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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Preparing for SLIG 2020: Part 4

In the previous posts of this "Preparing for SLIG 2020" series,  I discussed finding resources to help me develop a base knowledge for the course I am taking at SLIG: Early U.S. Church Records,  coordinated by Rev. David McDonald, DMin, CG. I have been fairly successful in finding print resources on many topics related to religion in the early United States. You can see my previous post here.

Last June I prepared for an Advanced DNA course at GRIP by reviewing many videos and webinars on DNA topics and tools. You can see the links to those blog posts and the results of my preparations here. I have not been as successful in finding videos and webinars on religion and church records. However, I did find several.

Ancestry Academy has a variety of videos on genealogical research. In one video, the SLIG 2020 course coordinator, Rev. David McDonald, DMin, CG, discusses "Church & Religious Records: Their Use in Genealogical Research." A search for the term "church" at Ancestry Academy results in a list of 40+ other videos that discuss church records as part of a larger topic. For example, a video on vital records is in the results, which makes sense since church records can provide a great substitute for local and state vital records. Ancestry Academy is free with an Ancestry login; I don't believe you need to have a paid membership, just a login.

One of my favorite webinar resources, FamilyTreeWebinars, now has over 1000 webinars on genealogical topics. There is an annual fee of $49.95, discounts are available most weeks with codes made available from the free live webinars. Most webinars are free for 7 days after their live debut so discount codes can be seen on most recent videos.

Using the search terms, "church" and "register" separately, I found 12 webinars. Since all webinars are older than 7 days, you will need a subscription to view them but the links allow you to read about them and see a preview.
Finding Your Roots in Catholic Records, presented by Lisa Toth Salinas
England and Wales - Rummaging in the Parish Chests, presented by Kirsty Gray
Zigzagging through German Church Records, presented by James Beidler
Using Church Records to Identify Ancestors, presented by Mary Hill, AG
Online Resources for French Genealogy part I: Compiled Records, Church Records and Civil Registration, presented by Paul Woodbury
Ohio and the Early Gathering of the LDS Church, presented by Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, AG
Locating and Accessing Eastern European Church Records, presented by Lisa Alzo
Irish Church and Civil Registration, presented by Maurice Gleeson
Introduction to the Swedish Church Books, presented by Kathy Meade
Quebec Civil and Parish Registers, presented by Micheal J. Leclerc, CG

You'll note that several of the above webinars do not seem to pertain to US records. The reason that I included them is that I found the Norwegian parish registers that were online before their American Lutheran counterparts, were very similar to the U.S. versions. In fact, most of the late 19th century and early 20th century U.S. church records that I found for my Norwegian ancestors, were in their mother tongue. I am assuming that similarities also follow for other country and religious origins.

From RootsTech videos - free online:
Finally! German Church Records and How to Use Them on FamilySearch, presented by Trish Melander
Unlocking Roman Catholic Records: presented by Brian Donovan
Cross the Atlantic with Religious Records, presented by Jen Baldwin

From - Many videos free online with free registration and login
Links to videos available with search term, "church records."

Many state and national genealogical societies also host their own webinars. These are a few I found at societies where I have a membership. Webinar links are not included as membership is a requirement. I have included links to the societies' homepages.

Illinois State Genealogical Society
Online German Church Registers, Duplicates and Substitutes, presented by James M. Beidler
Translating Latin Records of German (and other) Catholic Churches, presented by Jean Wilcox Hibben, PhD, MA
Faith of Our Fathers: United States Church Records, presented by Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, AG

Another source for finding vidoes is YouTube. Here is a link to the results when searching for "genealogy and church records." When choosing a YouTube video, pay attention to the speaker's name or organization presenting the webinar. Choose those with names that are recognized as reputable speakers and organizations.

A wonderful source to review for upcoming webinars is GeneaWebinars. Our "friend in genealogy," Dear Myrtle, has created this calendar for speakers and organizations to contribute information regarding their future webinars.

While creating this list, I realized there are many more webinars and videos available than I thought. I have a lot of webinar viewing to do ahead of me! If you know of other can't-miss webinars on early U.S. church records, please provide the information and link in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Preparing for SLIG 2020: Part 3

Having determined that I need to expand my base knowledge of religion in early America in order to get the most of my SLIG 2020 class, "Early US Church Records", I started exploring what resources might be available to me.

When I followed this approach for my Advanced DNA class last summer, I was very successful in finding a number of resources. There were many videos, books, blogs, and tools available.  You can see my blogging on that topic here. (Click on the links within the blog to see the earlier postings with links.) While the topic of "Early American Religion" seems very broad, there were far fewer resources that were obviously available. It's quite possible my search terms are lacking but I don't see many videos, blogs or tools. I am able to find a large number of books.

