Billy Graham Center

Genealogical Resources in the BGC Archives

The Archives collects material about North American Protestant non-denominational efforts to spread the Christian Gospel. In the Archives are the records of organizations, papers of individuals, oral history interviews and files of congresses and conferences. Materials of particular interest to genealogists (family historians) are found in many of the Archives' collections. Types of materials include: correspondences, diaries, personnel files, membership files, periodicals, microfilm, oral history interviews, photographs, and photo albums. If your ancestor or collateral relative is found among these records you will gain a more complete picture of their life and the times they lived in.

One word of caution- the Archives does not collect denominational records, except for one special exception listed below. Therefore we would not have any congregational records, birth registers, baptism records, membership records, etc. for any denomination. These must all be sought at denominational archives or local congregations.

In 2002, Reference Archivist Wayne Weber gave a lecture, with many specific examples, on the kind of genealogical resources that could be found in the Archives' holdings.

Organization Records

The Archives has the files of dozens of nondenominational mission and evangelistic organizations. In many cases, these missions have branches in many countries and what we have is the United States or North American branch records. Most of these organizations would have hundreds of workers on their staff and their records would contain information about them. In many cases there would be a file for a particular person that would include reports from the field, travel information, information on how long a person was stationed at a particular place, etc. Some of these organizations are African Inland Mission, Latin America Mission, Mission Aviation Fellowship, Overseas Missionary Fellowship (formerly know as China Inland Mission, Woman's Union Missionary Society, Youth for Christ, etc.

Record samples from some of the above organizations:

    AIM - Laura Collins' application, 26 November 1906
    MAF - Article about George Fisk being shipwrecked while traveling to Borneo in 1946
    OMF - Report on Mrs. Young's health in the China Council Minutes, 12 October 1920
    OMF - Theodore & Olive Fischbacher's personnel card
    WUMS - Dr. Elizabeth Reifsynder's photograph

Some organizational materials are only on microfilm. The records of the American Home Missionary Society, for example, includes correspondence with hundreds of missionaries from the nineteenth century, dealing with their founding of churches on the American frontier. Missionary correspondences and reports are also in the records of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the American Sunday School Union.

Sample documents from these organizations:

    ABCFM - Mrs. Ann Dana letter about her retirement from the mission, August 8, 1853
    AHMS - Missionary Table,1878
    AHMS - Ole Andrewson's report mentioning the members of his family, March 4, 1858
    ASSU - L. Milton Marsh's letter describing his "Sabbath" activities, October 29, 1859

Click to go to a list of all the organizational collections in the BGC Archives.

Moody Church

We do have the records of one large, independent, Chicago area church - Moody Church. The records for the church, covering the period 1864 to 1987, are particular extensive and include membership lists, newsletters, photos and other items of genealogical interest.

Examples of some documents from the Records of Moody Church

    Application for Church Membership
    Certificate of Reception
    Letter requesting transfer of church membership
    Marriage Register
    Death Register
    Membership card

Click to go to a list of the people for whom there are membership cards in the records of Moody Church.

A portion of page 6 of the May 1927 issue of The Moody Church Herald

Archives Web Site

Finding Aids

    Collection Guides
    There are over five hundred collections in the Archives with materials ranging from one thin file folder to over hundreds of boxes. For each collection there is a descriptive guide to assist you in finding the materials you need. Some of the microfilm collections also have published guides which are available only in the Archives' reading room. The Papers of Sarah Alice (Troyer) Young is the only Archives collection which is entirely posted on the Internet. Young, a missionary to China with China Inland Mission, was killed along with her husband during the Boxer Uprising in 1900.

    Searchable Online Database
    The Archives database contains the names of hundreds individuals and may be searched to find which collections have information on them. Individual guides may also need to be searched since not all names mentioned in them are in the database.

Oral History
    The Archives' staff conducted oral history interviews with hundreds of Christian workers. Many of these interviews have been transcribed and are available over the Internet. Audio excerpts for some of these may be heard on you home computer

    You may listen to an excerpt of Robert Carlson's interview in which he recalls his experience of growing up and being home schooled in Tibet in the 1930s, where his parents were missionaries.

Biographical Sketches

    Biographical sketches for hundreds of individuals who were involved in the task of spreading the gospel, most during the last half of the twentieth century, are found in the Archives' collection guides and by clicking here.

Guides to Other Archives

The Archives Reading Room on the third floor of the Billy Graham Center contains guides to hundreds of other archives around the country, including various denominational archives. If you needed to find out more about a particular archives or manuscript repository, you could come to the Reading Room to see if we have a guide for them.

Links to Websites for hundreds of other archives of primary sources are accessible by clicking here.

If you knew or suspected an ancestor was connected with a organization which had records at the Archives, it would be worth checking whether there are documents from or about him or her in the Archives.

You can search the Wheaton College Library's online catalog for other titles and Archives collections and then borrow books (sorry, not Archives collections) through inter-library.

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Last Revised: 11/21/02
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2005