The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has forged a partnership with a major family genealogy website in which the denomination will have hundreds of reels of microfilm containing church records between 1793 to 1940 digitized.
Archives.com, a website boasting 2.1 billion historical records, announced the partnership on Tuesday. The site will be digitizing the microfilm donated by ELCA, which includes millions of records on baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and funerals. These records will later be made available at Archives.com for people to search.
Julie Hill, spokeswoman for Archives.com, told The Christian Post that the ELCA was the first religious denomination to make such a partnership with the family history site.
"Church records are often rich with genealogical information, and we feel it is important to make this information more easily and widely accessible through digitization," said Hill.
It began with Archives.com Content Acquisition Specialist Craig Bullough, who contacted an archivist in the ELCA to discuss digitizing the reels of microfilm that the denomination had put its records on. A proposal was written up and sent to key ELCA leaders, who approved the project.
"Such digitization partnerships allow treasured documents to be preserved against loss and destruction, and help promote the prominent role Christian churches have played in people's lives," said Hill.
"We are in conversations with various other Christian groups to partner on digitization and indexing efforts in order to help safeguard and make their collections more broadly available."
Joel Thoreson, archivist for management and reference services at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Archives, looks forward to the partnership.
"We're very excited to work with Archives.com in digitizing and indexing these records. Researchers have long sought the ability to do easy searches for individuals across multiple congregations," said Thoreson in a statement.
"Currently, without knowing the exact congregation at which ancestors worshipped, finding those individuals is a slow and painstaking process."
According to the ELCA Archives website, while the large microfilm collection of the denomination focuses primarily on the American Lutheran Church, it also contains records from Swedish-American congregations as well. Given that the backgrounds of many early American Lutherans were immigrants from various parts of Europe, many of the microfilm records are handwritten in languages like Danish, German, and Norwegian.
According to Hill, the contents of the Church records should be up on the Archives.com website sometime in the fall.