Last week, a New York Times article detailed the efforts of two historians, James Fenimore Cooper Jr., a professor of history at Oklahoma State University, and Margaret Bendroth, the executive director of the Congregational Library in Boston, to preserve documents from Congregational churches in New England. The Congregational Church once had very strong representation throughout the region, and even was the official church of Massachusetts, however the numbers of its affiliated congregations and congregants are dwindling, even in its former stronghold. The historians hope to collect the documents for care and preservation in the Congregational Library in Boston, so that they can be available to future generations of researchers and family historians, rather than be lost as congregations close, move, or change their denominational affiliation.
This preservation is important for family historians, but especially so for New York. Congregational churches were deeply entrenched in Long Island long before the American Revolution, and many were established in upstate and western regions of New York after new lands became available after the Revolution. Some Congregational churches in newly settled regions of New York would have a visiting minister who might come from Massachusetts or Connecticut, and records of those early settlers can sometimes be found in the records of the minister’s home congregation, or in the records of the Connecticut Missionary Society (which often sponsored the travelling ministers). For that reason, Congregational records from Massachusetts could possibly hold the records of early New York Congregational settlers. To read the article about the efforts of these historians, click here.