Call for Proposals: A Symposium on the Digitized Records of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations

Date: November 2, 2022

Hybrid conference, virtual and in-person at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia


After five years of digitizing and harvesting the records of Philadelphia’s historic congregations, we have more than 80,000 scanned documents reflecting faith traditions, family celebrations and liturgical changes as well as political and social issues of the 18th and early to mid 19th century. The project brings these records together with transcriptions, lesson plans, a digital map, and recordings of talks given over the course of the project.

To celebrate the project’s conclusion we invite scholars, genealogists, teachers and all those interested to share their experiences in using religious records and what they’ve learned from them. Our focus is on the time period the project covers, 1680-1871, and may include topics such as biography, genealogy, reconciliation projects, and archival methodology. Talks can take the form of single papers or panel discussions.

Our keynote speaker is Julie P. Winch, Ph.D., Professor of History from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who specializes in the history of African Americans, the Early Republic, maritime history and online research. Dr. Winch has written a number of books in these fields, including Between Slavery and Freedom: Free People of Color in America from Settlement to the Civil War (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).

To submit a proposal, please include a 250-word abstract with the resumes of your speakers, and send it to Carol Smith, Archivist for Christ Church and the Christ Church Preservation Trust, at csmith@christchurchphila.org.

Deadline for submissions: August 15, 2022

Notification of acceptance: September 1, 2022


Contact for questions: Carol Smith, Archivist, Christ Church and Christ Church Preservation Trust and one of the project’s primary investigators. csmith@christchurchphila.org

About the project: “Digitizing the Records of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations: Providing Documentation for the Political, Social and Cultural Developments in Philadelphia,” is a multi-year initiative supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with supplemental funding by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Connelly Foundation. It has brought together the records of 17 different congregations established in Philadelphia in the 18th century. Those manuscript materials include minutes, sacramental registers, sermons, correspondence, accounting records and more. The site can be viewed at www.philadelphiacongregations.org.

The Moravian Church and the 1793 Yellow Fever Epidemic

Paul M. Peucker, archivist and director of the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, gave a wonderful presentation on the Moravian Church in Philadelphia and the response to the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 at the Archivists of Religious Collections section meeting for the Society of American Archivists. Carol Smith alluded to it in this past transcribers’ coffee hour and many requested a link. We are delighted to be able to provide it here. The records of the First Moravian Church of Philadelphia will be brought into our CLIR Philadelphia Congregations project this year.

https://www.pathlms.com/saa/events/2635/event_sections/12225/video_presentations/206394

Philadelphia Club Talk: Preserving the Past: Stories from the Records of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations

On September 11, 2020, Carol Smith presented a talk to the Philadelphia Club’s members and guests highlighting the stories found in the records of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations and outlining the project that is bringing these records to life. Click here to listen to Preserving the Past: Stories from the Records of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations.

To view the Presentation, click here .

Athenaeum Transcription Workshop with CLIR

September 14th, 16th, 21st, and 23rd the Athenaeum of Philadelphia hosted our project with CLIR for a workshop in four parts, which you will find below.

Each date we focused on different aspects of this CLIR Project to Digitize Philadelphia Congregations Early Records.

September 14th was an overview of the project where Carol Smith – Archivist at Christ Church – spoke about the origins of the project. Watch it at the link below:
Athenaeum Transcription Workshop with CLIR Session #1

On September 16th, we focused on the rules surrounding transcription of the many different types of documents that have been scanned as a part of this project.
To watch this, please click on the link below:
Athenaeum Transcription Workshop Session #2

During Session Three of the Athenaeum Workshop of the CLIR Project to Digitize Philadelphia’s Congregational Early Records held on September 21st , Walter Rice, the Digital Consultant on this project, provided us with a tour of how the Athenaeum of Philadelphia scans these many documents. He also reviewed what happens with the scans and the many working parts that make all the data they convey appear on the website for viewing.
View this session at the link below:
Athenaeum Transcription Workshop with CLIR Session #3

The final session of the Athenaeum Transcription Workshop with CLIR held on September 23rd, we learned about how the information from these scans can be and have been used in many ways. We had the authors, historians, and scholars Bill Quigley and Libby Brown talk about their use of these types of records.
To listen and watch, click the link below:
Athenaeum Transcription Workshop with CLIR Session #4

July 4th 1776 at Christ Church, Philadelphia

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.

Bored at home? Help transcribe!

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

Transcription Workshop

Volunteers attended at Transcription Workshop put on at Christ Church’s Neighborhood House November 13th, 2019, 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.

Presentation at Gloria Dei Church

Digitizing the Records of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations Presentation

On Wednesday October 23rd, 2019, 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.