Historical Society of the United Methodist Church Genealogy Section

Predecessor denominations of The United Methodist Church
If your ancestor was a member of any of these denominations, we may be able to help you:
  • Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939)
  • Methodist Episcopal Church, South (1845-1939)
  • Methodist Protestant Church (1828-1939)
  • Methodist Church (1939-1968)
  • United Brethren in Christ (1800-1946)
  • Evangelical Association (1803-1922)
  • United Evangelical Church (1894-1922)
  • Evangelical Church (1922-1946)
  • Evangelical United Brethren (1946-1968)
  • United Methodist Church (1968- present)
Denominational Newspapers
As people moved west to settle the new country, news was sent to various newspapers. For the Methodist Episcopal Church, this weekly paper was the Christian Advocate. Different versions were distributed to various regions of the country, but the news came 'back home' from all over. It's a good clue to finding the home of your migrating ancestors!

Genealogy section member Helen Long of Kansas has transcribed the news from the New York Christian Advocate, for the years 1879 and 1880.

The David Donahue Memorial Tennessee Records Repository hosts Genealogical Information from the Western Methodist, the Southwestern Christian Advocate, and the Nashville Christian Advocate.
Tips for Finding United Methodist Ancestors
  1. The United Methodist Church today is the result of denominational splits and mergers over the past 200+ years. You are most likely to find records for Evangelical Association, Evangelical United Brethren, Methodist Episcopal, and the others in the care of United Methodist congregations and Annual Conference Archives in the areas where the people had their membership.
  2. Start with organizing the basic information for your family, citing your sources. Provide dates, places and names of your ancestors and why you think they have United Methodist roots every time you ask for data.
  3. Determine if your ancestor was a lay person within the church, or an ordained member of the clergy. Titles such as 'elder,' 'deacon,' 'deaconess,' or 'reverend' usually indicate ordination or special training for work with the church, while 'exhorter' or 'class leader' usually indicate that the individual is a member of the laity.
  4. County, church or other local printed histories are a rich source of information about the development of communities and congregations. You will want to verify the name(s) used by the specific congregation over time.
  5. Check the location for a United Methodist Church that exists today. When churches are merged, the registers with personal names tend to go to the new congregation rather to another repository. Many United Methodist churches have local church historians who can help with your search or tell you who might currently hold the predecessor church records.
  6. If your ancestor was an ordained member of the clergy, the Annual Conference Archives for the specific congregation may be able to help you. The Archivist will likely have reports from the Annual Meetings, at which ministers were appointed to serve congregations. Annual Conference Archives addresses and coverage areas are explained here.
  7. Your query should be clear and concise, reporting a date, place and name as well as why you think the person was a member of the congregation or clergy, and asking a specific question, such as [for congregational records] "I am looking for his/her parents," or [clergy records] "What churches did he serve?" Requests such as "Send me everything you have on ____" will likely go to the bottom of the pile of letters to answer. Always enclose a Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelop (SASE).
  8. You may want to include a donation in return for the time spent in responding to your query. Neither the congregations nor the Annual Conference Archives were established to provide help for family historians.
Historical Works on Methodism

Information found in historical works on Methodism can often be useful in determining denominational activities in specific regions or historical eras. A collection of digitized histories in the public domain centered on the historic study of Methodism can be found here.