Transcribed Early American Manuscript Church Records Now Online

New England’s Hidden Histories (NEHH), of the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston, locates, digitizes, and publishes rare seventeenth- and eighteenth-century manuscript church records online. We are pleased to announce that over 4,000 pages in our free archive have now been transcribed, making them readily accessible to all users. Among these materials are church records from Barnstable, Franklin, Georgetown, Marblehead, and Stoneham, Massachusetts, from Brunswick and Sanford, Maine, and from other colonial-era communities.

Also newly available at http://www.congregationallibrary.org/nehh/main are over 1,100 transcribed pages of autobiographical and spiritual testimony from hundreds of members of the first church of Middleboro, Massachusetts. This collection of lay faith relations, the largest ever published, offers an unparalleled glimpse into the inner lives of ordinary people from a half century before the Revolution until the Civil War.

Additional transcriptions are forthcoming, including more church records, hundreds of additional lay relations of faith, the New World’s first systematic theological treatise (1656); an early draft of the Cambridge Platform and a response to lay objections about it (c. 1650), and portions of a deacon’s notebook (1638–46).  All of these materials are appearing in print for the first time.

About New England’s Hidden Histories.—Our New England forbears enshrined the most intimate details of their lives and their communities in their manuscript church records. Therein can be found minutes of spirited church debates and disciplinary hearings, personal narratives, lay and clerical faith explorations, ministerial pronouncements, and a full complement of vital statistics (church membership lists, baptisms, marriages, and deaths), which together reveal the texture of early New England society. New England’s Hidden Histories has produced tens of thousands of digital images of these documents, and now myriad transcriptions, in its ongoing effort to freely share this incomparable historical resource with scholars, teachers, students, genealogists, church historians, and all interested members of the public.

We welcome volunteers interested in assisting us with transcriptions.  Please send inquiries to Helen Gelinas, our Director of Transcription, at hgelinas@14beacon.org. James Cooper, the Director of New England’s Hidden Histories, can be reached at jcooper@14beacon.org.

New England’s Hidden Histories is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Council on Library and Information Resources.


Anne Page

Anne Dunan-Page is Professor of early modern British studies at Aix-Marseille University

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