A listing of the books available in the
"Religion in American Life" series. has books online which, even though still under copyright, can be checked out for free. You do need to create an account. I found a series called "Religion in American Life,"1 which has several books, each concentrating on a specific religion. I decided to concentrate on the religions I knew were followed by my ancestors and the general topics of "religion in colonial America" and "religion in 19th century America." I found a review of the series in a theological journal online which gave me some assurance that the series would be helpful.2

Because I am always trying to build my home library, I found a number of these books online at and purchased them to add to my library. They were very inexpensive with free shipping and will help me build my base knowledge.

Very recently released was a new book by Harold A. Henderson, CG and Sunny Jane Morton entitled, "How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist's Guide: With Specific Resources for Major Christian Denominations before 1900."It is available at Amazon and other markets.

I now have quite a bit of reading material to help me grow my basic understanding of the religions in early America. It's a good thing I love reading!

1Butler, Jon and Harry S. Stout, editors, Religion in American Life, 17 vols. (New York: Oxford. 2000).

3Luke L. Keefer, Jr., “American Religion: A Review Article of the Series Religion in American Life,” Ashland Theological Journal 35 (2003): 87-96; image copy, ( : accessed 24 September 2015).

3Morton, Sunny Jane, and Harold A. Henderson. 2019. How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist's Guide ( n.p., Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 2019)

Friday, August 30, 2019

Preparing for SLIG 2020: Part 2

SLIG 2020! 1
As I started planning my preparations as a learner in the Early US Church Records course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) next January, I took a step back and started thinking about what kinds of records I might already be familiar with.

I quickly realized my knowledge of religious record types is very limited. I am somewhat familiar with the Norwegian Lutheran church records from the early settlements in the states of Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Iowa. I have found hundreds of baptismal, confirmation, marriage and death records from churches in those areas.

Two sources have been especially helpful for me in finding the churches where my Norwegian Lutheran ancestors may have attended.
Map of church congregation growth in Brookings Co., South Dakota 2
The first source is a two-volume set called, "Norske Lutherske Menigheter i Amerika, 1843-1916."3 It is a listing of Norwegian Lutheran churches by state and county. It is in Norwegian but it is possible to glean a lot of information from it. For example, there is often a map drawing showing when churches split it two, perhaps due to size and location, and when they merged, for probably the same reasons.
Lake Sinai, Brookings Co, SD 4

Frequently, the description of each church includes the pastors and dates they served, the building date, any rebuilds due to fire or other destruction, founding members, and a photo of the church. The entry for the Lake Sinai church at right includes the founding members, among them is my great-grandfather, Ole Eken.

The two volumes are available as free digital downloads.  I found Volume 1 at and Volume 2 at Google Books.

The second source is a book of Norwegian Lutheran ministers, "Norsk Lutherske Prester i Amerika, 1843-1915."5 If you know the minister's name, perhaps from a marriage license or signed certificate, you could look him up in this book to see where he might have served. It was quite common for a minister to have served in several churches at once which can complicate look-ups. But often, the same record book was used for all churches served and the church name was indicated in each record or record-set.

Anders Nilsen Stover 6

This book can also be found at Google Books here.

I was lucky enough to find a photo of my great-great-grandfather's brother, Anders Nilsen Stover (listed in the index as Nilsen, Anders), who served in several churches in eastern South Dakota. The information included indicates he was born 13 Sept. 1842 to Niels Olsen and Kari Knudsen, was ordained in 1883 and served in Watertown, SD from 1883 - 1892. He died 25 Nov. 1892. His wife was Magnild Olsen.

I've learned in going through some of the early Norwegian Lutheran Church records that in addition to baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and deaths, the church sometimes took a "census" of church members. If you can find one with your ancestors, you are really in luck. I found two with my great-great-grandfather's family, Knud Nilsen Stover and his wife, Guri Kristoffersdottir.

The information included in the "census" can contain birth and baptism dates and locations, confirmation date, date the family transferred to another church,  and even the maiden name of the wife. The record below shows my great-great-grandfather, Knud Nilson Stover, his wife Guri Kristoffersdatter, and their children Nicolai, Kari, Kjersti, Anna, Karl, Maria, and Mina. The first column with dates is the birth date for that person, the next column is birth location: either Norway or America, the next column with dates is the baptismal dates of two of the younger children and the last column shows when they left the church to join a new church closer to home.

Church family census information for Knud Nilsen Stover7

Knowing which church your ancestors attended can be very helpful when searching for the records. Many record sets are online at and can be found here. The title of the collection is "U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969."8 While it doesn't contain all Lutheran Church records, I've found hundreds of records for my extended family.  The two-volume set previously mentioned can help you find the state and county the church was in. Ancestry allows you to search the set globally for your ancestor or to browse the set by searching for the church by state and county. Once I have found the correct church, I personally prefer to browse to the church and to page through the book online rather than search globally. The records are handwritten and so the indexing isn't perfect.

