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More information about Lutheran church records

Lutheran Church records held by the History and Genealogy D​epartment

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About the records

The Department’s microfilm holdings include all records available at Concordia Historical Institute for Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod congregations in Missouri and some other states. The churches represented are mostly German in heritage and include some of the earliest churches in the denomination. If the record was microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, the Family History Library roll number has been included.

Microfilm contents vary according to the congregation. They typically include the official pastoral acts of baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial. Baptism, confirmation and marriage records usually include the names of parents. Confirmation usually occurred at age 12 to 14, when young adults became full communicant members of the church. Burial / death records can include various information, sometimes including birth date and place, and names or number of remaining family members. Membership rosters and communion records are commonly included among the records. Most records created prior to World War I (and often later) are in German. Little if any indexing was done within the registers.

Questions about congregations and institutions in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the disposition of their records may be addressed to the denominational archives:

Concordia Historical Institute
804 Seminary Place
St. Louis, MO 63105
(314) 505-7900


The Rev. Martin Stephan, pastor of St. John’s Church in Dresden, five other Lutheran clergymen and a group of 659 lay persons sailed from Bremen to America, arriving in New Orleans in January and February 1839. From there they traveled to St. Louis with the goal of establishing a community in Perry County, Missouri where they could be free to practice their conservative orthodox Lutheran faith without interference. Once in St. Louis, part of the group remained there and established Trinity Lutheran Church in 1839, the first Lutheran church west of the Mississippi and the "mother church" of the later congregations of Holy Cross, Immanuel and Zion. Until 1889, these four congregations (or four districts) were seen as one unit called the Generalgemeinde or Gesamtgemeinde.

After Stephan was accused of wrong doing and deposed as the group’s leader, the Rev. C. F. W. Walther, pastor of Trinity Church, assumed the position. He would later become the driving force behind the organization of what is now known as the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in 1847. The denomination, based in St. Louis, is now the second largest U.S. Lutheran denomination with 2.3 million members and 6,200 congregations nationwide.

Walter O. Forster’s “Zion on the Mississippi: The Settlement of the Saxon Lutheran in Missouri, 1839 – 1841” (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953; R 977.8 F734Z) is a history of the Saxon Lutheran migration and their settlement in St. Louis and Perry County. The book also includes a complete list of the Saxon Lutheran emigrants with age, occupation, and place of origin.