ELCA Records on Ancestry.com–Avoiding Confusion

Ancestry.com has two seemingly similar record sets:

Researchers can potentially get them confused.

“U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] Church Records, 1826-1945” does not contain records of every ELCA congregation. The digital images that Ancestry.com hosts were created from microfilmed copies of church records made apparently in the 1970s/early 1980s from congregations that were members (at that time) of what was then known as the American Lutheran Church. The ELCA was created in 1987 as the result of a merger of the American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), and the Lutheran Church in America (LCA). Generally speaking (there probably are exceptions) the digital images are not from congregations that were a AELC or LCA member. Other branches of Lutheranism (eg. Missouri Synod) are not generally included either.

Search note: This database at Ancestry.com appears to only index names in the baptism, marriage, and funeral section. Records of individual congregations may include communion records, family registers, confirmation records, church board minutes, etc. These other “non-vital” congregational records are digitized in the “U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] Church Records, 1826-1945” database but will need to be searched manually. A PDF file on the ELCA website’s archives page lists their complete inventory of microfilm which was used to create the digital images. This may help you in navigating the images at Ancestry.com–but remember that it’s possible that not all microfilm was digitized.

“U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America[ELCA], Swedish American Church Records, 1800-1946” was created from microfilmed images of church records of Lutheran congregations in the United States that were Swedish in ethnic origin. This microfilm was held by the Swenson Swedish Research Center at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. The Swenson Center’s microfilm catalog is online, but it includes non-Lutheran congregational records that were not included in “U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America[ELCA], Swedish American Church Records, 1800-1946” (because they aren’t Lutheran).

Search note: This database appears to index the baptisms, marriages, funerals, and the membership lists. For some congregations there are other congregational records including in the digital images. Browse the records for the entire congregation. To see what could potentially be available digitally for a specific Lutheran congregation, consult the Swenson Center’s microfilm guide. note–while non-Lutheran churches are listed in this finding aid only Lutheran congregations are included in the Ancestry.com database “U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America[ELCA], Swedish American Church Records, 1800-1946

These records are not indexed in the same way. The Swedish church record index includes more records than does the other set. Neither set indexes every name.

These records were created from two different sets of microfilm.

And always browse digital images at Ancestry.com–there may be more there than you think.



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