David McDonald gave an excellent informative presentation to the VGS Membership meeting on November 15. He spoke on the topic of “Religious Records and Their Genealogical Use”.
He began with about a 45 minute presentation on the history of religions in the United States. This was very interesting, even for those of us who did not think it would be! He is very knowledgeable about this history and made it not only informative, but entertaining. This created a solid foundation on which he then explored the topic of religious records and their use.
He then went into an exploration of the various religious documents. The standard “vital documents” generated by governing bodies and often used by genealogists as “building blocks” can only provide so much information. Many governing bodies did not keep vital records until the 19th or even early 20th centuries. Church records are important back up resources. They often provide records on births/baptisms, marriages, and deaths/burials. Understanding how the various religions thrived in the various parts of the United States provides an excellent resource as to where why people may have migrated, where records might be, and how to search for them.
If you missed the presentation, the handout has been posted in "Members Only."