First Bethlehem was largely an immigrant church from its founding in 1871 through the first or second decade of the 1900’s. People interested in finding out about their family roots often look to our church records for information.
However, there are a few things you should know before contacting us. Overall, we have fairly good records from 1871 to present, but we are missing the following records: confirmations before 1898, and deaths between 1890 and 1900. In addition, our records often do not include some information that many genealogists are most interested in (such as place of birth).
In order to preserve our records for posterity, they may not be photocopied or photographed with a flash. Instead we will transcribe the information and send it to you, or if you visit, we will permit you to copy the information by hand or take a photo in museum mode.
Because in the late 19th century there were 400 baptisms a year, 300 confirmations, and 200 funerals, we ask that you try to give us as much information as possible in order to narrow down the search. It would help if you could tell us “Great-Grandpa’s little brother Otto was born somewhere between 1898 and 1900,” rather than “I think Great-Grandma had a sister born between 1890 and 1910.”
You can look at copies of our pre-1935 records on microfilm at the Newberry Library in Chicago or at the Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis. You may also peruse our records if you make an appointment in advance. I would suggest pursuing one of these 3 options if you do not have any specific information about your relatives, but would like to browse our records. You are also welcome to set up an appointment to stop by the church and peruse the volumes yourself.
We would ask that you consider making a donation of $5 per genealogical request that you ask us to research. Checks may be sent to First Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 1649 W. Le Moyne St., Chicago IL 60622.
Note: There was more than one Lutheran church named “Bethlehem” in Chicago. To make sure that you have the right one, consider the following:
- Our earliest pastors were a father and two sons named “Reinke,” who served from 1871 to 1934. An assistant pastor named Werfelmann served in the late 1800’s.
- Another church of our denomination was founded in 1874, three years after our own. At the time of its founding it was not located in Chicago, but in South Chicago, at 103rd Street and Avenue H. Its early pastors were Duborg, Heyer, and Feiertag. The church has since closed. Most likely its church records are located at the Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis.
- Another Lutheran church named Bethlehem, originally located at Racine and Huron and later in the area west of Humboldt Park, served the Norwegian-speaking community. In 1925 it joined two other churches to form United Lutheran Church in Oak Park. If your ancestor spoke Norwegian and attended a Bethlehem, consult with United Lutheran Church about your ancestor.
- There was another “Lutheran” church named Bethlehem located at 2746 N Magnolia, at the intersection with Diversey Parkway. Some of its members might have called themselves “Lutheran,” but there was no Lutheran in the name of the church. Instead, it was an “Evangelisch” (Pan-Protestant) church associated with the Prussian Union, a denomination the Kaiser had created to meld Lutherans and the Reformed into one church. This congregation has since closed and the building has been torn down. Perhaps the local judicatory of the United Church of Christ, its denomination, might have the records.