New England’s Hidden Histories: The Race to Rescue Our Earliest Manuscript Church Records

Free registration

Friday, December 8, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Part of our First Friday Lecture Series
Presented by Dr. James F. Cooper, Director of New England’s Hidden Histories, Congregational Library & Archives
NEHGS Library and Archives, 99-101 Newbury Street, Boston, MA

NOTE: This event has been rescheduled to December 8; former date was December 1.

Virtually nothing went on in colonial New England communities that didn’t pass through the doors of the local church. The most important decisions this culture faced followed (often rowdy) debates in local church meetings, where churchgoers also gathered regularly to discuss and police one another’s behavior. Ministers took careful notes of these affairs in their church record books. We can learn more about life in early New England from church records than from any other discrete set of sources. Unfortunately, the region’s church records are scattered throughout New England, often in attics, closets and basements, and many are significantly endangered. Join Dr. James F. Cooper, Director of New England’s Hidden Histories to learn what information can be found in these early manuscript church records, the race to save them, and the Congregational Library’s efforts to make them available to the public through digitization.

About the Speaker: Jeff Cooper serves as Director of New England's Hidden Histories. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut and taught in the Department of History at Oklahoma State University. Before becoming Director, Jeff worked for many summers with the Congregational Library & Archives, helping to build the manuscript church records collection. He is the author of Tenacious of Their Liberties: The Congregationalists in Colonial America (Oxford, 1999) and has edited, with Kenneth P. Minkema, The Sermon Notebook of Samuel Parris, 1689–1694 (1993), and a volume of church records from Reading and Rumney-Marsh, Massachusetts (2006). His most recent article "Cuffee's 'Relation': a Faithful Slave Speaks through the Project for the Preservation of Congregational Church Records", can be found in the New England Quarterly (June 2013).