Congregational church records offer a rich and remarkable view of life in colonial and early-American New England. Well before the writing of the Constitution, each member in the early Puritan churches had an equal vote, with the power to govern themselves and to choose their own ministers. The records of these congregations document births, deaths, and marriages, but also open a window onto the lives of ordinary people deliberating on matters both sacred and secular. For much of the colonial period, church business was town business, and so beyond the usual information on births, deaths, and marriages, church records show ordinary people making decisions about property, taxation, and their representation in the larger affairs of the colony or state.
New England's Hidden Histories began in 2005 as a small-scale digitization project, in partnership with the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale, to preserve some of the oldest church records in New England. That small-scale project became the pilot for a much larger project. Since 2015, the Congregational Library & Archives has been awarded three grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and one grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources, all of which have allowed us to greatly expand the reach of the project and has allowed us to partner with numerous cultural institutions.
Many of the documents in New England's Hidden Histories are being made available to the public for the first time and the majority are being made available online for the first time. In an effort to further increase accessibility for genealogists, historical researchers, students, and all others, transcription has been, and continues to be, an important part of this project; to date volunteer transcriptionists have produced thousands of pages of literal transcription.
New England's Hidden Histories is a major part of CLA's overall digitization efforts, so expect to see it expand alongside the many digital resources the Congregational Library & Archives is making available here.