Minnesota Church Records
Church records and the information they provide vary significantly depending on the denomination and the record keeper. They may contain information about members of the congregation, such as age, date of baptism, christening, or birth; marriage information and maiden names; and death date. Some keep minutes of church meetings and the histories of their local church. Records may include names of other relatives who were witnesses or members of the congregation. The members of some churches were predominantly of one nationality or ethnic group. Each church has its own policies in record keeping.
Church records are important for family research because civil authorities in Minnesota did not begin registering births and deaths on a county level until 1870 and even later on a state level. (See the "Vital Records" article for more information on birth, death, and other records.) Before 1900 the largest religious groups in Minnesota were the Roman Catholics and Lutherans. There were also many Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians.
Although records of some congregations have been gathered in major denominational repositories, the majority still remain with local churches.
Refer to the following inventory to learn more about the available records:
- Historical Records Survey (Minnesota). Guide to Church Vital Statistics Records in Minnesota: Baptisms, Marriages, Funerals. St. Paul, Minnesota: Historical Records Survey, 1942. (Family History Library book 977.6 K23h; microfilm 962275 item 2.) This list is by county, then town or city. It mentions the church records of some congregations that existed at the church in 1940 and gives the years that the records were available.
- Directory of Churches and Religious Organizations in Minnesota. St. Paul, Minnesota: Historical Records Survey, 1941. (Family History Library book 977.6 K24h; microfilm 1036193 item13; microfiche 6051165.) This volume contains an incomplete list of churches; many congregations were missed. Information is arranged first by denomination, then district or conference, then the name of the church. Entries include the address of the church, year of incorporation, and often the name of the minister in 1941. For a reprint of this book see:
Richardson, Antona Hawkins, ed. Directory of Churches and Religious Organizations in Minnesota: A New and Expanded Index. 1941. Reprint. St. Paul, Minnesota: Paduan Press, 1997. (Not at the Family History Library.)
Individual churches hold most church records for Minnesota. Some denominations are gathering their records or information on their records into a central repository. Availability of these records may differ with each repository. The major repositories include the following denominations.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Early church records, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for Minnesota Wards and Branches can be found on film and are located at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The film numbers, for each ward, can be locate through the Family History Library Catalog. Or by refering to Jaussi, Laureen R., and Gloria D. Chaston. Register of Genealogical Society Call Numbers. 2 vols. Provo, Utah: Genealogy Tree, 1982. (FHL book 979.2258 A3j; fiche 6031507). These volumes contain the film numbers for many (but not all) membership and temple record films.
14 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
Phone: (617) 523-0470
Fax: (617) 523-0491
The Congregational Historical Society is also located in the same building. The Congregational Library has a collection of church records and biographies on church leaders. However, they do not have a master surname index to their collection. They have a few items for Minnesota, including records from the Church of the Open Door.
Before beginning research and to have a better understanding of the makeup of the denominations and the location of these records, see:
- Hage, Anne A., Church Records in Minnesota: A Guide to Parish Records of Congregational, Evangelical, Reformed, and United Church of Christ Churches, 1851–1981. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minnesota Conference, United Church of Christ, 1983. (Family History Library book 977.6 K2h.) This source mentions the kinds and dates of records at each church up to 1981.
The American Jewish Historical Society Library has an extensive collection consisting of manuscripts on individuals, institutions, and organizations that pertain to the Jewish experience in America. They also have a collection of Jewish American family genealogies that is continually growing. One of the collections is from the Industrial Removal Office. It is arranged alphabetically by city and then by state. It contains information about individuals from the lower east end of New York who were helped to find jobs and relocate in the Midwest.
For a history about the Jewish people in Minnesota, see:
- Plaut, W. Gunther. The Jews in Minnesota:The First Seventy-Five Years. New York: American Jewish Historical Society, 1959. (Family History Library book 977.6 F2p.)
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), Region 3
2481 Como Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
Phone: (651) 641-3205
The American Lutheran Church (ALC) Archives are now part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) Archives. They have divided their records into nine regions. Region 3 covers Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. If a church is still active, the regional archive can help locate their records. The records of Minnesota churches that have been disbanded are at this archive. For a partial list of Lutheran church records, see:
- ALC Congregations on Microfilm. Dubuque, Iowa: The Archives, [197–?]. (Family History Library microfiche 6330690–93 [set of 4.]) No circulation to Family History Centers. Arranged by state and city of congregation. The microfiche number for Minnesota is 6330691. There are over 200 churches listed in Minnesota with the city, name of the church, type of records, county, and their microfilm or microfiche number.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631-4198
Phone: (773) 380-2818
Fax: (773) 380-2977
This archive has microfilm copies of part of the records at the Region 3 facility in St. Paul. They can help locate records of a congregation if you know the name of the congregation.
