The Seminary Archives is composed of material relating to the history and day-to-day operations of the Seminary. It also houses papers from the Rev. Samuel Simon Schmucker (the founder of the Seminary) and those (donated by former professors, presidents, and alumni.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Region 8 Archives is the official repository for five synods of ELCA Region 8: Allegheny Synod, Delaware-Maryland Synod, Lower Susquehanna Synod, Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod, and Upper Susquehanna Synod.
Both of these archives are held in the A.R. Wentz Branch of the United Lutheran Seminary Library in Gettysburg, PA. Please see the tabs above for more information.
Both archives charge fees for use. Please see the Research Fees tab for more information.
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The Archives also houses historical records from two ELCA Region 8 predecessors: the Central Pennsylvania Synod of the Lutheran Church in America and the Maryland Synod of the Lutheran Church in America.
For records of Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod, Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, and West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod, please contact the Tri-Synod Archives at Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania.
For records of Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod and Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, please contact the Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia.
Types of Records in our CollectionsSynod records generally include annual assembly materials, meeting minutes, and information on congregations. Congregation records mainly include parish registers, council meeting minutes, and publications such as newsletters and anniversary history booklets. See our Collections page for more information.
Note About Non-ELCA Congregation RecordsWith a few exceptions, our collections only contain records from Lutheran congregations affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) or one of its predecessor bodies such as the the American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), or the United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA). Researchers seeking records from non-ELCA congregations should contact the archives of the appropriate denomination.
Note About Active ELCA Congregation RecordsActive ELCA congregations are primarily responsible for maintaining their own archives. Therefore, we recommend that researchers interested in the records of an active congregation contact the church's staff before contacting us. To obtain information on active congregations, please visit the ELCA's Find a Congregation web page.
Note About Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage CertificatesResearchers often ask if we have a copy of a baptism, confirmation, or marriage certificate. It is not a common practice for Lutheran congregations to keep a second copy of such certificates, and therefore very few exist in our collections. In nearly every case, the only record we will potentially have is the entry in the congregation's parish register noting that the baptism, confirmation, or marriage took place. Therefore, individuals who do not have the original certificate or a facsimile will doubtfully ever be able to obtain another copy.
RESEARCH SERVICESResearchers can view materials in our collections of synod and disbanded congregation records by appointment only.
There are some fees to conduct research in the ELCA Region 8 Archives collections. Information about those fees can be found on our fees web page.
Limitations on ServicesResearchers should note that due to our scarce resources, some limitations exist to the services we can offer.
- We are not able to conduct general research. Our staff will at least determine if our holdings include congregation or synod records that may contain the information researchers are seeking. We will also attempt to fulfill simple requests, such as supplying a record of baptism or confirmation to individuals who require the information to become a member of a Lutheran congregation, to be married in a Lutheran church, or to convert to another faith.
- We do not have a database of individuals that we can search to find baptism, confirmation, marriage, or burial records. Our church records are indexed on paper by congregation name only. When researchers are seeking information on particular individuals, they must provide the name and location of the congregation with which the person was affiliated.
- We do not have record of every Lutheran congregation. From our catalog of church records, we can list those congregations in a particular city, town, or township for which we have materials. However, our index does not necessarily include all Lutheran congregations that ever existed in a given vicinity.
Note About Fragile MaterialsMany of the older materials in our collections are in very fragile condition. Generally, we do not allow access to original materials that may suffer damage if handled. We understand that this may disappoint some researchers. However, our policy simply reflects the reality of the situation: most of the items in our collections are one of a kind and irreplaceable. Therefore, preservation is a higher priority than access.
Fortunately, however, many of the older parish records in our collections are available in alternate formats such as microfilms, paper transcriptions, or published volumes. Because we have very few of these materials in our collections, we will gladly refer researchers to other sources that may have them. We believe this policy offers the best option—it allows us to preserve the original records, while the information they contain is still available to researchers.
RESEARCH INQUIRIESAfter reviewing the information on this page, researchers should submit an inquiry so that our staff can determine whether records are available in our collections that might contain the information they are seeking. When research questions are simple and specific, our staff can often provide answers without individuals having to visit the Archives. However, if it is necessary for individuals to conduct their own research on materials in our holdings, then an appointment can be arranged.
To submit an inquiry, follow the instructions on the Research Inquiries page.
