This past week a large number of Lutheran church records were made available and searchable on Archives.com, a division of Ancestry.com. Archives.com released about 1,000 rolls of microfilmed church records, acquired through a partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This means that about 4.6 million individual Lutheran records are now available on-line.
This is of particular interest to me because I quickly discovered that some of Zion Chatt’s records are among the records that were recently released. Archives.com is a subscription website of which I am a member. I searched for a familiar name on their website and saw a church record book that I was very familiar with–Zion Chatt’s newer record book.
When I was growing up, Zion Chatt was a member of The American Lutheran Church (ALC). In 1986 three church bodies, the ALC, The Lutheran Church in America and The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, joined to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). This ELCA collection probably includes records from these earlier denominations and others as well. Zion Chatt is no longer a member of the ELCA. In 2011 Zion Chatt voted to join the newly-formed North American Lutheran Church (NALC).
When I heard that the ELCA had released about 4.6 million records of individuals, I had to take a look. I was curious because someone at church once mentioned that one of our record books had been filmed years ago. I have always wondered who had filmed it and when.
I was pretty sure that the Family History Library (FHL) had not filmed our records because no film from Zion Chatt is listed in their catalog. Zion Schumm’s records (1846-1989) have been microfilmed by the FHL and I have that film on permanent file at the St. Marys Family History Center. Zion Schumm is Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, so their church records would not be among the ELCA records.
I did several name searches in the ELCA records on Archives.com and I notice that the records stop at about 1940. There does not appear to be a way to browse through the records page by page. You have to do a name search.
Church records are some of the best records for genealogical research and the German Lutherans recorded some of the very best. The records in the ELCA Church Records Collection on Archives.com date from the mid-1800s-1940. Records include births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths, and burials. Within these records you often find parents’ names, dates, places and other information. Even if you can’t locate a birth/baptism record the confirmation records can be a very good source of birth information. Confirmation records often give the date of birth and the names of the parents and could be considered a birth record substitute if no other birth record exists.
Zion Chatt has two record books. The older book includes records from 1855-1892 and the “new” book has records 1893-present. I did several searches in the ELCA records on Archives.com and I did not get a hit for any of the names in Zion’s old book. It appears that the “new” book was the only book filmed years ago and that the older book is not on Archives.com. The older book is written entirely in the old German script. It would be no small feat to translate, transcribe and index that book. This I know from experience because I did just that in 2000, when I translated and compiled a book from the old records.
One thing that is interesting is that Chattanooga/Rockford is not listed as Zion’s location in the Archives.com index. The index makes it appear that Zion Chatt’s records are from Christ Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio. Christ Lutheran is actually in Bexley, a suburb of Columbus. Christ Lutheran is very near Trinity Lutheran Seminary and the ELCA Region 6 Archives are at Trinity Seminary. I suspect that our filmed records have been stored at the Region 6 Archives but I am not sure why they are indexed as being from Christ Lutheran Church.
So if you search in the ELCA records on Archives.com, the church location in their index may not be the actual location of the church. The church you are seeking may be indexed as a different location.
The Region 6 Archives has a lot of information about the Lutheran churches in the Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Lower Peninsula of Michigan. They were extremely helpful to me when I compiled a history of Zion Lutheran Church, Chattanooga, and its pastors for our 150th anniversary in 2005.