Alabama Church Records
This entry was originally written by Robert S. Davis and Mary Bess Paluzzi for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Samford University Library, Birmingham, Alabama, microfilms church records of all denominations in Alabama and makes these records available for public use. The Baptists (Southern Convention) form the largest denomination in Alabama. The first Baptist Church was founded 2 October 1808 on Flint River near Huntsville. The Baptists are the only denomination having some form of centralized state and congregational historic records. Their records are housed in the Samford University Library. Included are not only microfilmed minutes of defunct and active congregations, but also the personal papers of many churchmen and a run of the denomination’s state newspaper, the Alabama Baptist (1835-present).
The state’s oldest denomination, Roman Catholic, has records dating from the coming of Iberville’s colony near Mobile in 1699. Most parish records are maintained by the local church. Publication of the early records of Mobile parish is in process.
The first ordained Episcopal minister in the state was licensed in 1764 to minister to British settlers. The WPA Historical Records Survey in 1939 compiled a volume surveying the records of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Alabama. The inventory contains a brief history of each parish, a statement on extant parish records, and an index by location and by parish names. Parish records are maintained by the parish. Unfortunately, the survey did not inventory any other denominational records. A copy of Alabama Historical Records Survey, Inventory of the Church Archives of Alabama, Protestant Episcopal Church (Birmingham: Historical Records Survey Project, 1939) is at the Birmingham Public Library.
In 1803 Lorenzo Dow, a Methodist, did his first preaching in Alabama. Methodist missionaries were sent by the South Carolina Conference into the Tombigbee area in 1809. Today, some Methodist records for north Alabama churches are housed at Birmingham Southern College, and south Alabama church records are housed at Huntingdon College, Montgomery. Birmingham Southern College has a run of the state denominational newspaper, the Christian Advocate (1880-present).
The first Presbyterian Church was organized in 1818 at Huntsville. Historical records for active Presbyterian churches are usually maintained by the local congregation. Some records of defunct churches are held by Samford University and the Alabama Department of Archives and History.