Source Information

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Methodist Church Records. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Eastern Pennsylvania United Methodist Church Commission on Archives and History.

About Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985

This database is a large collection of records containing vitals (birth, marriage, death) from churches and towns located primarily in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The dates range from 1708-1985.

Records in this Database

The documents in this database are mostly Protestant church records from congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but there are also some for locations in the neighboring states of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. In addition to church records, sources also include funeral homes, cemeteries, newspapers, historical societies, and personal records. They include a wide variety of records, such as

  • lists of church officers
  • communion lists
  • marriages
  • registers of members
  • registers of elders, deacons, etc.
  • baptisms
  • confirmations
  • burials
  • probationers
  • histories
  • receipts, agreements, other miscellaneous items
  • newspaper extracts

The documents list millions of names, and many contain details on vital events such as births, marriages, and deaths. In them, you may find

  • names
  • birth dates
  • marriage dates
  • spouse’s name
  • parents’ names
  • places where an event (baptism, marriage, death, burial, etc.) took place

Many of the records the records in this collection are from Methodist churches. Methodism has its roots in a group organized in 1729 by brothers John and Charles Wesley at Oxford, known as the Holy Club. Members of the group pledged to be disciplined about their spiritual lives and also to perform works of social service such as visiting prisons and the poor. Because they were so methodical in how they went about these activities, other students called them “Methodists” as an insult. However, they soon adopted this term as a badge of honor, and used it to describe the wider spiritual movement which they founded after having transforming religious experiences in 1738.

The Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States was founded in December 1784 at a meeting in Baltimore, Maryland known as the “Christmas Conference.” In 1884, Methodists North and South split over the twin issues of slavery and episcopacy. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South was organized at that time. 1939 saw the formation of the Methodist Church from the union of the Methodist Episcopal Churches, North and South, and the Methodist Protestant Church. In 1968 the United Methodist Church was formed from the union of the Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Church. Other divisions include Primitive Methodists and Wesleyan Methodists.

For more information about church and town records in Pennsylvania, visit the Historical Society of Pennsylvania website.