Ancestors, were they religious or not? Finding ancestors in church records.
Recently as I was working on a short article for a newsletter, I came across some genealogy quotes as I was surfing the web. One that caught my eye was as I read them was, “My ancestors must be in a witness protection program!” I thought aha, that is where the parents of third great grandfather Jordan Lee are, in the witness protection program. Jordan Lee seems to have appeared from nowhere. According to family trees posted on websites, Jordan Lee was born in 1778 in South Carolina or Scotland. Jordan Lee is shown without parents on family trees on these websites; therefore, that is comforting to know that I am not the only one who can’t connect him to parents. The birth and place of birth are projected because of the period of the censuses and land records found for him.
Most of our ancestors attended church. That was one of the few social gatherings for them during that time. It probably is a safe estimate that between 1700 and 1740, an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the people attended churches. Our ancestors attended the church in their area. The Great Awakening was going on in some areas, so, you would think because of all this going on in churches, there would be records for ancestor, Jordan Lee and his parents. However, there is none that I have found to date that will help me to place him with a church.
If you're not sure of the church affiliation, you might search the churches closest to your ancestor’s home, then broaden your search in ever-widening circles. Look at your ancestors’ neighbors gather information on them. What religious affiliation were they? Were neighbors family members? Look at all the clues as you research them. Jordan Lee was a farmer, as were all my ancestors before him, and church records are one of the records missing for my ancestors. Where are the records? I haven’t found any church records for them. I have to remember some churches kept better records than others did.
Some of the things you look for are membership lists such as new members, members who transferred membership, and members excommunicated or censured. That information was often recorded, and is helpful in tracing a family’s migration. Church affiliation may be found by searching through obituaries and cemetery records. Church Minutes of various organizations within a church may include the name of an ancestor. There may be biographical notes on members and pastors in some church records. Also, look for notes on funerals — sometimes including the names of those who attended.
Church records are another tool in identifying ancestors and placing them in a certain place at a certain time. Up to this point in researching the Lee ancestors the conclusion is that my Lee ancestors’ did not have an affiliation with a church , the church records were destroyed, the church did not keep records, or the church records were placed in an archive after the church closed.
Therefore, the quest continues for records that would verify Jordan Lee as the father of Benjamin Lee, and connect Jordan Lee to parents.
Esther Eley Jones
Esther Eley Jones