Missionary Records

Online Resources -- American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions -- Microfilm -- Context and Background -- Research Guides and Bibliographies  --  Biography

The correspondence and reports of missionaries contain much social and cultural information on the countries visited.]

Online Resources

Archives Unbound: Global Missions and Theology includes personal narratives, organizational records and biographies of leaders, missionaries and churches. Includes materials on American domestic and foreign missionary activities, 1800-1899. More information.

Asia and the West: Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange (In: Nineteenth Century Collections Online).  To browse the Collections within Asia and the West, open menu in search box on upper left.  Click on image under Asia and the West.  You can search within a Collection, or in Advanced search you can limit to Collection.  Largely UK and US diplomatic and consular records with some missionary correspondence and publications.

  • Missionary Files: Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Correspondence, 1846-1912 (China, Japan, Korea)
  • Missionary Files: Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Correspondence, 1912-1949 (China, Japan, Korea)
  • Missionary and Socio-Economic Journals

Basel Mission Archives (1815 until the mid-20th century) contain digitized visual and cartographic material as well as catalog data relating to the Basel Mission’s work  in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, especially Ghana (from 1828), India (from 1834), China (from 1847), Cameroon (from1886) and Kalimantan (from 1922).

British Records of the Atlantic World, 1700-1900 includes:
Part 2: American material in the archives of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1635-1812
Part 7: Journal, annual sermons and reports of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1701-1870
Part 8: South American Missionary Society records, 1844-1919 [founded as the Patagonian Mission]
Part 10: Early colonial and missionary records from West Africa [includes early Gold Coast records from the archives of the USPG; the papers of Thomas Perronet Thompson, the first Governor of the Colony of Sierra Leone; An Account of Two Missionary Voyages by Rev. Thomas Thompson; and the letters of Rev. Philip Quaque]
Part 11: West Indies material in the archives of the USPG, 1710-1950
Part 12: The archives of the Associates of Dr Bray to 1900 [correspondence files, minute books and financial reports; including material on the Associates' activities in North America the Bahamas, in the establishment and running of Negro Schools and in grants of library books.

China: Trade, Politics and Culture contains materials from the British Library, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and other institutions,  including:
•Papers of missionaries.
•Chinese Recorder, 1867-1941

Digital Indipetae Database: Jesuit Petitions for Missions

Internet Mission Photography Archive offers images from Protestant and Catholic missionary collections in Britain, Norway, Germany, and the United States.

Yale Divinity Library Digital Collections.  Other online resources (Yale guide)

Annual reports of missionary organizations. (Yale)

Mission Periodicals Online

United Methodist Church Archives & History Reading Room

General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research Online Archives 

American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
--About the ABCFM

The Houghton Library here at Harvard holds the archives of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. An online guide for the paper records in Houghton is available, but researchers are asked to use the microfilm which contains over half of the records (in Government Documents/Microtext, Level B, Lamont Library) where possible. An online guide to the microfilm is available together with an index of missionaries, and collection information (in Collection List under Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. There is a book in the Houghton Library Reading Room which lists the original paper records and is annotated to indicate which of these are available on the microfilm. The main collection of ABCFM papers consists of documents, minutes and letters sent by the missionaries to the Board, arranged geographically by location of mission, then chronologically, then alphabetically by name of the missionary.

There are substantial archival and pamphlet collections relating to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions at the Congregational Library in Boston

John J. Burns Library Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College has a large Jesuitana collection

The Jesuit collection in the John J. Burns Library of Boston College. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College Libraries, 1986.
LOCATION: Andover-Harv. Theol: Ref. Z7840.J5 J63 1986
LOCATION: Widener: WID-LC BX3702.2.Z99 J64 x 1986
--The collection has more than doubled since 1986; check the online catalog. Lists of post-1986 acquisitions are available in the John J. Burns Library.


African missions: papers of the mission of the United Presbyterian Church from the National Library of Scotland.
HOLLIS record
Online guide
Microforms (Lamont) | Film A 1443

China inland mission, 1865-1951: from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. 2 pts. on 39 microfilm reels
Microforms (Lamont) | Film A 1357
Online guide Scroll down

China missionaries oral history collection. Claremont Graduate School. 39 microfiches; fiche 1-3, biographical data and indexes
Microforms (Lamont) | Microfiche W 1372
Brief Description

China through western eyes: manuscript records of traders, travellers, missionaries and diplomats, 1792-1942. 151 microfilm reels + guides (3 v.)
Brief Description
Microforms (Lamont) | Film A 923
Microforms (Lamont) | INDEX Film A 923 = guide
Online guide Scroll down

Church Missionary Society archive. 7 sections on 1477 microfilm reels + reel guides.
Brief description
Harvard-Yenching | FW 1783
Microforms (Lamont) | Film A 958
Microforms (Lamont) | INDEX Film A 958 = guides
Online guide Scroll down

