The Hartford Institute for Religion Research has some interesting present day statistics on churches in the United States. See http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/fastfacts/fast_facts.html
. From the fastfacts page, " "...thousands of new churches open each year, while thousands of others close. Hartford Institute estimates there are roughly 335,000 religious congregations in the United States ... The median church in the U.S. has 75 regular
participants in worship on Sunday mornings, according to the National Congregations Study http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/
Except for those records about my family earlier at New England, I don't really find birth and death vital records until a more modern time. County history books, historical societies and local libraries are good sources of information about the early churches in an area. It can be difficult, however, to trace a church forward to learn if it disbanded or became merged with another church. As is the case in the US with courthouses, if a church burned, often the records of the church burned, too.
Some notes follow about records I do have and those I don't have.
1. Richard L. Carle. He was the Richard Carrol in estate documents I blogged about on the Build a BetterGEDCOM blog. See, "What is research: Working with documents about a c1815 estate
."It took about 7 years to locate the record of Richard's baptism (emphasis added):
A. Van Doren Honeyman, "Neshanic Reformed Church Baptismal Records, Early Records, 1762-1796," Somerset County Historical Quarterly
, ongoing series beginning Volume I, No. 2 (April 1912) (Somerville, New Jersey : Somerset County Historical Society, April 1912); transcribed digital edition, GenealogyLibrary.com
: extracted 15 Jun 2007), for page 135, entry for Josif and Maria Cerel, baptism of "Dirick Lou," June 8, 1777
. The church baptism records were made in Dutch through the Revolutionary War, and were arranged earlier by date Quarterly editor (Honeyman) alphabetized the entries; the Low/Lowe baptisms were recorded under the surname Lou, even though Dirck Lowe's name appears elsewhere in the church records as Low and/or Lowe.
2. Mary (Firestone) Carle (wife of Richard L. Carle, above). This baptismal record was earlier located by noted genealogist George Ely Russell, CG, FASG, FNGS. See the note below (emphasis added):
Annette Kunselman Burgert, Eighteenth Century Emigrants from Northern Alsace to America, Publications of the Pennsylvania German Society
: v. 26 (Camden, Maine: Picton Press, 1992), page 158, entry 139 from Frederick Lutheran KB (Maryland), abstracted as "Matthias Feuerstein and wife Anna Maria had .. Anna Mary
," born 09 Oct 1789, baptized 18 Oct 1789; sponsors John Lieblich and Louisa; viewed 15 Dec 1997 at FHL, call number 974.8 B4pgp v. 26; copies extracted.
3. I have baptismal records for two of the twelve children born to Peter Miller (?1779-1845). The two records we have are about children born in 1813 and 1815 at Ohio. Earlier, there were probably five children born at Pennsylvania and two, at Ohio. The records we have are from "St. Jacobs" Church in Columbiana County, Ohio. They were first located by Bernice McCarns on FHL film 862017, "Miscellaneous records from the First Presbyterian Church of Lisbon, Ohio, Center Township, Columbiana, Co., and St. Jacob's Church of Salem Township, Columbiana Co., Ohio
." From Bernice's research notes about her work with the film, we learn that "In 1811 German Reformed & Evan. Lutheran churches united to form St. Jacobs-is now United Church of Christ." Bernice goes on to write about traveling to Columbiana and, after several meetings, being invited to review the "oldest record books" which were kept in a bank vault. She writes, "One was in German and we could make nothing of it. The other was the original records that I'd found in Salt Lake [film above] showing early births & baptisms." It's possible records before 1811 don't exist, or that the German records will tell us the whereabouts of the early records, but in the work we are doing now, we hope to find someone who might be able to interpret the information in the German record books.
4. I have two ancestors for whom I can identify the pew they sat in at church. In one case, I can describe to you the jacket he wore to church. In both cases, the baptismal records about their children haven't been located. The interesting part is one of those ancestors had children born in the 1660s and the other, in the 1880s. I'm rather certain the records from the 1660s will never be found, but about equally hopeful we'll find the Wisconsin Norwegian records from the 1880s.
5. The records that would probably be the most helpful to me are about baptisms from about 1800-1830 from Pennsylvania. We are most interested in those of Berks County and the area that later became Schuylkill County. We've researched in the Berks extant records to 1800, but have had less luck finding the records we'd like to work with after that date.