Philadelphia in 1776 was a city in the midst of political turmoil and social upheaval and Christ Church was not immune to these issues. Delegates to the Continental Congress frequently worshipped at Christ Church and the Church’s rector, The Reverend Jacob Duché, served as the chaplain to the Continental Congress. The signing of the Declaration of Independence left Christ Church, the first Anglican Church in Pennsylvania, in a particularly precarious situation.
On July 4, 1776 the Vestry minutes record:
Whereas the honorable Continental Congress have resolved to declare the American Colonies to be free and independent States In consequence of which it will be proper to omit those Petitions in the Liturgy wherein the King of Great Britain is prayed for, as inconsistent with the said Declaration. Therefore resolved that it appears to this Vestry to be necessary for the peace and well being of the Churches to omit the said Petitions and the Rector and Assistant Minister of the United Churches are requested in the name of the Vestry and their Constituents to omit such petitions as are above mentioned.
This resolution resulted in the crossing out of the petitions to the Royal Family in the Book of Common Prayer as seen here.
On May 2, 2018, the Athenaeum hosted an open house for consortium members and their guests. Attendees learned more about the project, the historical records to be digitized, and the scanning equipment.
Exploring Different Uses of Historic Congregational Records
Last year, we held a seminar held at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia on April 3, 2019 featuring talks by Jim Duffin, Dr. Ann Norton Greene, Jubilee Marshall, and Jean Wolfe on the different uses of historic congregational records and unveiled our new website. Below you can listen to the recordings of each of the presenters.
J.M. Duffin, Senior Archivist, University Archives and Records Center, University of Pennsylvania, “Endowments, Tangled Titles and Mapping: Religious Records as Tools for Property Ownership Research in Philadelphia.”
Religious archives can sometimes be seen as only a source of genealogical or demographic data but they often contain much more. I shall give examples of how I’ve used the records in Christ Church’s archives to assist with my research and mapping of eighteenth century property ownership in Philadelphia.
Dr. Ann Norton Greene, University of Pennsylvania, “Mining the Minutes”
Some reflections on the possibilities and limitations of using minutes as historical sources, based on the use of the minutes of the annual convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania in writing a chapter of This Far by Faith: Tradition and Change in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Jubilee Marshall, Senior, Villanova University, “Investigating Black Burials Through Church Records”
I will discuss my senior thesis, which focuses on black burial grounds in Philadelphia prior to 1850, and how I was able to use burial registries, vestry minutes, and other types of religious records to uncover how race impacted burial practices (and vice versa) in the time period.
Jean K. Wolf, Principal, Wolf Historic Preservation, Ardmore, PA, “Religious Records: Finding Vital Crumbs that Lead Researchers down New Paths for Data”
As a musicological researcher of 18th-century composers’ lives and music manuscripts in European churches and archives, a move to the Philadelphia area enlightened me to the restoration needs of American cultural resources. After a degree in historic preservation and over 25 years of documentation of the built and landscape environment, I will exemplify that religious baptismal, death, and trustee minutes are critical keys that can open doors to further research.
At the Museum of The American Revolution’s History After Hours event, Death and Taxes, on April 16th, representatives of the “Digitizing Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations project” demonstrated the new website, which brings together newly scanned records from a number of Philadelphia’s historic congregations.
Not surprisingly burial records were among the ones displayed! Visitors could get an overview of the project as well as viewing specific records.
History after Hours: A Revolutionary Staycation
A Museum of The American Revolution Event.
AASLH 2019 Presentation: Working Collaboratively – Digitizing the Records of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations
On August 29th from 1:45 – 3 pm, representatives working on the CLIR (Council on Library and Information Resources) Project – Christ Church Archivist Carol Smith, Walter Rice of R & R Computer Solutions, and Nancy Taylor of Presbyterian Historical Society – to Digitize the Records of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations, presented their work at the American Association for State and Local History 2019 Conference.
The project consists of six congregations and three archival repositories who have made an effort to digitize the records of eleven of Philadelphia’s historic congregations and make their records available digitally. All of these items are available on this site!
This session explored how working collaboratively and sharing resources makes great initiatives possible.
150th Anniversary of Death of Rev. Benjamin Dorr
Sunday, September 15, 2019 2:00 pm at Christ Church Philadelphia 2nd & Market Street
Christ Church, Philadelphia is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of the Rev. Benjamin Dorr, the Church’s rector from 1839-1868. Dorr had the difficult job of holding together a split congregation during the trying years of the Civil War, compounded by his worry over the fate of his son, Captain William Dorr who served in the Army of the Potomac. Bill Quigley wrote a moving history of these two individuals: Pure Heart: The Faith of aFather and Son in the War for a More Perfect Union published by Kent State University Press in 2016. Professor Quigley will speak about his research and the roles these two men played in their own time and the lens through which we can view their actions today.
The Civil War echoes ever more ominously in the partisan politics and culture wars of our time. Mocked by monuments to the Confederacy and its leaders, American ideals are enshrined, instead, in older, truer monuments to American heroes Benjamin Dorr and his son, Captain William White Dorr. As acknowledged by The Journal of Southern History, theirs is “a story rightfully restored to history about character, integrity, faith, forgiveness, atonement, and the passions of the human heart in a world turned upside down.” Theirs is also a story of firmness in doing right, as God give us to see the right, in a time of perilous national division. Never more, in the 150 years since the Reverend Dorr’s death, have Americans needed to hearken to his story as we do now.
This lecture is jointly sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania’s History Committee and Christ Church, Philadelphia.
Below is the text and adio of his speech in their entirety
Digitizing the Records of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations Presentation
On Wednesday October 23rd, 7 pm at Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church off of Christian St. & Columbus Boulevard Carol W. Smith will provide an overview of an exciting project which brings together the records of 11 of Philadelphia’s oldest congregations including Gloria Dei in one unified website. She will discuss the background of the project, what is still to come and how best to use this website for all types of research from genealogical to social history.
This free event will take place in the church sanctuary, followed by a reception in Riverside Hall. For a modest donation, enjoy gourmet cheesecake by a local pastry chef, paired with moscato wine, coffee or tea.
Volunteers attended at Transcription Workshop put on at Christ Church’s Neighborhood House November 13th 5-6:30 pm by Walter Rice, Carol Smith, Carly Sewell, and Allan Hasbrouck in order to learn how to transcribe various items for the Digitization of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations Project.
The goal of workshop is to receive feedback from volunteers on our transcription rules in order to improve them for volunteers in the future, and to train volunteers to learn how to transcribe so they can train others at their respective congregations.
Food, drinks, and other snacks were served to volunteers.
How did our countries ancestors fair in times of trouble and tribulations? What can we learn from them now facing our own time of trial and tribulation?
We are looking for people who want to help transcribe some of our amazing documents that we have scanned so far.
If you have any inclination, check out our “Help Transcribe!” page. Here you can see our two pages to begin transcription: Transcription Guidelines
and the page on Getting Started with Transcribing
Here is a recently done transcription of page four & five of Christ Church Steeple Accounts, 1751 by one of our volunteers. Steeple Accounts, 1751