Monday, September 24, 2012

Methodists in Meadville

Those who have research targets who were Methodists in western Pennsylvania need to know about the denominational archives at Allegheny College's Pelletier Library in Meadville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. It would be a good destination anyway, but given the absence of early vital records from Pennsylvania it's a great one.

First of all, it's an archive, so don't try just dropping in. Use the contact information. Volunteer archivist William L. Waybright is very knowledgeable and helpful, but he can't be there all the time. It's by appointment only.

Second, don't expect the archives to be able to tell you whether your ancestor was a Methodist (or an allied denomination, such as Evangelical United Brethren).

Third, check the ancestor's own church first. As in most denominations, records reside at the local level. If a local church ceases to exist, its records may find their way to a denominational archive.

Fourth, be prepared to use a particular variant of cluster genealogy: what ministers were your research targets associated with? The archives will normally have much better records for those who carried the church's message than anyone else.

Fifth, don't be overly focused on western Pennsylvania. The archives has records and published reminiscences that cover adjoining conferences as well.

Sixth, when visiting, don't expect lots of space to spread out. We had the good fortune to meet other researchers who knew the area and resources better than we did, and we met them over what would be a normal-sized kitchen table.

Seventh, be alert to finding aids that area Methodist historians have prepared over the years. Pittsburgh-area Methodists published a weekly newspaper for about a century beginning in 1834, usually under the title of Pittsburgh Christian Advocate. Abstracts and indexes to its marriage and death notices have been published from through 1870. The newspaper itself has been microfilmed, but Meadville holds the films only up to 1890.

Finally, in the likely event that your Methodists went past Pittsburgh into the Midwest and West, additional regional resources do exist. The Chicago Genealogical Society's new blog recently posted on their instructional visit to Garrett Evangelical United Library in Evanston.

Harold Henderson, "Methodists in Meadville," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 September 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

1 comment:

Harold Henderson said...

This just in! If you need more Methodist leads, check out Kimberly Powell's thorough inventory of online sources over at