Before diving into Lutheran research one needs to know a little about the history of the Lutheran church. It is more than just Martin Luther nailing his thesis on a church door in Wittenberg. Although that is the beginning of Lutheranism, much has changed since 1517, especially in the United States.
In the United States there are a few Lutheran church affiliations.
- The largest, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was formed when the Lutheran Church in America, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the American Lutheran Church merged.
- The Missouri Synod was founded by German immigrants and is the second largest.
- The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is somewhat smaller.
An excellent family tree like resource for Lutheranism can be found online at http://thearda.com/denoms/families/trees/familytree_lutheran.asp
Knowing the synod one belonged to is helpful when locating records. If the church merged they may or may not have kept the all the records. This will help you to locate where the records may be archived.
The ELCA has an archive, many of these records can be found on Ancestry, or from www.elca.org/archives. The Missouri Synod information can be found at the Concordia Historical Institute.
Interior of Trinity Lutheran Church, Onekama, Michigan, before renovation,
where many Fredrick family events were held.
If possible start local and arrange a visit to view Lutheran church records. It is best to call ahead and let the church know you are coming and what records you are seeking. I have found most churches are willing to help as long as you avoid Advent and Lent seasons.
Onsite visits will provide you with the information that we as genealogists are looking for. I have found the German origin of my family on a confirmation record, the parents names on a marriage record, and sometimes a birth date on a baptismal record. It is worth the effort to find these records.
Lately, I have been using the Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials 1567-1945 at Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/61250/
Johann August Fredrick, age 80, on his family farm in 1920.
The first record I looked for was the baptism of my maternal great grandfather, Johann August Fredrick, which was Fredrich, in Germany. The actual image was available for viewing and this is what I found:
- Event Type: Taufe (Baptism)
- Birth Date: 14 Jan 1845
- Baptism Date: 26 Jan 1845
- Baptism Place: Nakel, Deutschland (Germany)
- Father: Christoph Fredrich
- Mother: Susanna Fredrich
Susanna Konig, mother of Johann August Fredrick, date unknown.
Next, I looked for a marriage record for Christoph Fredrich and Susanna. Again, I found the image. I was able to get Susanna's maiden name Konig, her father's name, Friedrich, and Christoph's father's name, Christian. I was thrilled. Further research revealed Susanna's mother's name as Catharina Burger.
I still have more research on the Fredrich/Konig family to do and I will be using church records to do it. The Fredrich family has been my toughest family to research. When I started researching the family all I had was Johann August's name and that he was from Posen, Prussia.
Digging into church records has allowed me to further my research two more generations. Don't rule out digging for those church records to futher your ancestral lines.
Online Websites for Lutheran Research
Association of Religious Data Archives-http://thearda.com/newsearch.asp?searchterms=Lutheran&c=ABCDEFGHIJKLMNYZ
Concordia Historical Institute-https://concordiahistoricalinstitute.org/
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America-https://www.elca.org/archives
Family Search Wiki-Lutheran Church in the United States-https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Lutheran_Church_in_the_United_States
Wisconsin Lutheran Synod-https://welsrc.net/