by John  

The Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library contains – as you might expect - a very large collection for our own Allen County. A myriad of congregational records, both Christian and Jewish, for Fort Wayne and rural Allen County, have been photocopied and added to the collection over the years, together with a large collection of congregational histories and directories. Almost all of the older, pre-1900 congregations have placed copies of their records at the library. This is a benefit to researchers whose ancestors may have hopped from one congregation to another when moving about the city or county. Instead of traveling or writing to each church, all one needs to do is peruse our online catalog.

These records bring with them their own set of challenges, however. Some congregations have the same or very similar names. For example, there are two Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Churches, both in the Missouri Synod. One is located on St. Mary’s Avenue, the other on Decatur Road and is sometimes called Trinity Suburban. These congregations should not be confused with Trinity English Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Fort Wayne, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. In addition, there are two congregations known as Bethlehem: Bethlehem Lutheran and Suburban Bethlehem.

Finally, many congregations are now defunct or have merged with others and reorganized under new names. At one time, Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal, Berry Street Methodist Episcopal, and First Methodist Episcopal Church all were distinct congregations in Fort Wayne, each with their own separate sets of records. Adding to the complexity is the fact that some congregations attracted certain immigrant groups more than others.

Sorting out these complexities can be difficult, even when using our online catalog. The congregational histories on the Allen County USGenweb page can offer the researcher much guidance. We have tried to take that page one step further by creating a pathfinder to Allen County Congregations, which can be found under Pathfinders on our Genealogy Center homepage. Simply click on “Pathfinders” and scroll your mouse over “Allen County, Indiana Guides.” A number of options will appear on the right, including “Allen County Congregations.” Clicking on this link will take you to an annotated bibliography of congregational records. Under each you will find references to the types of records and their respective call numbers. Some congregations have additional annotations that go beyond the catalog and may be helpful to researchers. We are always adding new material, so keep checking the library catalog for new titles.