Did they work for a society?

This guide was last updated in 2009

If you know the missionary society with which your ancestor worked it should be quite easy to find helpful published and unpublished resources, particularly if your missionary worked with one of the larger societies.

The online database Mundus provides a gateway to missionary archives deposited in over 50 UK institutions.

You can search by name of society, personal name, place name etc. Site details of each holding institution, including access information, are given. It may well be necessary to make a personal visit in order to consult the material relating to your missionary ancestor in letters, reports, registers and other documents, including photographs. In addition, missionary magazines are a very good source of information on the movements of missionaries and often include extracts from their letters and reports.

There is an online database to missionary periodicals published in Britain, between the 18th century and the 1960s giving full bibliographical details, information on contents and locations. You can access it here.

If you don’t know the Society in which your missionary ancestor worked there are still ways in which you might be able to find out.

If he/she was in China prior to 1907 try and locate a copy of A Century of Missions in China 1807-1907, edited by D. MacGillivray, first published in Shanghai in 1907 and reprinted in 1979. This lists all Protestant missionaries to China in the period. It has an excellent personal names index and contains some biographical information in the text. To trace copies in UK national, academic and specialist libraries try searching the COPAC online catalogue.

Another useful publication is The Chinese Recorder Index, a guide to Christian Missions in Asia, 1867-1941 compiled by Kathleen Lodwick (2 vols), Scholarly Resources Inc., 1986. This comprehensive research tool has a person index and a list of persons by affiliation. The references take you to relevant pages in the serial publication, The Chinese Recorder. To find where the Chinese Recorder and the index volume is held in UK libraries, the best place to start is also COPAC.

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