Connecticut Church Records
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This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG, in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Early Connecticut settlers established the Congregational Church as the tax-supported state church until 1818 when the state constitution was accepted, abolishing the connection between church and state. Sometimes, if one parish was getting too large, a second was formed that became a precursor to a new town with the permission of the general assembly. Other denominations followed eventually, particularly the Baptists from Rhode Island on the eastern border with Connecticut, Episcopalians, and Quakers. Information in Connecticut’s church records has often been found to be more informative, complete, or accurate than the town vital records.
Among the printed sources of Connecticut church records is Frederick W. Bailey, Early Connecticut Marriages as Found on Ancient Church Records Prior to 1800 (1896–1906; reprint, 7 vols. in 1, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1982), which covers mainly Congregational and Episcopal records.
Approximately one-quarter of those records housed at the Connecticut State Library have been indexed in a format similar to that of the Barbour (see Connecticut Vital Records) and Hale (see Connecticut Cemetery Records) collections with individual index slips and bound compilations of individual churches. This Church Record Index File is statewide, goes beyond 1850, but does not include all church records. Even in a town with more than one Congregational Church, generally only the first is included in this index. Notably, many church records in incorporated cities have not been indexed.
As with all other record categories discussed above, guides are available. A Guide to Vital Statistics in the Church Records of Connecticut, prepared by the Connecticut Historical Records Survey (New Haven: Historical Records Survey, 1942), assists in locating what categories of records remain in each town and for each time period. It was incomplete when it was taken and has not been updated. Many town churches have deposited their older records for safekeeping with the Connecticut State Library.
A List of Church Records in the Connecticut State Library (available at the cost of photocopy and postage), the library’s Manuscripts and Archives catalogs, and the Church Records Survey conducted by the WPA (State Archives Record Group 33) are additional sources that can be used to locate church records not in the Church Records Index.
As a supplement to vital records, indications of migration are found in listings of church membership, which frequently include dates of admission to the local church or dismissal to a new church.