Sunday, May 06, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Resources for Moravian Church Ancestors

The Moravian Church, organized in 1457 in Prague, grew out of the Reformation Movement in what is now the Czech Republic. Long before Martin Luther and his call for the reform of the Catholic Church, John Hus (1369-1415) was protesting some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church and its hierarchy, including the paying of indulgences, demanding that the mass and the Bible be translated in the language of the people and the offering of communion with both bread and wine. Hus paid with his life for his beliefs; in 1415 he was burned at the stake for heresy. Although founded in the area of the present day Czech Republic, the Moravian Church began to spread throughout Europe.

In 1734, Moravians began to establish settlements in North America. The first settlement was in Georgia, when this settlement proved to be unsuccessful, the Moravians moved on to Pennsylvania. Eventually two headquarters, a northern and southern were established, Bethlehem in Pennsylvania and Winston-Salem in North Carolina. Today the Moravian Church is worldwide and has congregations in sixteen American states, in the District of Columbia and in two Canadian Provinces.

The Moravians are a Christian denomination who believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord. They believe in the sacrament and in baptism. Their motto is "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, love."

God's Acre Moravian Cemetery. From author's collection


According to the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, the Moravians were important historians of early North Carolina history because , "they brought with them the habit of keeping precise records of all current events." The Moravians did not just record events affecting their own community, they recorded information about the area, the weather, and people who visited their community. These records were deposited in the Moravian Archives.

The Moravian Archives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina , established in 1753,  allows family historians the opportunity to research their Moravian ancestors in person and by mail. The Archives holdings include over 12,000 memoirs of Moravian church members. These memoirs are complied at the death of the member by their minister. The memoirs are compilation of their spiritual life here on earth. It includes birth and death date information.

Other records available to the researcher include The Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, which are twelve volumes that contain genealogical and historical information. This series is still being written and includes the minutes from church meetings. This series is available at the Moravian Archives.

For those who cannot make the trip to North Carolina to do research, you can write to the Archives for information on your ancestor. There is a fee for research requests. The Archives does not provide photocopies of their documents. For more information on the Archives and their services, please check out their website .

To better understand the life of the Moravian people you can read an account written by a member. The memoirs of AnneMarie Worbass are online. You can view her actual written pages, all in German, or a translation . For more books on the Moravians, check out the Moravian Historical Society. The Historical Society also includes a vast genealogical collection that includes obituaries, family charts, and cemetery books for Moravians who lived in the Lehigh Valley.


For more information on the Moravian Church:

Moravian Church of North America  includes a history of the church and their beliefs.

Moravian Archives  includes archival information on the history of the Moravian Church and its members.

Old Salem  is the actual town that the Moravians founded in 1766 in North Carolina. Now it is a living history restoration with exhibits, demonstrations and shops.

Moravian Church Genealogy Links  is a webpage with links to various Moravian resources that will help you with your research.

The Moravian Museum of Bethlehem  is the home for information on the Moravian settlement at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

**This article originally appeared in GenWeekly 15 Dec 2005.

No comments: