New Digital Records Available—Community of Christ Digitization Project

    17 March 2020

    Learn about the exciting digitization project that made important historical records from the Community of Christ available to researchers.

    In 2019 the Church History Library completed an important record digitization project with a special backstory. The original records include periodicals, branch and jurisdictional records, and membership records that document the early history of the Community of Christ. The records were microfilmed by the Utah Genealogical Society in 1995, and the microfilm reels were stored in the Granite Mountain Records Vault until 2017, when the Church History Library began digitizing the microfilm. The library worked closely with Community of Christ librarian and archivist Rachel Killebrew to complete the project.

    These records are an important connection between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ. There is a shared history between the two faiths and a shared desire to maintain a record. Both faiths take seriously the mandate given to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “There shall be a record kept among you”1. Digital access to these records will be a boon to both historians and family history researchers.

    As a result of the partnership, the following collections are now available in the Church History Catalog:

    This collection contains the Saints’ Herald, the official publication of the Community of Christ. It has been published continuously in different formats since January 1, 1860, and contains valuable demographic information about births, deaths, and marriages. It also includes official church news and letters from members and traveling missionaries. You can use these newly digitized indexes to find individuals in the Herald.

    The Zion’s Ensign served as the primary missionary publication from 1891 to 1932.

    This collection is also available in the Church History Catalog, but some material may be copyright protected. Researchers must be signed in with a free Church Account to view copyrighted material online. Church membership is not required to register for an account.

    These files are membership records containing birth dates and locations, baptism dates and locations, ordinations, and sometimes death or marriage information. These files pertain to members who passed away before 1995.

    Because the following collections may contain confidential information, they are not published online. Remote digital access may be granted on a use/need basis. Contact us through the Ask Us form for more information.

    These collections contain jurisdictional histories, branch records, and the histories of congregations and stakes. They include membership records with information about birth dates and locations, baptism dates and locations, ordinations, baby blessings, and other pertinent information regarding individual members. These records range from 1860 to 1922 in most cases. They may also include minutes and records of branch events.

    This collection contains the recorded blessings of children born before 1931.

    All of the digitized records are also linked on the Community of Christ archive page.

    Rachel Killebrew best described the significance of the records when she said: “These records will be of particular benefit to those interested in genealogical research. Through the records, researchers are able to track the movements and relations of their ancestors. The records provide insight into the history and theology of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ.”

    She also reached out to her associates and colleagues for their thoughts on the value of the project. Community of Christ historian and Historic Sites Foundation executive director Barbara Walden said: “Thank you for sharing the fantastic news about the continuing digitization project. I’m especially excited about the Herald collection being made available online. Now church history nerds like me will have even greater access to the treasures of the past.”

    “Great news!” said R. Jean Addams, independent historian, author, and past president of the John Whitmer Historical Association. “This is wonderful and is going to save a lot of time when researching and one can’t get to Independence or Salt Lake City.”

    “Wow, this is the day to celebrate. In order to understand properly the movement of the RLDS community, the Herald provides the silhouette for tracing the footprints. Thanks for the update, and kudos to CHL,” said Keith Wilson, Brigham Young University professor.

    Church History Library director Keith Erekson is “thrilled to make these records available in this way” and “hopes that projects like this will continue so that more records of the Restoration can become available in the future.”

    Top image: Sunrise on a Missouri farm.