Beacon Street Diary blog

Internship wrap-up - Corinne and the Congregational Conference of Illinois

For my sixty-hour internship, I processed and created a finding aid for a collection of records from the Congregational Conference of Illinois and its member associations. Because this was my first hands-on experience in the archival field, many aspects of processing surprised me. For example, the importance of preserving original order has been drilled into my mind in class. However, I discovered on my first day at the CLA that I would be imposing an artificial order onto a collection.

Not only did the records have no meaningful original order, the different associations' documents making up the collection had never been intentionally grouped together before. I discovered that because a perfectly preserved original order is not a given outside of the classroom, the archivist's role in creating access and order for researchers is even more crucial. My internship was also an opportunity to learn a new kind of language, as I was completely ignorant about the structure and vocabulary of Congregationalism. For instance, the waves of letters of dismissal I kept bumping into were not evidence of a Great Church Recession that resulted in mass firings. Instead, these documents often signified a minister's transfer between churches. Similarly, I had no idea that an "In Care Association" kept records about future ministers. One of my favorite aspects of the internship was the ability to learn about history through a different perspective. I had no idea that Congregational ministers in Illinois were heavily involved in abolitionist efforts, or that they frequently participated in the Underground Railroad. While doing background research, I even discovered that one Congregational minister lost his life while trying to defend a member of the press speaking against slavery in Illinois in 1837. It was also fascinating to learn the large role the denomination played in developing the Republican Party during its earliest stage. After completing my internship, I am even more excited to enter the archival field and peek into the lives and work of many different people and groups.

-Corinne Bernstein


I wa thriled to find that

I was thriled to find that  this collection is in your hands.

I have some questions about the memebers of the  First Congregational Church of Aurora Illinois betwwen 1850 and 1880. I was about to give up on finding them. Hopefully you have the information that I seek.

I also have some questions about the nearby Universalist Church. Maybe you have soem of that too.

My interest is the family of rev Lewis Benedict and his third cousins who lived in town as well as Peter Mather McAthur and his family. Peter was a student at Oberlin but he died of Tuberculsis in 1855.

I'm also trying to find Matha and william Giles and Murray mcFraland.

I doubt if this research has been digiized as of yet and I don't think I can get to Boston soon. What would be the best way to access these records?

Hi, Paul.

Hi, Paul.

It sounds like you have some extensive research questions.

The best way to go about getting answers would be to contact our archivists through our email or calling (617) 523-0470. They should be able to help you get started.

--Robin Duckworth, webmaster