Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Does Church Research Mean?

Inside and Out
Researchers rely heavily on church records. Historical church records may be available to document the birth, baptism, marriage, deaths, confessions of ancestors, and more. Experienced researchers would never overlook these records. But often they forget to go beyond the books. What’s in the yard of the church? What’s in the edifice? Are there hints to our ancestors' lives?

Recently on a pre-Revolutionary War project, a trip to New York answered many of my questions. Beginning with the gate of St. Paul’s Chapel - Trinity Parish, the invitation to enter was full of intrigue. The cemetery shared secrets, and the interior of the church held family plaques that answered questions. With some analysis, a colorful tapestry of family connections and histories were learned.

Walls and Plaques
On the walls of the church a plaque proffers dates and names, cause of death, place of origin, and father’s name. What a great confirmation! We have discovered the same types of wall tributes in AME Zion churches of North Carolina, small town churches in Scotland Missouri, and so many more! So researchers should not underestimate the walls of older churches.

Cemeteries and Headstones
Capturing scripts on tombstones are not optional, but essential,  as they too may reveal a bit more about your ancestor. Of course, most know the value of and, but take time to read the words for hints. It's not often you get an invitation to "follow" your ancestor!

Behold you See as you Pass By
As you are Now so Once was I
As I am Now you soon will Be
Prepare for Death and Follow Me.

For some, the tombstones are actually wonderful substitutes for a written obituary with detailed family information.

Jacob Kemper, son of Daniel and Jane who 
departed this life Dec 10th 1793, aged 21 years 3 months…

Checklist to Uncover Church Information
1) Books/Records
2) Walls / Plaques (and artifacts)
3) Church Cemetery Headstones

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Note: The examples above are from St. Paul’s Cemetery. The a3Genealogy project and client are not discussed or revealed in this article/post. 

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