Churches have been very important in the settlement of Ohio. Wayne County, Ohio is no exception. The earliest denominations included Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, German Reformed, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ, United Brethren, Methodists and Catholic.
Throughout Wayne County, OH history, churches have come and gone. There have been numerous splits and merges as well as the creation of many new churches. Overtime, options for places of worship have expanded.
Church records are very important to researchers, especially those baptismal, christening, and marriage records (including marriage bonds) that predate the recording of civil records such as births and deaths. Many times, church records (also known as ecclesiastical records) are the only written record of an ancestor.
Church records take many forms. The availability of church records depends on the time period, the minister, the denomination, and the congregation. They assist in placing a person in a particular place during a specific time. Church records also provide clues to family members and often tie one generation to the next generation. They assist in tracing migration patterns of individuals.
Before beginning ecclesiastical record searches, it is necessary to determine the denomination and congregation an ancestor was a member. Just because the present family may be Lutheran or Protestant, this does not imply that ancestors have always been that same denomination. In early years of settlement, ministers were circuit riders. They would have a circuit covering many miles and did not have a permanent church. They may make it to an area one a month or every 2-3 months, depending on the size of the circuit and his responsibility. Also, church was the center of early society. For a Baptist family, if no Baptist church was in the vicinity, the family would attend another church of a different denomination. It may have been Methodist or Presbyterian.
It is important to complete a historical study of churches. Many churches experienced splits and merges. Others changed names over time. For example, the German Reformed Church united with the Lutherans and was sometimes referred to as the Union Church. Later they became the German Lutheran and Reformed Church. Also, it is important to learn the various types of records that may have been kept within the congregation, if there is an Archive for the denomination, or what language the records may have been recorded (Latin for early English churches or Roman Catholic, German for German congregations, etc.).
Some of the more common types of Ecclesiastical records may include membership rolls, certificate of membership, records related to shunning or excommunication, meeting minutes, committee minutes and reports, hearings and inquiries, birth records and bastardy bonds, baptismal certificates, christening records, confirmation records, records of bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah (coming-of-age ceremonies for boys and girls in the Jewish faith), first communion, marriage certificate/bonds, records of divorce and annulment, lists of elders and deacons, clergy appointments, and fellowship group (activity) records. Other types of records may include office administrative records, building plans and related documents, missionary records (possible source for Native American research), photographs, published congregational histories, church bulletins, newspapers and journals, donation and tithing records, death and burial records, and Bishop’s transcripts. Photo directories and address directories may be useful resources, too. Most of these resources are self-explanatory.
Many churches do not make their records available for public viewing. They are concerned for the privacy of their members. However, older church records have been microfilmed by the Latter-Day Saints and are available to borrow through Family History Libraries across the United States. Consult the catalog available through www.familysearch.org for detailed listings of availability of church records.
According to research collected by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, the leading Christian denomination in Wayne County, OH is Evangelical followed by the Catholic and the Methodist. More information on the denominations may be found through Sharefaith.
Digitized Church Books
Wayne County, Ohio Churches
- This is a list of known churches in Wayne County, Ohio from 1812 to present day. Information includes the name of the church, the denomination, location, its active years, and known name changes. For more complete information, refer to specific church histories.
- This is a list of known churches located in Wooster. It includes an image (when available), the present name of the church, the denomiation, location, active years and other names the church may have at one time been referred.
- This is an index to the Wayne County, OH resources found in the Ohio Genealogical Society publication, "Ohio Cross Road of our Nation: Records & Pioneer Families." Several baptismal records have been abstracted within this publication.
Officiates of Marriage
Our department’s collection of church records is very limited. General historical information may be found Douglass’ History of Wayne County, Ohio. In addition, several churches have published church histories. Some of the publications do include membership lists, baptisms, list of clergy, and deaths. A complete list of these publications may be found through our department’s website under Resources, then Church. Other information on various churches may be found in our church notebooks. These include newspaper clippings on important historical aspects of the churches. Church information, such as directories and small historical pamphlets, may be found in the lateral files. These are organized by denomination but are not in any certain order within the denomination.
Presently, there is no active project seeking church records within the county. Researchers will need to contact the individual churches, if they remain in existence, to seek records. Other places to contact would be denominational archives and the diocese. Contact information on these places may be obtained through the Internet.
- 2 notebooks divided by denomination; within each denomination, in alphabetical order by name of church
- List of church publications
1859 Wooster Directory
- Baptist: southwest corner of Market and Larwill Streets; Rev. T. J. Penny, Pastor
- Catholic: corner of Millersburg Rd and railroad; Rev. O'Neil, Pastor
- Church of God: north side of South Street between Bever and Buckeye; Rev. Levi Hartman, Pastor
- Disciples: northeast corner of South and Walnut Streets; Rev. S. R. Jones, Pastor
- Episcopal: north side of South Street between Walnut and Grant Streets; Rev. J. Trimble, Pastor
- German Lutheran: northwest corner of Henry and Grant Streets; Rev. Benjamin Pope, Pastor
- German Reformed: northwest corner of Henry and Grant Streets; Rev. Kamerer, Pastor
- Lutheran: west side of Market Street between North and Larwill; Rev. J. B. Baltzly, Pastor
- Methodist Episcopal: northeast corner of North and Grant Streets; Rev. H. G. Dubois, Pastor
- Presbyterian: northwest corner of Walnut and North Streets; Rev. R. Colmery, Pastor
- United Presbyterian: east side Buckeye Street near Millersburg Road; Rev. McFarland, Pastor