

New York Public Library
Archives and Manuscripts Division
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room
Third Floor, Room 328
Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street
New York, NY 10018-2788

Records for New York.

Information in the Records[edit | edit source]

Baptisms[edit | edit source]

  • baptism date
  • the infant's name
  • parents' names
  • father's occupation
  • status of legitimacy
  • occasionally, names of grandparents
  • names of witnesses or godparents, who may be relatives
  • birth date and place
  • the family's place of residence
  • death information, as an added note or signified by a cross

Marriages[edit | edit source]

  • the marriage date
  • the names of the bride and groom
  • indicate whether the bride and groom were single or widowed
  • their ages
  • birth dates and places for the bride and groom
  • their residences
  • their occupations
  • birthplaces of the bride and groom
  • parents' names (after 1800)
  • the names of previous spouses and their death dates
  • names of witnesses, who might be relatives.

Burials[edit | edit source]

  • the name of the deceased
  • the date and place of death or burial
  • the deceased's age
  • place of residence
  • cause of death
  • the names of survivors, especially a widow or widower
  • deceased's birth date and place
  • parents' names, or at least the father's name

Membership Lists[edit | edit source]

  • date of admittance
  • how admitted (confession or transfer)
  • date and type of removal (death or transfer)
  • possibly church removed to
  • death details (age, date)
  • family relationships such as "wife of"

Consistory Minutes[edit | edit source]

Sometimes, instead of register books, all of these records might be interspersed in narrative minutes.

Reading the Records[edit | edit source]

Early records might be written in Dutch or Latin. You do not have to be fluent these languages to read your documents! Genealogical records usually contain a limited vocabulary. Use this Dutch Genealogical Word List to translate the important points in the document.

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.