The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, Lancaster, Pennsylvania has one of the most complete Lutheran church archives in the United States, because of age of the congregation, because it did not suffer natural or man-made disaster, and because of John Caspar Stoever, Jr. With his father, Pastor John Caspar Stoever, Sr., a missionary, John Caspar, Jr., a student of theology, arrived Philadelphia in 1728 and began work in Pennsylvania. Soon the father moved to Virginia for his missionary work, leaving his son to continue missionary work in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, there was a group of Lutherans meeting in Lancaster County for Bible reading, sermons and hymn singing. They were known as the Conestoga congregation. John Caspar Stoever, Jr. had not been ordained when he first came to the Conestoga congregation in his role as missionary, but he kept careful records of the emergency baptisms he performed for the Conestoga congregation and other Lutheran groups throughout the region. He was ordained as a pastor on April 8, 1733. At about the same time he began church registers for members of the Conestoga congregation who lived in the Lancaster and the Muddy Creek areas and, later, New Holland as well. In these separate record books, he copied the names of those who had received an emergency baptism during previous years. Because of Stoever, Jr. and his careful recordkeeping, Holy Trinity has a continuous church register from that date to the present.
Holy Trinity's archives include:
- Church registers listing baptisms, marriages, burials, confirmands, communicants, as well as lists of members, pew holders, and cemetery records.
- Vestry minutes.
- Financial records, ledgers, bills and receipts, bequests, memorial gifts, and property deeds.
- Records of construction of the present church, tower, steeple, and parish house, as well as renovations to church properties.
- Sunday school records from its founding in 1825.
- Junior Missionary Society records from 1856.
- Other church organizations and committees.
- Bulletins, newsletters, and directories.
- Records of organs, organists, church bells, and recitals.
- An extensive group of paintings, prints, pictures, slides, audio and video tapes, and CDs of Trinity members and buildings.
- Information relating to stained glass windows.
- Church related textiles.
Early church records, before 1825, are in Old German script. Burials and Vestry minutes have been translated in their entirety, while the church registers have been translated from 1730 to 1810. All other Old German records have not been translated.
Genealogists, historians, and others have found Trinity's record to be a rich source for their research. Currently, TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH RECORDS, Volume 1 through Volume 4, translated and edited by Debra D. Smith and Frederick S. Weiser are available in print. The books cover the period from 1730 to 1810. For those who prefer to do their own research, these books are available at the Lancaster County Historical Society, 230 North President Avenue, Lancaster, PA 17603, Lancaster Public Library, 125 North Duke Street, Lancaster, PA 17602, and other historical societies and libraries throughout the United States. Also, they are available for purchase from Lancaster County Historical Society, Lancaster and Closson Press, Apollo, PA 15613.
All materials, except book purchases, are available at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 31 South Duke Street, Lancaster, PA 17602 or by writing to Archivist, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 31 South Duke Street, Lancaster, PA 17602, or E-mail: email@example.com. The fee for the Trinity researcher is $25.00 for opening a file and the first hour of research and $20.00 for each additional hour. All funds will be used for the continuing process of cataloging and maintaining the archive.
- Dr. George L. Heiges, “The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Part One - 1730 - 1861,” JOURNAL of the Lancaster County Historical Society, 83/1, p. 3.
- Frederick S. Weiser, Edited by Jed H. Kensinger, “The Origin of Organized Lutheranism in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,” JOURNAL of the Lancaster County Historical Society, 107/3, p. 113-116.