Civil or government records are the first record types that you access on your journey to discover more about your ancestor. As you follow the timeline back to the 1800’s, you need to become more savvy in your research because fewer records are available. Church records are a great substitute when civil records do not exist. Below you will find clues to locating resources that may help you.
Study the origins of the Baptist church in your ancestor’s area. Often you can trace the first settlers of a area to discover those who professed the Baptist faith. Search the local library or university library for histories. Research these sources as far back as they exist in your particular area of research.
You will learn about clergy, places traveled to and events. Branch out, and research the manuscripts of people mentioned, church records, and local histories. You may only find people who lived at the same time as your ancestor, but you are liable to glean a great deal about your ancestor from the stories and challenges their contemporaries faced. Be sure that you consult the resources of surrounding states or the other places where people migrated from.
The reason that you want to consult sources in other states can be illustrated in the example of the first Baptist settlement in Mississippi. Salem Baptist Church was the first Baptist church in the Southwest Mississippi Territory according to Mississippi Church Records. Phoebe Jones lost her husband, William, in Dinwiddie County, Virginia in 1743. She married again to a man named Robert Curtis, and they lived near Charleston, South Carolina in 1768 where she continued having children.
A history of the first Baptist settlement in “Mississippi, Abstract History of the Mississippi Baptist Association,” by T. C. Schilling reveals the bravery of these “Revolutionists” and their departure from South Carolina to Mississippi, from Mississippi back to South Carolina, and their return to “Natchez country” where they originally suffered persecution because of their professed faith (Baptist). Records from Virginia to South Carolina to Mississippi exist for this family. When you find books about church histories available through online catalogs, search for online versions through Archive.org or other free book resources online.
History of clergy
“Mississippi Baptist Preachers,” by L. S. Foster is a great example of a resource that may help you locate your ancestor’s clergyman. When you find the clergyman, locate his death, and research the places that may hold his papers or manuscripts. Do not overlook regional libraries, libraries of the universities the clergyman attended and repositories in the places where he resided.
J. D. Anderson was born in Tippah County, Mississippi in 1852, but his biography on page 21 of “Mississippi Baptist Preachers” mentions other locations where a good sleuth would investigate:
- Mississippi College-studied there
- University of Mississippi-studied there
- South Carolina Baptist Theological Seminary in Greenville, SC-studied there
- Southwestern Baptist University in Jackson, TN-received degree
- Mississippi churches-pastored
- Tennessee churches-pastored
- Memphis, TN- lived there
- Nashville, TN-lived there
For other Mississippi Baptist genealogy resources, see: Mississippi Baptist Historical Commission: Genealogy.