Methodist Church in the United States

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History in the United States[edit | edit source]

Norwood Methodist Episcopal Church
The Church in the Maples
Norwood Young America, Minnesota

The history of Methodism in the United States dates back to the mid-18th century. Following the American Revolution, most of the Anglican clergy who had been in America went back to England. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, sent Thomas Coke to America where he and Francis Asbury founded the Methodist Episcopal Church, which was to later establish itself as the largest denomination in America during the 19th century.

Methodism thrived in America thanks to the First and Second Great Awakenings beginning in the 1700s. Various African-American denominations were formed during this period, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In the early 20th century, many of the splintered Methodist groups joined together to form The Methodist Church (USA). Another merger in 1968 resulted in the formation of The United Methodist Church from the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) and the Methodist Church.

Other smaller Methodist denominations in the United States, including those that split from the Methodist Episcopal Church, exist, such as the Free Methodist Church, Evangelical Methodist Church, Congregational Methodist Church, Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection and Bible Methodist Connection of Churches, among others. Spurce: Wikipedia

Methodist Religion Family Tree[edit | edit source]

This Methodist Family Tree diagrams the development of the various branches of Methodist religion.

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, 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!

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

  • There are thousands of entries of digitized Methodist 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.

Address lists:

Local church records are kept at the local church. If that church closes and merges with another church, then the records go to the new church. If the church closes and there is no successor church, then the records are usually transferred to the annual conference archives. You will need to contact the conference archives to learn more about the status of the church and how to go about finding its records. Use on-line conference directory to locate the person you need to contact.

There are several much smaller Methodist churches. Google "Churches near [TOWN], inserting the name of your ancestors' town to find other churches in the area.

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.

United Methodist Church[edit | edit source]

  • United Methodist Archives Center
Drew University Library
P.O. Box 127
Madison, NJ 07940
Telephone: 201-408-3189
Fax: 201-408-3909

There are two resources for doing genealogy research on this site:
Clergy Information
If you have a clergy-person in your family tree we may be able to provide some biographical information about them. You will want to read about our clergy research service in order to understand what we can offer and how to make a request. You should first check the Index to Conference Memoirs to see if your ancestor is listed.

Baptism and Local Church Membership
Baptism and local church membership records are the two most frequently requested materials. The General Commission on Archives and History does not hold such records. In United Methodist practice these records are kept at the local church. If the local church has closed and merged with another church then the records should be transferred to the new church. If a church closes and there is no successor then the records are transferred to the annual conference archives - the regional depository. When searching for such records the best place to start is with the annual conference archvist. The Directory of Annual Conference Archives for The United Methodist Church will list the appropriate contact person. Look for the contact information for the archivist, historian or researcher.

This collection of folders is available for researchers at the United Methodist Archives Center at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey,USA. The Wilson Reading Room is open from 9AM–5 PM Monday through Friday with the exception of some holidays. For questions about access and/or availability please contact Christopher Anderson, Methodist Librarian &Coordinator of Special Collections, or 973.408.3910.

  • Historical Society of the United Methodist Church
PO Box 127
Madison, NJ 07940
Promotes interest in the study, preservation, and dissemination of the history and heritage of The United Methodist Church and its antecedents.

African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.)[edit | edit source]

Payne Theological Seminary and A.M.E. Church Archive
Reverdy C. Ransom Memorial Library
Payne Theological Seminary
1230 Wilberforce-Clifton Road
P.O. Box 474
Wilberforce, OH45384

Phone:(937) 376-2946 ext. 204

Princeton Theological Seminary Library
25 Library Place
Princeton, NJ 08540

P.O. Box 821
Princeton, NJ 08542 USA
Phone:(609) 497-7875

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (A.M.E.Zion)[edit | edit source]

Heritage Hall Archives and Research Center
Livingstone College
701 West Monroe Street
Salisbury, NC 28144
Telephone: (704) 797-1094

African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church Collection
Brooklyn Public Library
10 Grand Army Plaza
Brooklyn, NY, 11238
Phone: 718.230.2762

Christian Methodist Episcopal (C.M.E.)[edit | edit source]

Collins-Callaway Library Archives and Special Collections
Paine College
1235 Fifteenth Street
Augusta, GA 30901
Phone: (706) 821-8200 or 1-800-476-7703

The Wesleyan Church[edit | edit source]

The Wesleyan Church Archives and Historical Library
Phone: 317-774-3864

The Archives of The Wesleyan Church houses the official repository of historical documents for the Church worldwide. This includes documents of the Pilgrim Holiness Church and Wesleyan Methodist Church prior to their merger in June of 1968, as well as later additions from the Standard Church of Canada and the Evangelical Church. Documents include General Conference and district conference minutes, local church histories and historical data from Wesleyan educational institutions. There are also biographies of founders and leaders of the denomination, as well as others who have been committed to evangelism, missions and social justice concerns.

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.

Archivists can advise on the location of records for churches within their conference.

Information in the Records[edit | edit source]

  • Membership records include baptisms, probationary or preparatory memberships, and memberships in full communion.
  • Sunday School attendance records
  • Marriages
  • Funerals

Minister Lists[edit | edit source]

  • List of Pastors and Ministers A list of Methodist Ministers] and the churches or circuits they served, extracted from the archives of the church minutes.

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.