These records bring together a larger number of the ecclesiastical documents of the colonial period relating to New York and New Jersey than any other single collection. The original design of the enterprise was to gather the documents of the Reformed Dutch church as the oldest denomination in the State. But as the work progressed it seemed desirable to bring in collateral documents of other religious bodies, because the documents of one denomination throw light on those of other bodies of the same period, the external circumstances being identical. The different bodies were also often so intermingled in their relations or contentions that the history of one could not be well understood without dealing with the history of the others.
Until nearly the close of the seventeenth century, however, there were few other religious bodies to deal with than the Reformed Dutch church. There were, indeed, scattered Congregational and Presbyterian churches on Long Island, in Westchester county and in New Jersey, but until after 1700 these were few in number, separate and independent. Nevertheless, not infrequent references to them will be found in these Records. There were also before 1700 a few Lutheran churches on this territory, but the principal early development of this body was in Pennsylvania. There were also Friends or Quakers and several other varieties of Christians, as well as a few Jews, all of whom will be more or less frequently alluded to. The early French Catholic missionaries from Canada in central New York and the French Huguenots in several different localities are not forgotten.
The Anglican church does not come into distinctive view, except a few references to chaplains of British troops, until the founding of Trinity Church in New York City in 1697. Before this date there were no Episcopal churches in New York or New Jersey. The ministry bill of 1693 was for the support of a “good sufficient Protestant minister,” but it was limited in its application to six localities, and these were in only four counties out of the ten which then existed in New York. While English governors claimed that this bill established the Anglican church, its language was so indefinite that its meaning and application were subjects of dispute and litigation down to the Revolution. With the organization in London, in 1701, of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, Anglican ministers begon to be sent over and Anglican churches established. Before the American Revolution this society sent fifty-nine ministers to New York and forty-four to New Jersey, one hundred three in all, and founded from thirty to forty churches on this territory. Some of these ministers were missionaries to the Indians. Allusions will be found in these Records to most if not all of these.
About twenty German Reformed churches were also founded on this territory before 1776. The Reformed Dutch church, however, was the original and principal factor. It founded more than a hundred churches, which were served by more than a hundred ministers during the colonial period. The allusions to these men and organizations are abundant.
The connection of education and religion will also be found frequently alluded to in these volumes, especially facts relating to the origin of Kings (Columbia) College in New York, and to Queens (Rutgers) College in New Jersey. There are also not a few allusions to Princeton College. Items of interest relating to the churches in the Revolutionary struggle are referred to, and especially the subsequent steps of reorganization of the denominations under the new American conditions. The index to these Records, herewith given to the public, will greatly facilitate investigations relating to the churches and schools of colonial times.
Ecclesiastical Records, State of New York, Vol. 1-7
Volume 7 is an index to the other 6 volumes.