How to Use this National Guide
This page contains details on how to use the National Guide which has been produced to assist librarians, archivists, researchers and students with details of historical and other sources of information about the Baptist denomination in Australia. It describes the format and contents of the various pages on this site so you can locate where the information you seek if found, and some guidance about the nature of the records which Baptists in Australia have created.
There is a page for Baptist bodies in each state and the Northern Territory, as well as one each for the Australian Baptist Ministries (the name used for the Baptist Union of Australia) and Global Interaction (the name of the cross cultural mission agency of the Australian Baptists).
Each page is divided into the following sections:
Details of archival collections of the Baptist denomination in the relevant state or territory, including location, contact persons, access times and conditions, and a brief overview of the holdings.
II Historical Society:
Details of the Historical Society in that state or territory (where applicable), including names and contact details of officers, objectives, membership conditions, functions, publications.
III General - Bibliography
A list of regular current publications of the Baptist denomination and major standard publications useful for research into the Baptist denomination for that state or territory
IV Other Relevant Bodies
Information about other Baptist institutions, academic and public bodies holding material which may be useful for Baptist research.
It is helpful for researchers to understand the nature of Baptist records, which may differ from those of other denominations.
The local church is responsible for all its own records, although those relating to property matters are usually handled by the Baptist Union acting as trustee for the church. The organization, storage and care of these records varies in quality from church to church, as does the completeness of the material. Local churches have the power to hand over their records for storage to other bodies, such as the Baptist Union archives, a university, state or local library. Some churches have adopted this option for convenience, and in the interests of security and ease of access.
State Baptist Unions (typically using a ‘trading’ name) have established organizational structures and acquired property to carry out their activities. Typically they are engaged in evangelism, Christian education, theological education and leadership training, home and overseas missions and social welfare; they are generally responsible for the ordination and accreditation of ministers, and publish reports, periodicals, directories and other literature, and maintain websites.
The records of all these activities are under the control of the Union, its officers and departments. They are usually well organized and readily accessible, although full-time professional archival staff are not usually employed, and privacy conditions apply. Archival and historical work is in the hands of regular office staff and voluntary workers, often connected with the state Baptist Historical Society. In addition to records generated by the Baptist Union, the state Archives may be the repository for records from some churches, especially those which no longer operate, and other appropriate materials which have found their way into the collection. Some materials are available to the public in the form of magazines and other publications.
The main records likely to be of use to historical and family researchers are directories listing information about ministers, officers, churches and denominational administration; minutes and correspondence of committees, departments and organizations; and denominational newspapers. Most archives would also have collections of photographs, audio and visual recordings, and electronic documents of various kinds; note that often photographs, especially earlier ones, may not be well identified. It should be noted that official files of ministers and other leading figures are usually not extensive or detailed and are subject to privacy laws. The Archives also house a few collections of personal papers, which may be restricted in access.
Denominational newspapers or other media for the dissemination of information exist for each state, some of which may also appear in state and university libraries. Extensive use is made of websites and electronic mail for informational and promotional purposes. In addition, a national newspaper, The Australian Baptist, was published in Sydney on behalf of the Baptist Union of Australia from 1913 to 1991; from 1988 to 2002, a quarterly promotional magazine, the National Baptist was published by the Baptist Union of Australia. Its missionary arm, Global interAction (formerly the Australian Baptist Missionary Society ABMS or Australian Baptist Foreign Mission ABFM) publishes Vision, which was preceded by Our Indian Field.
Further records relating to the Baptist denomination may occasionally be found in other repositories, including Baptist schools and theological colleges, state and local libraries and universities.
Baptismal and Membership Records:
Because of its beliefs, the Baptist denomination does not baptize or christen infants; therefore, baptismal records do not include birth and family details. In comparatively recent times, ministers would present candidates with a certificate of baptism, the stub of which would contain minimal details for the record and are typically not well preserved.
Of more importance in a Baptist church is the membership roll, but these documents usually list only the name of the person (often with signature), the date of admission and the means (either by baptism, profession of faith, visitation or transfer); an address may sometimes be shown, as may the date of dismissal (or death) and the reason for such dismissal.
A service of infant dedication is practised in some Baptist churches. It is primarily a service of prayer and thanksgiving for new life, for the dedication of the parents to their responsibility and an affirmation by the congregation that it will offer its support to the family in the child’s spiritual growth; some churches issue certificates; records of these may be available, but often they are not maintained consistently. This is not to be confused with a christening service and there is no place in Baptist belief for god-parents.
Baptism records, membership rolls and infant dedication information may be subject to privacy legislation.
Family History - Marriage and Death Records:
Marriage registers exist for many churches, a few of which may be found in the Baptist Union Archives. In earlier periods especially, these were often in the personal possession of the minister and consequently many have not survived. Information from very early registers has been integrated with state BDM records.
Only a few Baptist churches have cemeteries or burial plots associated with them, and they are not generally still in use; listings of several of them have been published. Contact State Archives, Registrar’s offices, family history and genealogical societies and family history sections of State Libraries for further information.
Schools, orphanages, aboriginal missions and other community activities:
Some churches operate schools, child care centres and similar community oriented activities. Relevant records are kept for these operations.
Baptist denominations and local churches have also operated children’s homes and programs for youth and families and an extensive range of aged care facilities. These organisations hold their own records under their own conditions, with privacy being a major issue.
The Baptist denomination has not generally been involved in orphanages for child migrants or in their own aboriginal mission stations. However, they did become involved in sponsoring migrants from UK and elsewhere and their ministers often served as chaplains on migrant ships.
To contact a Baptist Union or a local church in Australia, look in the telephone directory under “Baptist Union” or “Baptist Churches and Baptist Union - Churches and Manses.” Sometimes a church may have its own individual entry, and some may be listed in the Yellow Pages under “Organisations - Church and Religious.”
Search also for their web pages which will contain mail, phone and mailing details.
Contact information may also be obtained from the state Baptist Union office.