ELCA Region 8 Archives
United Lutheran Seminary Library
61 Seminary Ridge
Gettysburg, PA 17325
What is Held in the Archives
- Material relating to the history and day-to-day operations of the Seminary
- Minutes, publications, ephemera, photographs, audio/visual materials
- Papers and books from the Seminary's founder, Rev. Samuel Simon Schmucker
- Papers of distinguished professors, presidents, and alumni
- Non-Seminary documents on Lutheran history
- Record groups of information on ULCA and LCA organizations
- Constitutions, minutes, publications, ephemera
- A card file, listing church-related biographical data about ministers that have served in this region
- Congregational History File, containing information about some churches in the area
- Research Guidelines and Access Form
- Archives Copies Permission Release Form (to be filled out only in the presence of an Archives staff member)
- Archives Permission to Publish Request Form (to be filled out only in the presence of an Archives staff member)
- Archives Digital Copies Permission and Release Form (to be filled out only in the presence of an Archives staff member)
Scanning and photocopying must be performed by staff and fees are:
- $7 per day and $0.25 per page
3 pages would cost: $7.75
- $35 for a basic, 1 hr search, which includes photocopying of up to 4 pages.
- $20 for each additional hour.
- $0.25 for each additional scan/photocopy.
- Brittle documents will require an extra fee for scanning of $1.00 per page.
- Fees still apply even if no information is found related to the patron's request.
Synod Research Visits
- No daily research fee
- $0.25 per page for printing/scanning performed by staff
Synod Research Requests performed by Archives staff
- First hour is free
- Subsequent hours are $10
- Synod office pays all faxing, scanning, or printout charges
- Name of person
- Logical year or range of years information is likely to be found in
- Name and location of church or other organization
The Archives has been housed on the campus of the Philadelphia Seminary since 1889, and is located in the undercroft of The Brossman Learning Center. The Archives collections are now completely contained in a large vault area with compact shelving, now better organized. A reference library room provides books frequently used, as well as space for researchers to work in comfortable surroundings. The Archives office is across the hall.
The Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia is a separately incorporated entity managed by its own board of directors. It is managed separately from the United Lutheran Seminary Library and its archival collections in Gettysburg.
PERSONAL PAPERSLutheran Archives Center holds a large number of collections of personal papers of Lutheran clergy, theologians and church workers. Examples include: from the 18th century, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg and Justus Henry Christian Helmuth; from the 19th century, Charles Porterfield Krauth, William Julius Mann and Beale Melancthon Schmucker; and from the 20th century, Henry Eyster Jacobs, Sr., Charles Michael Jacobs, Jr., O. Frederick Nolde, Theodore G. Tappert, Martin J. Heinecken and John H. P. Reumann. Personal papers are generally most useful to academic researchers studying specific topics in church history or theology.
ARCHIVES OF CHURCH ORGANIZATIONSLutheran Archives Center holds the archives of the following Lutheran synods and church bodies:
Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States; 1748-1962
Eastern Pennsylvania Synod, LCA, 1963-1968
Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, LCA and ELCA; 1968-present
Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, LCA and ELCA; 1968-present
New Jersey Synod, ULCA, LCA & ELCA; 1950-present
Upstate New York Synod, LCA & ELCA; 1966-present
New England Synod, LCA & ELCA, 1963-present
Augustana Lutheran Church, New York Conference; 1870-1962
Augustana Lutheran Church, New England Conference, 1912-1962
The General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, 1866-1918Synod archives document the history of the church organizations and their varied ministries. They are most useful to historians and academic researchers in church history.
RECORDS OF CONGREGATIONSThe archives holds records from two groups of congregations in its service area: those which have closed; and those which are active and have chosen to deposit their records, or copies thereof, in the archives for more efficient access by researchers. The vast majority of Lutheran congregations maintain their own records and researchers must contact the congregations directly for information. The organizational records of a congregation, including minutes and reports, legal documents, photos, etc., are most useful for congregations and local historians.
The parish registers of congregations contain, in chronological sequence, the records of pastoral acts performed by the pastors of the congregation (baptisms, marriages, funerals, confirmations). These records are useful for individuals, family historians and genealogists. Very few of these records have been indexed, however, and many of the 18th and 19th century registers are written in German. Researchers are welcome to use these records for research. We can provide information regarding records we hold, and information on how to contact congregations.