Church Records and Genealogical Resources

The library has printed, microfilmed, and manuscript records from churches (primarily Unitarian, Universalist, and Congregational). Printed records include the 1902 book The Manifesto Church: Records of the Church in Brattle Square, Boston. Microfilmed records include the 1716-1847 records of the Second Church in Marblehead. Archival collections range from very large (for example, Arlington Street Church), to only a single record book (for example, Universalist Church, Princeton, Ohio). The way to find these records is to search  HOLLIS, our library catalog.

In addition to searching the HOLLIS  for manuscript records, the listing of Unitarian Universalist Congregational Records (including the various Miscellaneous Collections and the Congregational Resource Files) in the Manuscripts and Archives Department should be consulted to determine what types of records are available for a particular church. For information about these manuscripts and archives collections, see How to Use the Manuscripts and Archives Collections.

If you have a valid Harvard ID and PIN number or you are in a Harvard library, you may search for records not at Harvard in WorldCat, Archive Finder, and Google Scholar (or its free equivalent).

Print resources that can help in finding records include:

  • Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research, by Marcia D. Melnyk [Ref. F3.G48 1999]
  • An Inventory of the Records of the Particular (Congregational) Churches of Massachusetts Gathered 1620-1805, by Harold Worthley [Ref. BX7148.M4 W65]
  • An Inventory of Universalist Archives in Massachusetts, prepared by the Historical Records Survey, Work Projects Administration [Ref. CD3290.H56 1942]
  • Guide to the Records of the Canadian Unitarian and Universalist Churches, Fellowships and other Related Organizations, compiled by Heather M. Watts [Ref. CD3622.W39 1990]

If you are not a Harvard library patron, check for the availability of these reference sources in your local library. 

While registers of births, deaths, and marriages are the most helpful to genealogists, there may be lists of members, lists of pew renters, parish records, society records, treasurer's records, Sunday school records, and scrapbooks that may contain information. Printed pamphlets and books called handbooks or manuals frequently have membership lists that may include addresses. Church newsletters and regional newspapers may also be useful. For more information about such sources, contact a research librarian