National Genealogical Society

Educational Courses

Introduction to Religious Records

NGS offers Introduction to Religious Records, a seven-lesson course on CD.

Records kept by religious institutions are among the most useful of genealogical sources available. Details of baptisms, marriages, and burials, for example, become vital records substitutes in periods when there was no civil registration of vital events. A baptismal record may provide birth information about the parents of the subject. Church journals may indicate the involvement of family members in church activities. Membership records may provide a trail of migrations. Such records were usually created by a witness to the event in question close in time to the event. This course presents instruction on how to find and use these valuable records.

Our ancestors did not live in a vacuum. Among other influences their lives were shaped by the teachings of the churches they attended. Information contained in church histories can provide insight into an ancestor’s personality and character. Therefore, this course includes a brief history of early American religions.

What Will I Learn

After completing the seven-lesson online course, students will be able to

  • describe which churches were in existence during colonial times;
  • explain how American churches have evolved; 
  • describe the type of information found in religious records; 
  • list the types of religious records that the major denominations kept;  
  • analyze religious records to get the most information out of them; 
  • begin your search to locate religious records; and 
  • write a citation for a religious record.

To learn more about Introduction to Religious Records, see the Table of Contents for the Course.

Requirements & Fees

You will need a computer and Internet connection to download the Introduction to Religious Records PDF file from the NGS website. You’ll also need the free Adobe Reader to open, view, and print the course on your own computer.

The course tuition is $70, but NGS members receive a discounted price of $45.  Join today to receive the member price.

Register online for the Introduction to Religious Records course now.

Refund and Cancellation Policy

All purchases of courses on CD are final. There are no refunds.

Certificate of Completion

Because Introduction to Religious Records is self-graded, no certificate of completion will be issued. The National Genealogical Society is not a licensing body, so no certificate or accreditation is implied.


Contact the NGS Course Administrator at

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Home Study Course on CD

NGS offers American Genealogy: Home Study Course, a sixteen-lesson course on three CDs, for the more experienced genealogist who wants an in-depth independent study course. Learn more.