North Carolina Church Records

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This entry was originally written by Johni Cerny and Gareth L. Mark for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the North Carolina Family History Research series.
History of North Carolina
North Carolina Vital Records
Census Records for North Carolina
Background Sources for North Carolina
North Carolina Maps
North Carolina Land Records
North Carolina Probate Records
North Carolina Court Records
North Carolina Tax Records
North Carolina Cemetery Records
North Carolina Church Records
North Carolina Military Records
North Carolina Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
North Carolina Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Ethnic Groups of North Carolina
North Carolina County Resources
Map of North Carolina


Quakers. William Edmundson and George Fox were Quaker missionaries who brought the Society of Friends (Quakers) to North Carolina in 1672. The tide of Quaker migration from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia was enough to make the Society of Friends one of the larger religious groups in North Carolina during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By the start of the Civil War, the majority of Quaker families had moved to Ohio and Indiana where they hoped to escape the effects of slavery and the conflict they thought it would cause. Quakers kept excellent records, and originals of the North Carolina monthly meeting minutes, and records are among the Quaker Collection at Guilford College Library in Greensboro, North Carolina. The collection consists of over 6,000 manuscript volumes of minutes and records from 1680 to the present. Early records from monthly meetings in East Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina that were affiliated with the North Carolina Yearly Meeting also are found there. Many North Carolina Quaker records are published in part in William W. Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, vol. 1 (1936; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994).

Church of England. The second denomination to establish a congregation in North Carolina was the Church of England in 1700. As elsewhere, that group became known as Episcopalians some years after the American Revolution. There are no surviving eighteenth-century Church of England parish registers for North Carolina.

Moravian. Known also as United Brethren, a group from Pennsylvania purchased nearly 100,000 acres in 1753 and called the tract “Wachovia.” Their first three towns were Bethabara, Bethania, and Salem. They, like the Quakers, kept excellent records. Write to the Moravian Archives, Southern Province of the Moravian Church in America, Drawer M, Salem Station, Winston-Salem, NC 27108. The collection contains historical books and manuscripts concerning Moravians in North Carolina. Early congregational diaries have been translated and published in Adelaide L. Fries et al., eds., The Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, 11 vols. (Raleigh, N.C.: State Department of Archives and History, 1922–69). Also, C. Daniel Crews and Lisa D. Bailey, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, vol. 12, 1856–66 (Raleigh, N.C.: State Office of Archives and History, 2000) includes material not presented in volume 11 that covers the same dates.

Baptists. The Baptists reached North Carolina during the mid-eighteenth century, and the Sandy Creek Church, called the “Mother of Southern Baptist Churches,” was founded in 1755. Over the next two centuries, the Baptist Church became the leading religious denomination in the state. Baptist Church records do not offer the wealth of information found in Quaker or Moravian records, but useful historical details and migrational clues are sometimes found in their records. Many types of Baptist churches split off from the host denomination.

The principal depository of Baptist records is the Baptist Historical Collection of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University. Write to P.O. Box 7777, Reynolds Station, Winston-Salem, NC 27106. For records of the Free-Will Baptists, write to the Free-Will Baptist Historical Collection, Moye Library, Mount Olive Junior College, Mount Olive, NC 28365. Primitive Baptist records are found at the Primitive Baptist Library, 4023 N. NC Hwy. 87, Elon, NC 27244.

Other denominations. A plethora of religious groups exists in North Carolina today, but few of them were influential during the state’s early history. The Presbyterians, Lutherans, and the Moravians constituted the largest minority denominations during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Presbyterianism came with the Highland Scots families who settled in the Cape Fear River area in the 1730s and the Scots-Irish who came down into North Carolina from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Write to the Presbyterian Historical Foundation, P.O. Box 847, Montreat, NC 27410.

Lutheranism came into North Carolina with the Germans who first arrived in Pennsylvania early in the eighteenth century and then moved into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley before continuing south to North Carolina, where they joined the descendants of the Germanna colonists from Orange and Spotsylvania counties of north-central Virginia. Write to Archives of the North Carolina Synod, P.O. Box 2049, Salisbury, NC 28144.

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