Monday, October 3, 2011

Anglican Church Records at

A visitor to my blog suggested that I talk about the sources I'm looking at in my own research to share what's out there and perhaps give some commentary on the sources. That sounded like a good idea, so I'll start with the most recent collection I've been viewing. is the on-line presence of the Family History Library (FHL) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Among other things, the new FamilySearch site hosts browsable images of VI church records. On September 7, 2011 they added a collection of Anglican church records from St Croix for both St John's Episcopal Anglican in Christiansted and St Paul's in Frederiksted. These records are organized into groups of Baptism, Marriage, Confirmation, and Burials spanning 1765-2009. This is quite a large collection of images of the church registers. Most of them appear to be originals, even showing editorial comments (such as payments for baptisms). Since, as I showed in my earlier post, Anglican was the largest denomination on the island, these are quite valuable resources for genealogy...

To get to the records, go to . You will need to register (free) to get access to the records. Click on "Caribbean, Central and South America" and scroll to the bottom of the page to see "Virgin Islands US, Church Records". The camera icon means that there are images online. Once you select it you can browse the collection by island, city, and church. The records are browsable, but not indexed, which means that you have to go through them page-by-page to find names. This is a long and slow, but rewarding, process.

I have been through most of the collection, but spent most time on the Baptism registers. For Christiansted, St John's records are broken into six groups:

  • Baptisms 1841-1854
  • Baptisms 1855-1867
  • Baptisms 1867-1875
  • Baptisms 1875-1883
  • Baptisms 1883-1899
  • Baptisms 1899-1934

Copy of 1862-Thomas B Moorhead-83,88In the 1855-1867 registers, the baptismal information spans two facing pages in the register, which are recorded as two images. This makes reading difficult because you can only see one image at a time. When I found entries in these pages I combined the two in Photoshop into a single image of two pages. Also, the 1855-1867 collection is quite heavily damaged. Some of the pages have significant sections missing; some are pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. Also, for this set, the pages are not always in order so you may have to hunt for the second page once you find the first.

The other sets are in much better condition, they are imaged from intact books and are imaged well. The only complaint I have is that the information recorded by the Anglican church is not as rich as similar documents I've seen by the Lutheran church on St. Thomas. They often don't record father's names for unmarried couples and they don't list ages of mother or father. The residence data is inconsistent and brief. Copy of 1897-Mary Marie Moorhead-131

What if your family members, like mine, weren't Anglican? The van Beverhoudts were mostly Lutheran. Are these records still of interest? Absolutely. The Anglicans (like the Lutherans) were very inclusive when it came to witnesses. Many baptisms had witnesses who were not Anglican. I found many van Beverhoudts who were witnesses at baptisms for Anglicans. By tracking whose child was being baptized and who the other witnesses were helps me build a network of known associates. Knowing the associates can help break down the inevitable brick walls. Earlier associates can become future family members. As I showed in my earlier blog, there were also many conversions from Moravian to Anglican. Finally, then as now, it was common for people (usually men) to convert after marriage to a spouse's religion. So perhaps an ancestor was Anglican at baptism but converted to a spouse's religion by the time you found them in the census.

FamilySearch also has images for St. Thomas churches (Anglican, Lutheran, Dutch Reform) available. These are also unindexed, so more page-by-page. This site is worth keeping an eye on, since they post additional records from time-to time.

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  1. Don't cha love modern technology. Back in 1993 I searched these very records at the Church for Latterday Saints Family History Library in Southern California and sorted through many reels of microfilm and now today you can find the same information from the comfort of your own home. :-)

  2. Have you looked through these records lately? I've been trying all day to access these and had no luck. It just won't load the images. I finally emailed the FamilySearch Support. I was super-excited to read here that the Anglican records were online because many of our family (Foss, Nelson, Danielson) were Anglican, and they don't have these records on microfilm at the FHL-- we actually had to go to St. Croix to access these records before. (Not that there is anything wrong with that! It's just not, you know, cost-effective...) I hope these records haven't been taken down like the Ancestry ones were.

  3. I just went on tonight and I can see them fine. If you let me know what you're looking for, maybe I can help.

  4. I got a reply from FamilySearch... the images indeed were not loading correctly, but they're up and running great now. Off to spend the next 8 hours glued to the screen! Whee!

  5. Dave, can you tell me what the purpose of Sponsors were in the Anglican records? Are they like godparents? Were they usually close friends of the family? Thanks!

  6. Beck, yes, they were godparents. I researched this myself because I grew up Catholic and had always assumed that there was a godmother and a godfather. The Catholic register from St Croix (1865-1882) also shows that most baptisms had one man and one woman listed as "Sponsors", which would be the godparents.

    I noticed in the Anglican, Lutheran, and Moravian registers, there were often many sponsors. During slave time, friends and relatives of owners were sponsors. For prominent families, there were prominent sponsors. The number of sponsors doesn't seem to be correllated with social standing though. I've seen prominent baptisms with two or three and slave baptisms with a dozen.

    Yes, often the sponsors were close friends or other family members. I have found great information from looking at who the sponsors were. It can give additional family, shows that they were alive at that time, and can identify relationships. The only record I have that Mary Conrad and her future husband Harold Simonsen knew each other in St Croix was a baptism of a friend of Harolds (they were both sponsors).

    Sometimes the sponsors were co-workers. This can be helpful to identify occupations. I have even run short genealogies of sponsors so that I could understand their relationship to my family.

    In short, the Sponsor list is very important and often overlooked. When I go through a register, I always read the sponsor list for appearances of my family.

  7. Thank you so much for the info! That is just what I needed to know.