Moravian Church in the United States
- Book Series: Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, 13 volumes
- Bethlehem Digital History Project
The Moravian Church (also known as Unity of Brethren) in North America is part of the worldwide Moravian Church Unity. It dates from the arrival of the first Moravian missionaries to the United States in 1735, from their Herrnhut settlement in present-day Saxony, Germany. They came to minister to the scattered German immigrants, to the Native Americans and to enslaved Africans. They founded communities to serve as home bases for these missions. The missionary "messengers" were financially supported by the work of the "laborers" in these settlements. Currently, there are more than 60,000 members.
The beginning of the church's work in North America is usually given as 1740, when Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg sent Christian Henry Rauch to New York City on a mission to preach and convert native peoples. Eager to learn more, the Mahican chiefs Tschoop and Shabash invited Rauch to visit their village (in present-day Dutchess County) to teach them. In September 1740, they led him to Shekomeko, where he established a Moravian mission. The two Indian chiefs converted to the Christian faith. By summer 1742, Shekomeko was established as the first native Christian congregation in the present-day United States.
The Moravians were more successful in Pennsylvania, where the charter of the colony provided religious freedom. The towns of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Emmaus, and Lititz, Pennsylvania, were founded as Moravian communities. Graceham, Maryland was founded as a Moravian Community on October 8, 1758. Later, colonies were also founded in North Carolina, where Moravians purchased 98,985 acres. This large tract of land was named die Wachau, or Wachovia. The towns established in Wachovia included Bethabara (1753), Bethania (1759) and Salem (now Winston-Salem) (1766).
Bethlehem emerged as the headquarters of the northern church, and Winston-Salem became the headquarters of the southern church. The Moravian denomination continues in America to this day, with congregations in 18 states. The highest concentrations of Moravians exist in Bethlehem and Winston-Salem. The denomination is organized into four provinces in North America: Northern (which includes five Canadian congregations), Southern, Alaska, and Labrador. Source: Wikipedia
Information in RecordsEdit
Children were baptized soon after birth, and therefore, the baptism record proves date of birth.
Marriage registers can give:
Burial registers may give:
"The Memoir is a biographical sketch, sometimes autobiographical...but usually prepared by the pastor...and with a careful search of the Church registers for dates....Today [it] is read in conjunction with the funeral service...it gives the life-story in detail, carefully including the religious experiences of the member." 
"Community diaries were written daily and shared with other communities so that each could be informed of the news of that community.Baptisms of Native Americans, travelers who stopped by (including non-Moravians), the health of their members, and expected immigrant parties were all part of the news shared by the community to their brethren."
The Northern Province covers the Moravian churches in the United States (excluding congregations located in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Virginia) and Canada.
- The Northern Province Moravian Archives
- 41 West Locust Street
- Bethlehem, PA 18018
- Phone: 610.866.3255
- E-mail: email@example.com
- Bethlehem Digital History Project
- Digital Resources
- Search Our Church Registers Index
- Inventory of Church Registers
- Online Finding Aid
- Schedule a Visit
For Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia:
- The Southern Province Moravian Archives
- 457 S. Church Street
- Winston-Salem, N.C. 27101
- Phone: (336) 722-1742
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Our Memoir Collection
- The Genealogy Bookshelves List of family surnames in the collection.
- Moravian Churches Historical List
- 1932 Catalog Overview of older holdings
- Researcher Application Schedule an appointment.
Writing to a Local CommunityEdit
Contact the congregation to ask about old records.
Check these online digital archives:
Reading the RecordsEdit
Many of the records will be written in Fraktur (old German) script. These articles will teach how to read the records.
- Reading German Handwritten Records Practice exercises to build your skills and confidence.
- Old German Script Transcriber (alte deutsche Handschriften): See your family names in the script of the era. Type your name or other word into the font generator tool. Click on the 8 different fonts. Save the image to your computer and use it as you work with old Germanic records.
- Print these handouts for ready reference when reading German Handwriting:
- Kurrent Letters Handout
- Numbers Handout
- Birth Records Handout
- Marriage Records Handout
- Death Records Handout
- Days and Months Handout
- Common Symbols Handout
- Common Abbreviations Handout
- List of Names in Old German Script A comprehensive list of German given names, written in old script, with possible variations.
- Fraktur Font--Many forms and books are printed in this font.
- Adelaide L Fries, "Moravian Church Records as a Source of Genealogical Material, National Genealogical Society Quarterly24:1 (March 1936), 5.
- Ibid., 6