Thursday 15 April 2021

Mining the records of the Missions - AJCP

Making Missions Matter

Many Christian organisations established missionary branches to promote their beliefs in England's far flung colonies. The records of some of these societies are very well documented and so provide valuable information about their personnel and the places to which they were sent. The records of a wide range of such organisations are available through the M series. 

One of the most comprehensive of these collections is that of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel

Applications for positions in the missions required the intended missionary fill in a detailed form providing background details about his/her date and place of birth, family details and faith commitments. These detailed forms also included work history, salary and aspirations. What a bonus for the family historian to find an ancestor's signature.

Series. Testimonial Envelopes, 1860 - 1930 There are hundreds of names here.
The first 4 of 16 questions to be answered by applicants

The Series. Missionary Rolls, 1846 - 1910  also supply similar information but in this case they detail the appointments actually made.
Here is George Henry Farr's 1854 acceptance to proceed to Adelaide as headmaster of St Peter's Collegiate School on the understanding that he was to receive 300 pounds per annum.
Sarah Coomes, off to Borneo in 1856 was to be given 100 pounds for passage and outfit and to receive 40 pounds per annum 

Just a reminder: searches within the Trove interface will find any of these records

The alternative is to search a surname from within the Finding Aid of the society.

Additional Missionary Organisations

Church Missionary Society - This collection dates from 1799 up to 1914. Letters, Minute books, Journals and miscellaneous collections with a large quantity of material about the society's New Zealand missions.
Church of Scotland 1848 - 1936 
"This collection includes letterbooks and minutes from the Church of Scotland Foreign Mission Committee; Bombay Corresponding board; Women's Association for Foreign Missions; Colonial Committee; United Presbyterian Church Foreign Mission Committee; treasurers; mission board; Free Church of Scotland Foreign Mission and Colonial Committees and United Free Church of Scotland Colonial, Continental and Jewish committee."
London Missionary Society  - There are many early accounts of voyages to and the establishment of missions across the Pacific. Missionaries wrote reports in the form of letters and later more formalised reports were completed from a wide range of outposts in the islands. 

As with many Finding aids the names of the missionaries writing these reports can be found with a simple search from the AJCP portal page, so "William E Goward" is found in 42 instances in the South Seas missions.

This collection is related to the Marist mission in Fiji.
Hundreds of missionaries names in the letters written. 
St Joseph's Foreign Missionary Society Covers Records of the Maori Mission, 1882 - 1972

Try a surname search from the AJCP portal page to locate those missionaries whose names have been recorded in Finding Aids. The guides often provide historical background information about these societies and their extent of operations. By browsing the guides (finding aids) one can get an overview of the context and extent of the records.


  1. I wish they’d had the Marists in PNG as well as Fiji ;)

  2. Thanks for this post. I am wanting to find information on missions to aborigines in western NSW - the AJCP might uncover something for me.


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