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Food for Thought from the ELCA Archives

ELCA Archives to partner with to digitize congregational microfilm

Posted on April 27, 2012 by Joel

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., April 17, 2012 –, a website that makes family history research simple and affordable, is pleased to announce its partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to digitize and index 1,000 reels of microfilm containing millions of baptism, confirmation, marriage, and funeral records. will make these records available online for the first time as part of its ongoing effort to expand its collection of over 2.1 billion historical records.

With the help of digitization and indexing partners, will create digital indexes of these records. The documents cover Lutheran congregations throughout the U.S., and will be accompanied by images of the original parish register ledger books. Dating from 1793-1940, these new collections will help users uncover valuable information about their ancestors that isn’t available anywhere else online.

Joel Thoreson, Archivist for Management and Reference Services at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Archives notes, “We’re very excited to work with in digitizing and indexing these records. Researchers have long sought the ability to do easy searches for individuals across multiple congregations. Currently, without knowing the exact congregation at which ancestors worshipped, finding those individuals is a slow and painstaking process.” estimates that digital indexes and images resulting from the 1,000 microfilm reels will be available online later this year. Nearly all of the records were handwritten in Norwegian, German, Danish, and Slovakian, in addition to English, making this an especially unique and valuable record set. Senior Director of Product Joe Godfrey said, “Church records are rich with genealogical information, and we’re excited to be partnering with the ELCA to make their impressive collection available online for the first time. Access to these records will allow our users with ties to the Lutheran church to discover more about their ancestors than ever before.” makes over 2.1 billion records available to its users, including a comprehensive U.S. census collection and is continually adding new content. Please visit the Collections page to learn about the records available on, and to receive regular updates about the website please visit the blog.

About is a leading family history website that makes discovering family history simple and affordable. The company has assembled more than 2.1 billion historical records all in a single location, and makes them available at a price that’s up to 80 percent less than the leading competitor. Archives also partners with other leading family history websites to provide a comprehensive resource for researching your family history. is free to try for seven days, allowing anyone to explore the benefits of membership without risk or obligation. For more information and to start discovering your family history, please visit

About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives

The Archives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America preserves and maintains the records of predecessor church bodies, inter-Lutheran organizations, as well as records of leaders, congregations, and synods of the church. Located outside of Chicago, the ELCA Archives hold genealogically rich collections of oral histories, microfilm, photographs, as well as other archival materials and exhibits. To learn more please visit

10 Responses to 'ELCA Archives to partner with to digitize congregational microfilm'

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  1. Dennis said,

    on May 10th, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Please advise current status of the digitization and indexing of church records to be used in conjunction with
    ALSO, please advise how to obtain future status reports of that effort. Thank you.

  2. Joel said,

    on May 21st, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    We’ve just sent a small package of 10 reels for the microfilming company to examine and provide a cost estimate to If approved, we will soon ship the entire set of 1000 reels. I don’t have an estimate of the timeline yet, but that depends somewhat on the microfilming company’s proposal. I’ll try and provide updates of the status of the project on this blog. — Joel

  3. greg said,

    on November 18th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    It’s now Nov 18, 2012, is there any additional information regarding the status of this project. I contacted, but they said they don’t give out updates on projects.

  4. Joel said,

    on November 19th, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Things are progressing fairly quickly. We received the microfilm back from the scanning company a little over a week ago. That company is now processing all of the scanned images and we should have copies here shortly. Those to be hosted online at will also be indexed, but that is expected to happen within the next two months.

  5. Carolyn said,

    on March 27th, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Now 27 Mar 2013; I’m wondering where/how to find out this info: the records of WHICH synods and churches will be found in this project. Looking forward to the possibility of finding my own baptismal record.

  6. Joel said,

    on March 28th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    The records should soon go live on, but I do not have a definite date yet. The microfilm involved in this project was produced by the Evangelical Lutheran Church beginning in the 1950s, followed by The American Lutheran Church from 1960-1987, so almost all records will be related to the ELC and ancestor Norwegian bodies, the Lutheran Free Church, the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the old American Lutheran Church and predecessors. Only records from 1940 and before will be online. If you’d like us to check any particular congregations to see if they are included, feel free to email us at

  7. Marsha said,

    on April 6th, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I’m finding it impossible to tell what congregations are included at Please advise if North and South Shell Rock, Worth County Iowa are being digitized.

  8. Joel said,

    on April 8th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Yes, the site is not providing a good listing of what is available. I’ll try and create such a listing. I believe that the North Shell Rock congregation was the Norwegian Synod one located three miles northwest of Northwood, while the South Shell Rock one was in the Norwegian Conference and later United Norwegian Lutheran Church and located one mile west of Northwood. These two merged in 1923 to continue as Shell Rock before merging in 1946 with Northwood Lutheran to form First Lutheran in Northwood. Records from 1854-1940 should be included for all variations. A joint Shell Rock, Silver Lake & Lime Creek parish record book from 1853-1919 was microfilmed twice, including an alternate recopied version of the earliest book. The records for the Norwegian Synod congregation are dated as 1876-1922 and for the Norwegian Conference congregation from 1854-1923.

  9. Jennifer said,

    on June 7th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Please note that the church listed on as St. Paul Lutheran in “Grass Pointe Farms, MN” is actually located in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. In fact, it was relocated there from Detroit in 1954.
    I believe there is also something wrong with the listing for the American Lutheran Church in Bethel, WI. I have found several records on for people who supposedly attended this church, but I know they were all living in Gonzales Co., TX at the time.
    I would be very interested in a more accurate listing of the churches whose records are on Is one available yet? Thank you.

  10. Joel said,

    on June 25th, 2013 at 8:09 am

    I’m still trying to get to correct their congregational identification field, but it is not fixed yet. It turns out that microfilm #589 contained some records for Bethel Lutheran of Madison, Wis., along with records from Christ Lutheran of Monthalia, TX, in Gonzales Co., as well as three Iowa congregations.

    I’m posting a list of all the congregations included in this project. The online records are just supposed to include pre-1940 records, so later records may have been digitized but are not yet indexed or hosted online.

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