The Archives of the Episcopal Church welcomes inquiries from
genealogical researchers. The Archives collects select personal records
of a few individuals, usually ordained, who have made a significant
contribution to the national Church and its mission. As the repository
for records on the national church offices and agencies, however, the
Archives has few records that are typically found in a church archives.
Sacramental records of births, marriages, and deaths as well as
communicant membership of families are maintained by the individual
The Episcopal Church does not maintain central membership lists.
Information on families prominent in local church activities, parish
registers, and church directories can best be found by contacting the
parish directly. If a researcher knows a town or city, the Archives can
usually provide them with a list of local parishes. If a church has
closed, the records are typically found in the diocesan archives. The
Archives can provide contact information for the diocesan offices.
Episcopal dioceses do not maintain central membership lists.
Vital Records Inquiries in Parish Registers
Records of baptisms, burials, and marriages can most likely be found at
the church where the event took place. For information from these
records, you would have to contact the appropriate congregation or the
diocese directly. If the congregation is unknown, the researcher should
focus on a few congregations at one time in a process of elimination.
One can determine whether a particular congregation still exists and
its current address by contacting the Archives or by using Episcopal
web resources such as Parish Finder.
You should then contact the rector. Keep your inquiry brief, giving
only the essential information and requesting only the information you
need. Your chances of receiving a reply are better if you do not ask
broad questions or provide unnecessary details of your family history.
If the church no longer exists, the records could be located in either
the archives of the diocese, or in some cases, in a local repository of
Please keep in mind that parishes generally do not have a practicing
archivist, and that many pressing demands are placed on parish priests
and staff. Few parish registers are cumulatively indexed. As a result,
it may take the parish some time to reply to your inquiry. We recommend
patience in these matters. Please understand that the parish office
must give priority to the pastoral concerns of its parishioners, church
administration, and worship. Inquiries on purely genealogical matters
are usually a low priority for the staff, particularly if the question
is vague and/or unlimited in its scope. If possible, an offer to visit
the parish to perform the research yourself may be preferable.
Alternately you may want to consider making a donation to the parish
for its time as this will encourage a competent volunteer to offer up
some time for the search.
Though the Archives does not collect biographical data on all of the
Church's clergy, directories kept by the Archives can frequently
provide a rough outline of ministerial service and sometimes provide
vital information. This outline can be fleshed out by contacting the
churches where the priest served or by locating an obituary in the
local newspapers. Information we may be able to provide includes: date
and location of birth, parents' names, education, ordination dates,
spouse's name and number of children, and the dates and locations of
all the places the priest served. Please note that there will be much
less personal information for priests who lived prior to 1920. We do
not maintain contact information for the children and/or descendants of
The Archives of the Episcopal Church has collected the personal papers
of some foreign missionaries, and documents persons appointed by the
national Church for missionary work. Most of this documentation exists
in the form of personnel files. Information available in personnel
files varies considerably from missionary to missionary, depending on
length of service, time period served, and the missionary's propensity
to correspond with the home office. Please bear in mind that the
personnel files are largely administrative in nature; that is, they
document the missionary's contact with the Church's offices in New
York. As a result, there may be reports on the missionary's work
interfiled with requests for financial reimbursement, travel expenses,
and other mundane exchanges. Personnel files also contain confidential
personal information. The policy of the Archives is to close all
personnel records for a period of 80 years.
The Archives will conduct research for records older than 80 years,
however, our staff cannot photocopy entire sets of files. Our policy
permits copying of up to ten percent of a file. If the missionary's
personnel file is extensive, the researcher is encouraged to visit the
Archives personally to examine the records. In limited circumstances,
we will review a smaller file and send copies of substantive letters.
Churches that existed in the colonies prior to the establishment of the
Protestant Episcopal Church in 1789 should be contacted directly for
more information on parish registers and membership. Additional
information on colonial churches is available from Lambeth Palace
Library, which houses the records created while the colonies were still
under the ecclesiastical aegis of the Church of England. The Lambeth
Palace Library can be reached at the following address:
Lambeth Palace Library
London SE1 7JU
The records of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG)
contain papers of clergy who served as missionaries of the Church of
England in the colonial period. For more information on these records
Bodleian Library at Rhodes House
South Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3RG
Records of Other Anglican Churches
Information on clergy persons from other Anglican Churches outside the
United States can be obtained by writing directly to the appropriate
For information on Canadian Anglican clergy, write to:
Archives of the General Synod
Anglican Church of Canada
600 Jarvis Street
Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2J6 Canada
For all other provinces of the world wide Anglican Communion, researchers should consult directory information available on the Anglican Communion website.