Washington Church Records

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This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

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


Catholic and Protestant faiths were in Washington State from its earliest days. Other American traditions such as Mormonism and the Seventh-day Adventist churches soon followed.

The Presbyterian faith arrived in Oregon Territory in 1838. The collected history for the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, Synod of Washington, is in History of the Synod of Washington of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1835–1909, and Local Presbyterian Church Histories of Washington Associations that Comprise the Olympia Presbyterial, 1890–1972. A major Presbyterian archive repository is the San Francisco Theological Seminary, 2 Kensington Rd., San Anselmo, CA 94960.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was the first Protestant group to organize a local church east of the Cascades. Methodism arrived in Vancouver in 1848 and in Olympia and Seattle in 1853. The United Methodist Church has a repository of records at the University of Puget Sound, Collins Memorial Library, 1500 North Warner, Tacoma, Washington 98416.

The Roman Catholic Church is one of the oldest denominations in the state and remains today one of its largest. Major Catholic record repositories are at the Diocese of Spokane, 1023 W. Riverside Ave., P.O. Box 1453, Spokane, WA 99201-1453; Archdiocese of Seattle, 910 Marion St., Seattle, WA 98104; and Diocese of Yakima, 5301 Tieton Dr., Yakima, WA 98908.

Missionaries from the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were sent to the Pacific Northwest as early as 1850. Pockets of Mormons continued to grow although missionary efforts did not begin seriously until the 1880s and 1890s. The church has emerged today as one of the largest denominations in the state. The congregation and mission records have been microfilmed and are deposited at the FHL. Also, missionaries from the Missouri-based Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now the Community of Christ) arrived in Washington State in the nineteenth century. The congregation records for this denomination are also on microfilm at the FHL.

Seventh-day Adventists arrived in Washington Territory in the 1860s, with a strong presence in the state today. See the Del E. Webb Memorial Library, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350.

The Episcopal Church arrived in Washington in 1851 at Cathlamet as a mission outreach from Portland. Its records can be found at the two Episcopal diocese covering the state: The Diocese of Olympia, 1551 Tenth Ave. East, P.O. Box 12126, Seattle, WA 98102 and the Diocese of Spokane, 245 E. 13th Ave., Spokane, WA 99202-1114.

The Lutheran faith arrived in Washington as the result of migration by Scandinavians to the Puget Sound area. The Pacific Lutheran University, Robert A.L. Mortvedt Library, 1010 122nd St. South, Tacoma, WA 98447-0013 has many oral histories and historical research papers in their archives concerning the Lutheran faith in western Washington.

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