Korean Mission records: papers of the Korean Mission, 1889-1987, from Birmingham University Library.
HOLLIS record
Online guide
Microforms (Lamont) | Film A 1461

Livingstonia Mission archives, 1874-1934: the Rev Dr Robert Laws and missionary activity in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia from the Scottish Foreign Missions Archive at the National Library of Scotland.
HOLLIS record
Online guide
Microforms (Lamont) | Film A 1433

Missionary files: Methodist Episcopal Church missionary correspondence, 1846-1912. [East Asia and Latin America]
Microforms (Lamont) | Film A 1354

Missionary files: Methodist Church, 1912-1949. 149 microfilm reels + guide (56 p.) [East Asia] 
Fuller record
Microforms (Lamont) Film A 1355
More information

Missionary pamphlets: Alexander Duff Pamphlet Collection from the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World.
HOLLIS record
Online guide
Missions -- India -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
Microforms (Lamont) | Film A 1439

Presbyterian Church of England Foreign Missions Committee (1847-1950)
Fuller record
Microforms (Lamont) Microfiche W 5921

Scottish missionary archives from the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World. 4 pts. on 39 microfilm reels.
Brief description.
Microforms (Lamont) | Film A 1438
Online guide Scroll down

Women missionaries. 2 pts. on 14 microfilm reels. Fuller record
Microforms (Lamont) Film A 1282
Online guide Scroll down

Women's missionary archives from the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World. 34 microfilm reels.
Fuller description
Microforms (Lamont) | Film A 1437
Online guide Scroll down

Center for Research Libraries, Chicago holds the following collections which can be obtained via Interlibrary Loan:
--The Archives of the Council for World Missions, 1775–1940
--Methodist Missionary Society Archives, 1791–1948
Additional information on mission-related material is available on their website.

Context and Background

Atlas of global Christianity 1910-2010, ed. by Todd M. Johnson, Kenneth R. Ross, Sandra S.K. Lee. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, 2009, 361 p. + 1 computer optical disc.

Biographical dictionary of Christian missions, ed. by Gerald H. Anderson. NY: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998, 845 p.

The encyclopaedia of missions : descriptive, historical, biographical, statistical, ed. by Edwin Munsell Bliss. London: Ganesha Pub.; Tokyo: Edition Synapse, 2002. 2 v.
--The bulk of entries in this work concern the history, development and activities of all missionary societies in their country of origin as well as abroad.
--Originally published: New York : Funk & Wagnalls, 1891.
--Includes "A bibliography of foreign missions ... down to the close of 1890, v. 1, p. 575-661.

2nd ed. 1904

Encyclopedia of mission and missionaries, ed. by Jonathan J. Bonk. NY: Routledge, 2007, 473 p.

Research Guides and Bibliographies

Catholic missionary journals relating to Africa: a provisional checklist and union list for North America, by David Henige. Los Angeles, Calif.: Crossroads Press, 1980, 71 p.

Bibliotheca missionum. Münster i.W., Aachen, 1916- .
Location : Andover-Harv. Theol Harvard Depository Z7838.M6 S9
Location : Tozzer REF BL637.Z99 S8
Location : Widener C 10000.7
Summary of Contents in HOLLIS record
--This bibliography covers Catholic missions worldwide

About this rich but complex resource
"Bibliotheca missionum: a case of benign neglect", by David Henige. History in Africa 5 (1978): 337-344.

International mission bibliography, 1960-2000, ed. by Norman E. Thomas. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2003.
Location : Andover-Harv. Theol Ref. BV2061.3 .I58 2003
Location : Widener Harvard Depository BV2061.Z99
A one-volume work updating Bibliotheca missionum. Annotated listings of books in topical chapters

CRL Resources on 19th-Century Christian Missionary Work in Africa

Documentary Sources in the United States for Foreign Missions Research: A Select Bibliography and Checklist, by Robert Shuster. International bulletin of mission research, 1985, Vol.9 (1), p.19-29

Missionary Research Library Collection (Union Theological Seminary) contains collections of missionaries' papers and institutional records.

Missions and World Christianity Guide (Yale)

MUNDUS: Gateway to Missionary Collections in the UK

North American Library Resources for Mission Research, by Stephen L. Peterson. International Bulletin of Missionary Research, vol. 15, iss. 4,  (Oct 1, 1991): 155-164

Sources for African History: Missionary Records in Microform

Sources for Missionary and Church Archives (SOAS)


Biographical dictionary of Christian missions, edited by Gerald H. Anderson. New York : Macmillan Reference USA, 1998, 845 p.
--Biographies...by time period -- of women -- of martyrs -- by region of service -- by agencies, orders, and religious traditions -- of non-western persons -- by type of work.
Internet Archive Full Text