United Methodist Annual Conference
122 West Franklin Avenue, Room 400
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Phone: (612) 870-0058, ext. 249
This conference includes all United Methodist congregations in the state of Minnesota as well as the earlier churches from which they were formed. Some earlier churches include: Methodist, Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Protestant, Evangelical United Brethren, United Brethren, and United Evangelical.
The first conference, which was formed in 1856, was known as Evangelical Gemeindschaft, or Evangelical Association. There is information about the conference and its congregations before 1856. The conference can help identify and locate existing records. The records may include membership, preparatory membership, baptism, marriage, a few death records, and occasionally a column that lists what happened to the member.
- Hobart, Chauncey. History of Methodism in Minnesota. 1887. Reprint, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota: Park Genealogical Books, 1992. (Family History Library book 977.6 K2hc.) This history contains a glossary of terms used in nineteenth-century Methodism and an every-name index to biographies included in the work.
Presbyterian Historical Society and Department of History
United Presbyterian Church USA
425 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147-1516
Phone: (215) 627-1852
Fax: (215) 627-0509
The Presbyterian congregations own their records. The Presbyterian Historical Society and Department of History have a card file catalog that lists the congregations by the local town name only and this does not include the state. They sort the new records by zip code. They can help you find records if you give them the name of the town. If you know where your ancestor lived, check with the congregations still in existence in that area.
Information about Presbyterian churches before 1907 is found in:
- Campbell, E. V. History of the Churches of the Presbytery of St. Cloud. St. Cloud, Minnesota: Journal Press, 1907?. (Family History Library microfilm 1845852 item3.) Gives information about the organization and early life of the Presbyterian Church especially in St. Cloud area.
The records most useful to family history researchers are the records of baptism, marriage, burial, and confirmation made by parish priest in the local churches. These are sometimes referred to as sacramental records. Some of these records may remain in the local churches while others have been moved to the diocesan offices and archives.
Archdiocese of St. Paul
226 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102
Phone: (651) 291-4400
Fax: (651) 290-1629
The Archdiocese of St. Paul has records dating back 150 years that include early sacramental records and correspondence between church and government. They also have correspondence from the Catholic Colonization Society based in Chicago. This correspondence deals with finding and placing Catholic immigrants. They have microfilmed many of their sacramental records. These are available at the archdiocese office. Call or write ahead for an appointment. Several lists of their microfilmed parish records have been published in the last few years of the Minnesota Genealogist.
Diocese of New Ulm
1400 6th Street N.
New Ulm, MN 56073-2099
Phone: (507) 359-2966
Fax: (507) 354-3667
The Diocese of New Ulm has microfilmed records available at the Family History Library and the diocesan office.
Diocese of Crookston
1200 Memorial Drive
PO Box 610
Crookston, MN 56716
Phone: (218) 281-4533
Fax: (218) 281-3328
Diocese of Duluth
2830 East 4th Street
Duluth, MN 55812
Phone: (218) 724-9111
Fax: (218) 724-1056
Diocese of St. Cloud
214 South 3rd Avenue
St. Cloud, MN 56301
Phone: (320) 251-2340
Fax: (320) 251-0470
P.O. Box 1248
St. Cloud, MN 56302
Diocese of Winona
55 West Sanborn Street
Winona, MN 55987
Phone (507) 454-4643
Fax (507) 454-8106
P.O. Box 588
Winona, MN 55987
The diocese includes the counties of: Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston, Jackson, Martin, Mower, Murray, Nobles, Olmsted, Pipestone, Rock, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan, Winona and Wabasha.
A guide to the Catholic churches in Minnesota is:
- Catholic Church. Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Official Minnesota Catholic Directory, 1989: Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Diocese of Crookston, Diocese of Duluth, Diocese of New Ulm, Diocese of St. Cloud, Diocese of Winona. St. Paul, Minnesota. The Catholic Bulletin, 1988. (Family History Library book 977.6 K24c.) This directory gives the address and telephone number of each church and includes a list of towns and the diocese to which the town belongs. These directories are updated yearly.
The Minnesota Genealogical Society website has information on researching the Catholic parishes.
The Minnesota Historical Society has records of some individual churches and religious groups. Only a few of the church records held by the Minnesota Historical Society have been microfilmed. They have an inventory for each series of church records that lists the contents of each roll of film. These copies are available through inter-library loan.
The Family History Library does not have an extensive collection of church records for Minnesota. Local church records that are available are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
MINNESOTA, [COUNTY] – CHURCH RECORDS
MINNESOTA, [COUNTY], [TOWN] – CHURCH RECORDS
For a statewide church records database search see the Dalby Database.
- Map of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States of America, Office of Catholic Schools Diocese of Columbus, accessed 3 Nov 2010.