If you have New England roots, you need to know about New England’s Hidden Histories, an ongoing project of the Congregational Library in Boston, Massachusetts. This project is collecting, digitizing, indexing and posting online New England church records, a vital source for finding your family’s vital records in New England.
“Congregational church records are an unparalleled source of information about the religious activities of the early colonists, and about many other aspects of early American life as well,” says the Congregational Library website. ” They provide a richly detailed view of town governments and social customs, data on births and marriages and deaths, and demonstrate the ways that ordinary people participated in community-wide decision-making — information that is simply not available in any other records from that time.”
Until recently, many Congregational church records were “mostly scattered across New England, in church closets, bank vaults, or the offices of town clerks,” explains the site. “Many have been left exposed to the elements and are in danger of deterioration, or are all but impossible for the average researcher to locate.”
The Congregational Library is spearheading the effort to collect, digitize, index and make available to researchers as many of these records as possible. To date, says Digital Archivist Sari Mauro, “We currently have 17 collections online, and several more at various places in our workflow. Of these collections, two are fully transcribed. We eventually hope to be able to display all of our collections with full-text transcriptions.”
They are looking for more volunteers to transcribe these records. Would you like to help? Click here to learn more.
By the way, this collection goes beyond just baptism, marriage and death records, in an attempt to fully document church life of the times. “Our current collections vary in size from 20 pages to 2,000+ pages and address a number of topics including church founding, church membership, births and deaths, church discipline, pastoral salary, church and community controversy, and issues of doctrine and practice.”