06 January 2022

Using Church Histories in Your Genealogy Research

Using church histories in your family history provides information that will provide social context for the times they were living. I have the marriage certificate of my great grandparents, Johann August Fredrich and Louise Fredrike Zastrow. It states the officiant at their marriage was Hermann Lemke. No church was listed, but they were married in Manistee, Manistee, Michigan.

A Google search for Hermann Lemke Manistee Church showed that he was the Pastor of the German Lutheran Church of Manistee. Next, I did a search for German Lutheran Church of Manistee and discovered that it is now Trinity Lutheran Church, Manistee, Mi. 

This piqued my curiosity and I decided to see what was available at the Library of Michigan about Trinity Lutheran Church. I used Answer, Library of Michigan's card catalog, and found this entry. Bingo!

The Centennial History of Trinity Lutheran Church of Manistee, Michigan by Edwin August Mueckler, published in 1969 provided me with more information about the church where my great grandparents were married.

The 1870 Census for Manistee county showed that over 2600 people were foreign born with 851 people being German. The church was organized by immigrant Germans who were mainly from the provinces of Pommern and Posen, Prussia. My Fredrich ancestors came from the province of Posen.

Hermann Lemke was the second full time Pastor at the church. He was called in 1872 and installed as Pastor in December of that year. J. August and Louise were married in 1875. The family story is that J. August sent back to Germany for a bride, I wonder if the church had anything to do with it. Just a story, nothing is proven.

Although there is no mention of my ancestors in the church history, it provides me with what was going on at the church during this time. Information about the community, including a large fire in 1871, relief fund abuse, removal of first minister, temperance movement, money troubles, and more is included. The charter members were listed.

Pictures of the interior of the church and Pastor Lemke are included in the history. I didn't receive permission to use the pictures so I am not including them here.

Using the information I found in the church history I can contact Trinity Lutheran Church, which I did, and obtain church records. 

If you are having trouble finding the church of your ancestors from the name you have, do a google church to see if the name was changed and look for the church history. It was an interesting read.


  1. This is always a great idea. My ancestor is written about in one because he was a founding member and first church secretary, so you never know what you might find.

  2. Yes, founding or charter members are usually listed. It is finding some of them that makes it a challenge.