Virginia Church Records
This entry was originally written by Johni Cerny and Gareth L. Mark for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Unlike New England, colonial Virginia left few early church records. The first Virginians were members of the Church of England, or Anglican Church, which became the Episcopal Church in 1786. Early parish registers are incomplete and challenging to use. Parish boundaries changed rapidly and are hard to pinpoint without Charles Francis Cocke’s Parish Lines, Diocese of Virginia (1967; reprint, Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1978). This volume begins with a fine introduction to the Church of England’s beginnings in the colony. Companion volumes by Cocke include Parish Lines, Diocese of Southwestern Virginia (1960; reprint, Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1980) and Parish Lines, Diocese of Southern Virginia (1964; reprint, Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1979).
Since colonial times, many religious groups have established congregations in Virginia, including Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Quaker or Friends, to name a few. Except for the Quakers, few of these groups kept records containing such genealogical information as birth, marriage, and death dates. A number of church vestry books and registers have been published and are available at the Library of Virginia and the FHL. See Jewell T. Clark and Elizabeth Terry Long, comps., A Guide to Church Records in the Archives Branch, Virginia State Library and Archives (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1981) for a complete inventory of church records at the Library of Virginia. See also Edith F. Axelson, A Guide to Episcopal Church Records in Virginia (Athens, Ga.: Iberian Publishing Co., 1988) for a county-by-county listing of all known records of the denomination.
Several religious denominations have collections of historical, membership, and other congregational records. Contact the organizations below for information about their holdings.
Baptist Church Records
Virginia Baptist Historical Society
Boatright Memorial Library
University of Richmond
P.O. Box 34
Richmond, VA 23173
Congregation Beth Ahabah
Museum and Archives Trust
1111 W. Franklin St.
Richmond, VA 23220-3700
The core collection of the archives includes documents of Beth Shalome and Beth Ahabah congregations of Richmond.
Virginia United Methodist Historical Society
Randolph Macon College
P.O. Box 5005
Ashland, VA 23005-5505
Presbyterian Church Records
Union Theological Seminary in Virginia
3401 Brook Rd.
Richmond, VA 23227