You can tell I like the resources that I use for my Norwegian Lutheran ancestry. And that's why I need to learn about other resources from other religions. I have identified the religious preferences of many of my other ancestors. I've found Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Latter-Day Saints, and others. I need to find out what types of records may have been created and where I might be able to find them.

1. Facebook SLIG Attendee Group image, used with permission. fbid=10214455937699943&set=oa.2100166473624041&type=3&theater&ifg=1. Accessed 30 August 2019.

2. Norlie, Olaf Morgan, et al. Norske Lutherske Menigheter i Amerika, 1843-1916. Augsburg, 1918., Accessed 30 August 2019.

3. Ibid., p. 926. 

4. Ibid., p. 930.

5. Norlie, Olaf Morgan, et al. Norske Lutherske prester i Amerika, 1843-1913. Augsburg, 1915. Google Books, Accessed 30 August 2019.

6. Ibid., p. 197.

7. Singsaas Lutheran Church (Lincoln, Minnesota). Church Registers, 1874 - 1923, page 79, Knut Nilsen Stover and Guri Christoffersdatter; digital images. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969: accessed 30 August 2019.

8. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969: accessed 30 August 2019.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Preparing for SLIG 2020: Part 1

I had great success by strategically preparing for the Advanced DNA Evidence course at Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) in June 2019, coordinated by Blaine Bettinger. You can read about it by checking out my last blog post of the series here. I spent a lot of time, not only reviewing books and webinars but also searching for other resources recommended by Blaine and other prominent speakers in the genetic genealogy field. I also practiced using the DNA tools available. Many tools were new in early 2019. I feel that preparing in this way helped me to get the most out of the class.

I have now signed up for the 2020 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) course called Early US Church Records, coordinated by Rev. David McDonald, DMin, CG. And I am thinking that I should create a similar process to prepare myself for this SLIG course. I have done a lot of researching in Lutheran church records, both in Norway and in the US, but I'm not very practiced in any other religion records types. Which is why I need to take this course! I like to have a base knowledge before I take a class as it allows me to gather and retain more information than if I went into it cold.

I will be posting links to videos available online that I hope will help me get more understanding out of this course. I will also post links to books and articles that I find useful. Hopefully, I will have the same success using this process for SLIG 2020 as I did for GRIP 2019.

It might seem a little early to start preparing for a class that doesn't start until January of 2020 but I am taking two other online courses in the interim. I'm going to need to spread out my preparation time over many months to get it done. If you are aware of other resources that might be helpful in preparing for Early US Church Records, I would love to hear about it!

Monday, July 8, 2019

GRIP 2019! I Did It! (And a Big Thank You to AncestryProGenealogists!)

The week of June 23 - June 28 at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) absolutely flew by. The course I attended, Advanced DNA Evidence, was coordinated by Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D., and instructed by Blaine, Angie Bush and Karen Stanbary, CG. 

There were some prerequisites for this course: a prior week-long DNA course from an institute, a multiple week online course with homework, AND/OR familiarity with DNA evidence combined with experience with multiple testing companies,  study of the books The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy and Genetic Genealogy in Practice (Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne) as well as completion of the exercises in Genetic Genealogy in Practice.

If you've looked at my recent posts, you know that I spent considerable time preparing for the course. The links to the posts are below and each describes videos, books, and tools I used to review and to prepare myself for the course.

So, did all my preparation and review pay off? I'm very happy to report that it did! The course description gives a list of lecture topics which covered:
  • Y-DNA
  • mtDNA
  • X-DNA
  • Autosomal DNA
  • DNA company tools
  • DNA 3rd-party tools
  • Evaluating a genealogical conclusion using DNA evidence
  • Using Shared Matching
  • Chromosome mapping and painting
  • Advanced chromosome mapping
  • Visual phasing
  • Literature review of DNA evidence in case studies
  • Ethical and legal considerations
  • Future of genetic genealogy

Each day ended in with a case study and optional homework, each day's information building on the last. The final day, we went over the case study to see how we fared with our homework.

I need to express my sincere thanks to AncestryProGenealogists who selected me as the scholarship winner for the GRIP Institute. It was an absolutely wonderful experience. I learned from some of the best in the field. My classmates had a variety of genealogical talents and experiences and I learned from them as well. Thank you, AncestryProGenealogists!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

GRIP is Almost Here! (and some other things to check off my to-do list)

In my previous posts, I talked about my prep work for my Advanced DNA Evidence course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). I'm happy to say that my plans are almost completed. I have a few loose ends to tie up and some chapters to re-read but otherwise, I feel ready.

