Church Records and Genealogy Resources

The library has printed, microfilmed, and manuscript records from churches (primarily Unitarian, Universalist, and Congregational). Printed records include the 1902 book The Manifesto Church: Records of the Church in Brattle Square, Boston. Microfilmed records include the 1716-1847 records of the Second Church in Marblehead. Archival collections range from very large (for example, Arlington Street Church), to only a single record book (for example, Universalist Church, Princeton, Ohio). The way to find these records is to search  HOLLIS Classic; see Searching  HOLLIS Classic for Information on Local Congregations for help.

In addition to searching the HOLLIS Catalog for manuscript records, the listing of Unitarian Universalist Congregational Records (including the various Miscellaneous Collections and the Congregational Resource Files) in the Manuscripts and Archives Department should be consulted to determine what types of records are available for a particular church. For information about these manuscripts and archives collections, see How to Use the Manuscripts and Archives Collections.

If you have a valid Harvard ID and PIN number or you are in a Harvard library, you may search for records not at Harvard in WorldCat, Archive Finder, and Google Scholar (or its free equivalent). Print resources that can help in finding records include:

If you are not a Harvard library patron, check for the availability of these reference sources in your local library. 

While registers of births, deaths, and marriages are the most helpful to genealogists, there may be lists of members, lists of pew renters, parish records, society records, treasurer's records, Sunday school records, and scrapbooks that may contain information. Printed pamphlets and books called handbooks or manuals frequently have membership lists that may include addresses. Church newsletters and regional newspapers may also be useful. For more information about such sources, contact a research librarian. 

Searching HOLLIS Classic for Information on Local Congregations

Search for printed (book and pamphlet) and archival records and histories in HOLLIS Classic. The "expanded search"  (link in center of the second line of the main page) is an easy way to search for these. Enter words in two or three of the boxes. These words might include:

  • the name of the city where the congregation is located
  • unitarian* or universalis* (the asterisk will locate words beginning with these letters but having different endings, such as "Unitarian," "Unitarians," "Unitarianism," "Universalist," "Universalists," "Universalism")

If you get too many hits or too many incorrect hits, add into the third box one of the following:

  • a word or two-word phrase from the name of the congregation (for example, First, All Souls, Messiah). If the congregation has had different names during its history, try previous names if a current name does not work
  • the name of the state or province spelled out in full. If the full name does not yield results, try its old-style abbreviations (for example, Mass., Calif.)

If you get too many hits and are looking for:

  • congregational histories, change the default search boxes from "Anywhere" to "Subject words"
  • congregational records, change the default search boxes from "Anywhere" to "Subject words"
  • sermons, put sermon* in the third box