German Reformed Church in the United States

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United States Gotoarrow.png Church Records Gotoarrow.png German Reformed Church Records

History in the United States[edit | edit source]

First German Reformed Church
Waukesha, Wisconsin
  • The Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) is a Protestant Christian denomination in the United States. The present RCUS is a conservative, Calvinist denomination. Originally known as the German Reformed Church, the RCUS was organized in 1725 thanks largely to the efforts of John Philip Boehm, who immigrated in 1720. He organized the first congregation of German Reformed believers near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, some of them descendants and German immigrants from the turn of the century. Some had immigrated from the Palatine area.
  • Boehm was eventually ordained by the Classis of Amsterdam in 1729, which oversaw the American branch of the Dutch Reformed Church (now the Reformed Church in America). The German Reformed remained under Dutch Reformed oversight until 1793, when the German Reformed adopted their own constitution.
  • In 1934 the RCUS merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America (ESNA) to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church. ESNA featured a mix of both Lutheran and Reformed theology.
  • The Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1957 merged with the Congregational Christian Churches (which had formed from earlier Congregational and Restorationist churches) to become the United Church of Christ. Source: Wikipedia

Finding Records[edit | edit source]

Consult books in print.[edit | edit source]

Barbara Manning."Genealogical Abstracts from Newspapers of the German Reformed Church, 1840-1843 1St Edition". Heritage Books, Inc; 1St Edition edition (December 30, 2019) Limited search at HathiTrust. Copies in libraries: WorldCat

Look for digital copies of church records listed in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
  • There are hundreds of entries of German Reformed church records listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:
  • Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog state-wide, county-wide, or for a town.
  • If you find a record that has not yet been digitized, see How do I request that a microfilm be digitized?
  • Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.

  • To find records statewide records:
a. Enter your state name in the "Place" search field of FamilySearch Catalog. You will see a list of topics and, at the top, the phrase "Places within United States, [STATE]".
b. Click on "Church records" in the topic list. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
  • To find county-wide records:
c. From the original page, click on Places within United States, [STATE] and a list of counties will appear.
d. Click on your county.
e. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
  • To find town records:
f. From the list of counties, click on Places within United States, [STATE], [COUNTY] and a list of towns will appear.
g. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
h. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
i. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]

Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.

  • Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
  • To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
  • Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
  • A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
  • If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
  • See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.

Address lists:

Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island Conferences of the United Church of Christ have joined to form the Southern New England Conference.

Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]

United Church of Christ does not keep records for the German Reformed congregations.

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Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society
Lancaster Theological Seminary
555 W. James Street
Lancaster, PA 17602
Phone: (717) 290-8734

The Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society holds a variety of church records for church congregations that originated in the former Reformed (German) Church in the United States, Evangelical (German) Synod of North America, the Evangelical and Reformed Church, and the present United Church of Christ. Many of these record collections contain original documents, whereas others include photocopies, digitized scans, or transcriptions of the original documents.

Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society
475 E. Lockwood Avenue
Webster Groves, MO 63119
Phone: (314) 252-3141

The Archives has the records of some United Church of Christ congregations, most of which were founded by the Evangelical Synod of North America in the St. Louis metropolitan area, Missouri, and southern Illinois. The Archives accepts requests for lookups in church records not held by St. Louis County Library.
  • Most church records held by the archives have been microfilmed and are available for research at the St. Louis County Library History and Genealogy Department.
The library staff will also do lookups.
Call (314) 994-3300, ext. 2070 or contact the library by email at for more information.
Please provide the name of the person, the name of the church, and the specific record you are looking for.
Church records usually include baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and deaths.

Information in the Records[edit | edit source]

Baptisms[edit | edit source]

Children were usually baptized a few days after birth, and therefore, the baptism record proves date of birth. Baptism registers might give:

  • baptism date
  • birth date and place
  • the infant's name
  • parents' names
  • father's occupation and residence
  • status of legitimacy
  • names of witnesses or godparents, who may be relatives

Marriages[edit | edit source]

Marriage registers can give:

  • the marriage date
  • the names of the bride and groom
  • indicate whether the bride and groom were single or widowed
  • their ages
  • their occupations
  • parents' names (after 1800)
  • the names of previous spouses and their death dates
  • names of witnesses, who might be relatives.

Burials[edit | edit source]

Burial registers may give:

  • the name of the deceased
  • the date and place of death or burial
  • the deceased's age
  • place of residence
  • cause of death
  • the names of survivors, especially a widow or widower
  • parents' names, or at least the father's name

Membership Lists[edit | edit source]

  • names of members, sometimes listed in families
  • date of joining
  • possibly previous residence

Reading the Records[edit | edit source]

Some of the records will be written in Fraktur (old German) script. These articles will teach how to read the records.

  • German Paleography Seminar - Lessons on German Handwriting
  • Old German Script Transcriber (alte deutsche Handschriften): See your family names in the script of the era. Type your name or other word into the font generator tool. Click on the 8 different fonts. Save the image to your computer and use it as you work with old Germanic records.
  • These printable handouts can be used for ready reference when reading German Handwriting.
Vocabulary found on Specific Records:
Dates, Numbers, Abbreviations:
Miscellaneous Vocabulary:
  • Fraktur Font -- Many forms and books are printed in this font.
German Given Names:

Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]

You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by gathering in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:

  • name, including middle name and maiden name
  • names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
  • exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
  • names and approximate birthdates of children
  • all known places of residence
  • occupations
  • military service details

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.pngCarefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.