In addition to preparing for GRIP, I also completed a couple of other tasks on my 2019 (and earlier) Genealogy to-do list.

Task 1 - Update a cemetery on While researching the burial location for my great-great-grandfather, Knud Nilsen Stover, I discovered that the cemetery had gone through a few name changes and less than 50% of the 700+ burials were listed on  I posted a query on a local Facebook group and they were quick to point out the most current name of the cemetery. I also found out the name of the church that was currently overseeing the cemetery.

I called the church and after a few conversations with the church secretary and the chairman of the cemetery board, I was able to get a copy of the spreadsheet with all the burials listed. My plan was to update the spreadsheet into a format that I could upload into I quickly learned that what makes perfect sense for data fields in a spreadsheet tracking burials does not necessarily work for the data fields required by For example, there are no birth or death dates in the cemetery spreadsheet, just age, if known, and burial date.

After mulling over my options, I decided to hand enter each burial with as much data as my research time would allow. Since the cemetery was very near the Minnesota and South Dakota border, I used birth, death and marriage records from each state. I was also able to locate obituaries online for about a third of the burials. Hand entering also allowed me to become more familiar with each person buried there.

So I decided to go a step further and try to attach family members to each burial. Findagrave lets you add father, mother, and spouse. Findgrave will add siblings based on each burial's parents as listed. All the burials have now been added with as much information as I could uncover. I have sent "edits" to for those burials that were previously entered if I found new information: birth, death or marriage dates or locations, family relationships, or burial location. Another member of the Facebook group is taking photos of the stones. Soon the entire cemetery will be completed and hopefully will help future researchers.

Task 2 - Apply for Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) membership: I have had this on my to-do list for a few years, but I knew I would have trouble with my g-g-grandmother's documentation. It is her grandfather that was the patriot who fought in the Revolutionary War and so her information was critical. I have been working on it for a number of years and decided that while I have no direct evidence of her birth parents, I had enough indirect evidence where a case could be made. The local registrar was extremely helpful and even met with me at the Minnesota History Center twice to point out the areas where I needed to find more documentation. My application was submitted in early April and I was just informed that I was accepted as a member of the DAR!

Task 3 - Apply for The Mayflower Society membership: The same Revolutionary War patriot that allowed my membership in the DAR was also a direct descendant of a Mayflower passenger. But there was quite a bit more work to do for the Mayflower Society. In both lineage societies, you only need to prove back to a known proven descendant and in the Mayflower Society, I had to go back another generation with documentation. They also require marriage information for all marriages, not just the one that proves descent. My great-grandfather was married four times and I was able to get a marriage certificate for each. My own marriage certificate was more difficult to get!  The Mayflower Society application was sent in mid-April and I will probably hear something in August.

Task 4 - Write an article for possible publication: This is a little overwhelming for me, but I have completed the article and will submit it soon. Whether or not it is published remains to be seen!

It's so nice to be able to check items off my to-do list. 
It's just about time to start packing for GRIP. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Preparing for GRIP 2019: Part 6

 I have been working on many of the tasks outlined in my first several posts about preparing for the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). The course I will be attending is "Advanced DNA Evidence," coordinated by Blaine Bettinger.

I have finished reviewing the first two books mentioned in Preparing for GRIP 2019: Part 1. I am now just beginning to study the newest book mentioned in my last post, "Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies," edited by Debbie Parker Wayne. I am so looking forward to each chapter as they all promise new learning for me.

I have also been reviewing the webinars previously mentioned and watching new ones that have been made available. I have also been spending quite a lot of time investigating the new tools made available by some of the DNA companies. And I am having some great successes if I do say so myself!  I am starting to feel less intimidated by the word "Advanced" in the course title! But there is still a lot of work to be done.

My next set of tasks has to do with DNA tests organization. I manage the tests of many family members and monitor a few more. I have tested with five different DNA companies and have one or more other family members in each company as well. Almost all of the tests have been uploaded to Gedmatch or the newer Genesis. So there are a lot of logins, passwords, test IDs, and permissions to keep track of. I have a spreadsheet with this information that I will update. I will also need to double-check the logins and passwords to be sure they all work.

Some of the third-party tools require paid subscriptions so I will also want to be sure those are kept updated as well.

I also plan to create a set of ancestor fan charts, one for each person whose family I am researching. Each set will consist of a color chart similar to the one seen here, a basic ancestor chart. I'll also add a chart that will indicate which of those ancestors I have connected to through another descendant - a genetic ancestor chart. Another chart I like is an ancestor chart that shows which ancestors would have contributed to the X-DNA of the subject of the chart. My chart is on the right.

Oh my gosh, I just realized that GRIP is only 2 months away. I have a lot of work to do yet!