Australia Church History

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Research procedures and genealogical sources are different for each religion. Hence, it is helpful to understand the historical events that led to the creation of records, such as parish registers, that your family was listed in.

The following book provides an excellent background in to the development of the various religious denominations in Australia:

  • Breward, Ian. A History of the Australian Churches. St. Leonards, N.S.W., Australia: Allen & Unwin Pty. Limited, 1993. (Family History Library Call Number 994 K2bi.)

The following summaries of the major religious influences in Australia may also prove helpful.

The Church of England

The Church of England is the largest religious denomination in Australia. The first church service was held 3 February 1788. Until the Church Act of 1836, the Church of England was the state church of the Australian colonies.

The Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church was established in Australia by Scottish and Irish settlers. Churches developed as Scottish and Scots-Irish migrants began to settle in the new colony of New South Wales, and then in other colonies as they were established. The earliest congregation began in 1803 in New South Wales.

The Methodist Church

The Methodist Church was officially organized in Australia in 1815; however, Methodists began meeting as early as 1812 in Sydney.

The Roman Catholic Church

The beginning of Catholicism in Australia was largely based on Irish-born immigrants and their descendants. The first Catholic mass was celebrated in 1803 when two priests were sent to administer to the needs of the Irish community. By 1828, 31 percent of the population was Catholic.

Baptist Church

By 1831 the Baptists were holding services. However, they have never comprised more than 1.5 percent of the population.