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Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Six Clues Church Souvenir Booklets Give for Genealogy Research

Church souvenir booklets are published to commemorate church anniversaries (See these examples) . If you have no idea which churches your family attended in an area, research the churches that they would have lived closest to. Ask about upcoming events such as homecomings which are sure to attract many people from the community as well as guests from across the country.

Find out if any special publications will be made available such as anniversary or souvenir booklets. These publications can hold important clues for you:

1. Church history
Sometimes the only oral history that survives about a church’s history can be found in the souvenir booklet. Your ancestors may have
  • lived in an area during the time a church was established
  • donated funds to make improvements
  • donated property
You may find them mentioned in the church history. Even if they are not mentioned, you may discover the names of other individuals who can tell you more.

2. Record of church officers
Was it possible that your ancestor or family member served as a trustee or in another office? The souvenir booklet may give you clues. Also, be sure to ask if other historical information exists that was not included. Find out where church records are kept. In some cases, records are kept by the church secretary in her home, or you may find it in the local university’s manuscript division.

3. Membership
Many souvenir booklets give an account of early church membership. Descendants of these members pay to submit photographs of the living descendants of early members, photographs of ancestors who faithfully attended, or tributes to family members who have passed away.

4. History of the community
The newly freed enslaved persons of White Lick Community worshiped together long before they had St. Peter AME in Abbeville, South Carolina. They met under a “Brush Harbor” (trees) on the land of Samuel Carter according to the history recorded in the 108th year of the anniversary of St. Peter AME.

The name of the church was first called Cartersville after Mr. Carter who gave them land for a church and a cemetery. The first cornerstone was laid in 1892, but the church was not built until 1904. The history of White Lick community, now called Sharon Community, included in the 1995 St Peter AME Church souvenir booklet could possibly be useful for descendants of those formerly enslaved who are researching their ancestors.

5. Cemeteries
In many cases, these older churches also have an adjacent cemetery or a cemetery nearby. You should check to see if you recognize any of the names on headstones. Find out if records exist of the people who were buried in the cemetery because some people interred there may not have a marker.

6. Local churches
Check the souvenir booklet to see which local churches took out ads to offer well wishes. Each church in an area was part of the community, and family members might have belonged to one of them. They would celebrate events, worship together, and support each other even though their names were not on the same rolls.

Research the other churches that you learn about from the souvenir booklet. Be sure to attend some of their events were you may meet people who remember your ancestor or other family members. It would be very helpful to others researching churches if older souvenir booklets were donated to the local library making it easier for them to discover more about ancestors and the history of the church they attended.


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