Boston, Mass. Old South Church.

Collection History

Twenty-eight members of the First Church in Boston left in 1669 to found the Third Church of Boston. They disagreed with the minister's insistence that adults must have "a regeneration experience of God" before their own children could be baptized. These members instead believed that childhood baptisms assured young adults they were full members and could baptize their children, a belief consistent with the Half-way Covenant.

In 1670, the congregation met in the Cedar Meetinghouse for the first time and soon became known as South Church since it was located in the south end of town. Old was added in 1717 to distinguish it from another church being built, which called itself New South. In 1875, construction on a new building for the Old South congregation finished on the corners of Dartmouth and Boylston Streets. This new site has been Old South's home since.

Since its establishment in 1669, the Old South congregation has welcomed many famous personages such as Benjamin Franklin, who was baptized by the congregation in 1706; Phillis Wheatley, America's first black poetess; and Elizabeth Vergoose, who is better known as Mother Goose for her nursery rhymes.

For more details about the full collection, see the archival finding guide.


Digital Materials

Church Records, 1669-1767

This volume contains two sets of records, presented here sequentially for ease of use. The first set of records dates from 1669 to 1766, and include the church covenant and minutes of meetings. The second set of records found on the reverse side of the volume dates from 1735 to 1767, and include meeting minutes and records of funds collected for charity.

Church Records, 1768-1816

The records in this volume include minutes of meetings and transcriptions of several letters received by the church and written by ministers.

Church Records, 1669-1854

This volume provides a topical and name index for three volumes of Old South Church records, including the two preceding volumes and the record book for 1817-1854 which has not been digitized for the NEHH program.

Church Records, 1669-1713

This volume contains a transcribed list of names of First Church members who broke away to form the Third Church, and the names of members who joined from 1669 to 1713.

Baptisms, 1669-1875

This volume contains chronological records of baptisms performed in the church for children and adults. It includes the 1706 baptismal record for Benjamin Franklin.

Admissions, 1669-1855

There are two sets of records within this volume, presented here sequentially for ease of use. The first set contains records of admissions into the church from 1669 to 1855. The second set of records contains admissions from 1669 to 1814. There is a note within the records about the effects of the Revolutionary War on church membership.

Membership, 1669-1855

The records within this volume are transcribed from earlier record books to document the membership history of the church. They are arranged alphabetically by surname.

Marriages, 1780-1882

This volume contains records of marriages performed by the church's ministers. It begins with a compiled list of marriages performed by Rev. Eckley, taken from his own notes and those of the town clerk; followed by a transcription of those performed by Rev. Huntington, transcribed from an earlier church register; and continues with original records thereafter.


Special Thanks

This digital resource has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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