Does the Library answer questions on genealogy?

October 4, 2021

Archives in The Mary Baker Eddy Library

People sometimes ask The Mary Baker Eddy Library for information about individuals who were in one way or another associated with the Christian Science movement. These questions usually fall into a few main categories:

Family members

People often want to know if a relative belonged to The Mother Church, was a Christian Science practitioner or teacher, or contributed to Church periodicals. This is information we can often provide. Some inquirers who are not familiar with Christian Science may ask if we can furnish baptismal, marriage, or funeral records. We generally do not have such documents in our collections.1

Early Christian Scientists

Some patrons are seeking more information on the ancestry of people in the Christian Science movement or their descendants, or biographical information about them. These may include practitioners, teachers, lecturers, Church officers, or people who left the Christian Science movement. Inquirers are sometimes interested in knowing if, when, or why a relative or earlier Christian Scientist left the Church. Out of respect for individual privacy, we do not share information regarding Church discipline. We are, however, sometimes able to inform patrons when an individual resigned his or her membership.

Public figures

Inquirers also may ask if a well-known person was a Christian Scientist, or request information about the dates or extent of that person’s involvement with the religion. The Library’s archives help us respond to many of these questions. We do not share information about living members, and often wait until 50 years after decease, in order to protect privacy. Some of the facts we can confirm include whether an individual was a member of The Mother Church, when he or she joined, and where he or she lived at the time.

Church members

The Library’s collections may include information on the careers of members who were practitioners, teachers, lecturers, or Church employees. Whenever possible we endeavor to share this research. Branches of The Mother Church are democratically self-governed. Therefore branch churches, rather than the Library, often hold information about an individual’s membership, including the offices held and other church-related activities. However, if a branch church has disbanded, its records are often donated to our archives. In that case, we may be able to answer questions about local church involvement.

Questions relating to individuals involved with Christian Science are numerous. If you would like to know something that isn’t covered in this article, our research staff would be happy to help you. Contact them by email at [email protected], or by calling 617-450-7218.

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  1. Christian Science teaches that baptism involves purification of the mind rather than the body (see Mary Baker Eddy, The People’s Idea of God [Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors], 9), and therefore there are no baptismal records on file. The Church of Christ, Scientist, is a lay church, without clergy, and when Christian Scientists are married, a clergyperson or civil authority presides; therefore few marriage, annulment, or divorce records have ended up in our collections. Although funeral and memorial services may be held for Christian Scientists, these are not part of Church records.