Indiana Church Records
This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Although there was a Jesuit priest in Vincennes by 1749, the Catholic religion in Indiana declined in the late 1700s. Catholics in Vincennes and Fort Wayne were reorganized in the 1830s, and Irish and German immigrants added to the religion’s numbers in the mid-1800s.
It was Protestantism, however, that conformed to and enhanced the frontier existence of Indiana. The predominant denominations were Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. A large group of Quakers migrated to the Whitewater Valley from North Carolina. German settlement areas were often Lutheran, but German-Americans established the United Brethren Churches in Indiana. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was created in the state in the early 1800s. By the mid-1800s, there were also significant numbers of Jewish families in Indiana, most of them in the larger cities. Of the predominant Protestant body, the Methodist denomination was the largest. The circuit rider, bringing religion to the scattered pioneers in their log cabins, and the camp meeting, with its religious fervor and social aspect, were precisely appropriate to that time and place.
Baptist records are found at Franklin College (in Franklin); Methodist at DePauw University (in Greencastle); Mennonite at Goshen College (in Goshen); Presbyterian at Hanover College (in Hanover); Disciples of Christ at their historical society in Nashville, Tennessee; and French Catholic at Vincennes University in the Byron R. Lewis Collection. There are also Catholic Church histories and records at the Catholic Archives, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana. Quaker records are at Earlham College (at Richmond), but an excellent printed source for them exists: Willard Heiss’s Abstracts of the Records of the Society of Friends in Indiana, 6 vols. with index (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1962–77). It is also available on microfiche from the society.
L. C. Rudolph and Judith E. Endelman’s Religion in Indiana: A Guide to Historical Resources (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986) is organized in three sections: 1) published books, articles, theses, and dissertations; 2) primarily unpublished materials, listed by repository, which do not include individual congregations; and 3) congregational histories listed by county.
The story of Harmony, an intentional religious community of Pennsylvanian Germans that spawned the town by the same name, is covered in Karl J. R. Arndt, A Documentary History of the Indiana Decade of the Harmony Society, 1814–1824, 2 vols. (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1975, 1978).
A general finding aid is a Directory of Churches and Religious Organizations in Indiana (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Records Survey, 1941).