Information for Researchers
Researchers should be sure to review the information on this page for a general overview of the ELCA Region 8 Archives' collections and research services.
Our collections include records of historical value created by ELCA synods and disbanded congregations within the eastern portion of ELCA Region 8: Central Pennsylvania (Allegheny Synod, Lower Susquehanna Synod, and Upper Susquehanna Synod), Delaware and most of Maryland (Delaware-Maryland Synod), and the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area (Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod). We also house some records from ELCA Region 8 predecessors such as the Central Pennsylvania Synod and the Maryland Synod.
For records of ELCA synods and disbanded congregations within the western portion of ELCA Region 8 (Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod, Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, and West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod), please contact the Tri-Synod Archives at Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania.
For records of ELCA synods and disbanded congregations within eastern Pennsylvania (Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod and Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod), please contact the Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia.
Types of Records in our Collections
Synod records generally include annual assembly materials, meeting minutes, and information on congregations. Congregation records mainly include parish registers, council meeting minutes, and publications such as newsletters and anniversary history booklets. See our Collections page for more information.
Note About Non-ELCA Congregation Records
With perhaps a few exceptions, our collections only contain records from Lutheran congregations affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) or one of its predecessor bodies such as the the American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), or the United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA). Researchers seeking records from non-ELCA congregations should contact the archives of the appropriate denomination (e.g., Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod).
Note About Active ELCA Congregation Records
Active ELCA congregations are primarily responsible for maintaining their own archives. Therefore, we recommend that researchers interested in the records of an active congregation contact the church's staff before contacting us. To obtain information on active congregations, please visit the ELCA's Find a Congregation web page.
Note About Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage Certificates
Researchers often ask if we have a copy of a baptism, confirmation, or marriage certificate. It is not a common practice for Lutheran congregations to keep a second copy of such certificates, and therefore very few exist in our collections. In nearly every case, the only record we will potentially have is the entry in the congregation's parish register noting that the baptism, confirmation, or marriage took place. Therefore, individuals who do not have the original certificate or a facsimile will doubtfully ever be able to obtain another copy.
Limited Availability of Old Lutheran Congregation Records
Our holdings are rather modest and we do not have a comprehensive collection of disbanded Lutheran congregation records from the eastern portion of ELCA Region 8. Many old Lutheran congregation records have been lost, destroyed, or are held in private hands (assuming, of course, that the records were ever created in the first place). This is particularly true for congregations dating from the mid-nineteenth century and earlier. When our collections do not contain the disbanded congregation records that researchers are seeking, we cannot definitively advise as to where they may be located or if they even exist.
Researchers can view materials in our collections of synod and disbanded congregation records by appointment only during our hours of operation:
Tuesday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Due to our limited staff resources, we generally cannot accommodate walk-ins.
There is no charge to conduct research in the ELCA Region 8 Archives collections. However, researchers will incur fees for any reproductions made. See our Reproduction Policy for more information.
Limitations on Services
Researchers should note that due to our scarce resources, some limitations exist to the services we can offer.
- We are not able to conduct general research. Our staff will at least determine if our holdings include congregation or synod records that may contain the information researchers are seeking. We will also attempt to fulfill simple requests, such as supplying a record of baptism or confirmation to individuals who require the information to become a member of a Lutheran congregation, to be married in a Lutheran church, or to convert to another faith.
- We are not able to accommodate individuals who are conducting extensive genealogical research. We will generally refer such individuals to local historical societies, which are much better equipped for genealogical research.
- We do not have a database of individuals that we can search to find baptism, confirmation, marriage, or burial records. Our church records are indexed on paper by the names of congregations only. When researchers are seeking information on particular individuals, they must provide the name and location of the congregation with which the person was affiliated.
- We do not have lists of every Lutheran congregation that ever existed within a specific locality. From our catalog of church records, we can list those congregations in a particular city, town, or township for which we have materials. However, our index does not necessarily include all Lutheran congregations that ever existed in a given vicinity.
Due to the above limitations, it is essential for individuals to be highly specific regarding their research. An example of a well-formed research inquiry is as follows:
- Do your collections include records for the St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Anytown, PA? I am seeking a marriage record for Richard and Jane Roe, married at this church on August 15, 1950. The pastor who performed the ceremony was Rev. John Smith.
Please note that when individuals are not able to provide clear-cut information regarding the nature of their research, our staff can only offer minimal assistance.
Note About Fragile Materials
Many of the older parish registers in our collections are in very fragile condition. Our firm policy is that we do not allow access to original materials that may suffer damage if handled. We understand that this may disappoint some researchers. However, our policy simply reflects the reality of the situation: most of the items in our collections are one of a kind and irreplaceable. Therefore, preservation is a higher priority than access.
Fortunately, however, many of the older parish records in our collections are available in alternate formats such as microfilms, paper transcriptions, or published volumes. Because we have very few of the above materials in our collections, we will gladly refer researchers to outside sources that do have them. We believe this policy offers the best option—it allows us to preserve the original records, while the information they contain is still available to researchers.
After reviewing the information on this page, researchers should submit an inquiry so that our staff can determine whether records are available in our collections that might contain the information they are seeking. When research questions are simple and specific, our staff can often provide answers without individuals having to visit the Archives. However, if it is necessary for individuals to conduct their own research on materials in our holdings, then an appointment can be arranged.
To submit an inquiry, follow the instructions on the Research Inquiries page.
To learn more about the ELCA Region 8 Archives, please review our policies. Researchers who still have questions should contact us for further information.