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By Therese Fisher, A.G.

Director of Genealogy

The American History Company

The Anglican church was the "state church" for Virginia in the 1700's, and therefore held the mandate to document all known births, marriages and deaths in their jursidiction.

However, not all ministers were industrious in following this mandate. What is even more frustrating for us today is that very few of those early church registers managed to survive until today.

What registers survived are in printed form (books). To be able to access the register you need to know which parish the family lived in. Usually this corresponds to a county, but the county boundaries in the 1700's were usually quite different from their present boundaries.

For example, Montgomery County, VA , when first formed, contained land that included present day West Virginia, Kentucky and parts of southern Ohio. Montgomery also is one of the counties that does not have a church register that survived, if one ever actually existed.

The one group of people that seemed to be exempt from the Anglican registration were the Quakers. How they managed to escape the all inclusive net cast by the "state church" is not certain. But they have their own records that are available in Henshaw's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN QUAKER GENEALOGY for Virginia. Baptists wanted to be exempt and were frequently associated in their earliest days with the Quakers, although I don't believe they were maintained with the Quaker Monthly Meeting Records.

However, you will occasionally find mention of a "Dissenter" or "Anabaptist" (who could also be Mennonite) in the Vestry Books of the Anglican church. Vestry books are different from registers. While registers contain the vital records for the parish, vestry books contain just the day to day (or month to month) transactions of the church vestry, which was the governing body of the parish. The vestry books seldom contain birth or marriage information except for the mention of bastard children or poor people whose burial was paid for by another member of the congregation.


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