Exploring Different Uses of Historic Congregational Records

Wednesday, April 3, 2019, 2:00 pm–4:00 pm
Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 219 S. Sixth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Last year Christ Church Preservation Trust and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia embarked on a three year project to digitize the records of 11 of Philadelphia’s oldest congregations, thanks to CLIR, the Council on Library and Information Resources’ Digitizing Hidden Collections Project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Congregations include Christ Church; First Baptist Church, First, Second and Third Presbyterian Churches; Gloria Dei, Mikveh Israel, St. George’s United Methodist, St. Paul’s Episcopal, St. Peter’s Episcopal and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. This program explores the use different scholars have made of these early records (1708-1870) as well as others and will unveil the unified website that will showcase these records.


J.M. Duffin, Senior Archivist, University Archives and Records Center, University of Pennsylvania, “Endowments, Tangled Titles and Mapping: Religious Records as Tools for Property Ownership Research in Philadelphia.”
Religious archives can sometimes be seen as only a source of genealogical or demographic data but they often contain much more. I shall give examples of how I’ve used the records in Christ Church’s archives to assist with my research and mapping of eighteenth century property ownership in Philadelphia.

Dr. Ann Norton Greene, University of Pennsylvania, "Mining the Minutes"
Some reflections on the possibilities and limitations of using minutes as historical sources, based on the use of the minutes of the annual convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania in writing a chapter of This Far by Faith: Tradition and Change in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.

Jubilee Marshall, Senior, Villanova University, “Investigating Black Burials Through Church Records”
I will discuss my senior thesis, which focuses on black burial grounds in Philadelphia prior to 1850, and how I was able to use burial registries, vestry minutes, and other types of religious records to uncover how race impacted burial practices (and vice versa) in the time period.

Jean K. Wolf, Principal, Wolf Historic Preservation, Ardmore, PA, “Religious Records: Finding Vital Crumbs that Lead Researchers down New Paths for Data”
As a musicological researcher of 18th-century composers’ lives and music manuscripts in European churches and archives, a move to the Philadelphia area enlightened me to the restoration needs of American cultural resources. After a degree in historic preservation and over 25 years of documentation of the built and landscape environment, I will exemplify that religious baptismal, death, and trustee minutes are critical keys that can open doors to further research.

Posted: March 20, 2019
Tagged: Digital Humanities