The Concordia Historical Institute (CHI) is housed in Saint Louis, Missouri on the campus of Concordia Seminary. CHI should be on the radar for those researching ancestors in the Saginaw Valley’s Franconian settlements or other “German Lutheran” ancestors located throughout the United States. Why? CHI serves as the Department of Archives and History for The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). All of the Franconian settlements’ original Lutheran churches were early members of this denominational body which was originally known as the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States. Frankenmuth’s St. Lorenz Lutheran Church was one of the charter congregations when the synod formed in 1847.
CHI’s facilities include collections storage, a gallery, and a reading room for researchers. It maintains biographical records researched by staff and files on past and present pastors, teachers, missionaries and others who have served in the LCMS. Additional items of interest to genealogical researchers include various church records and minutes, copies of church sacramental records, photographs, and personal papers of men and women who served in the church. Even if you don’t have a Lutheran pastor or teacher in your genealogy, you may find mention of them in church records or a minister’s papers who served their congregations.
Concordia Historical Institute maintains a website with finding aids, contact and membership information. Membership in CHI includes access to its reading room, discounts on research services and receipt of its publications: the Historical Footnotes newsletter and the venerable Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly (CHIQ). Both the Historical Footnotes newsletter and the CHIQ feature articles on Lutheran history. These have not infrequently included pieces containing information on Frankenmuth and the surrounding Franconian settlements. Sporadic back issues of Historical Footnotes are available on the CHI website.
I have made two research trips to CHI in the past three years, most recently in May. Each visit has turned up new and interesting and information to add to my family tree or flesh out the biographies of my ancestors and collateral relations. Examples of what I have found include biographical records, newspaper articles, photographs, birth and baptismal records, church minutes mentioning my ancestors and original letters written by long-deceased relations. Their most rewarding collection for me has been my maternal grandfather’s hand-written sermons spanning his career in the ministry. Sermons of exceptional interest include confirmations and marriages of relations, church milestones and celebrations, and funerals of his parishioners and friends. The funeral sermons also fascinatingly spanned the deaths of veterans and active-duty servicemen from America’s three major wars: the Civil War, World War I and World War II.
I never knew my mother’s father; he had died ten years before my birth. Our family was unaware that these papers were housed at CHI or even still in existence. Now, thanks to the preservation efforts of the Concordia Historical Institute, I have begun to know my grandfather.