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New Market resident Phillip Crown stands outside Union Church along Main Street in Mt. Jackson recently. Crown has been putting together a guide of Shenandoah County churches with the Shenandoah Historical Society. — Rich Cooley/Daily

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New Market resident Philip Crown leans on his computer screen inside his home. Crown has been putting together a guide of Shenandoah County churches with the Shenandoah Historical Society. — Rich Cooley/Daily

Church archive to help geneologists

By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

Philip Crown needs the community's help on a project that could help those researching their family history in Shenandoah County.

With the help of the Shenandoah County Historical Society, the New Market resident launched a website in January where anyone can look up churches that might have played a part in their ancestors' lives.

Still, despite having collected statistics on more than 150 churches, Crown, 77, has a long way to go.

"We have 30 out of 150 churches, histories," he said recently. "We have not had a good response."

On the website www.ShenandoahCountyHistoricalSociety.org, researchers can find the location of active and inactive churches as well as information about pastors, former church buildings and key historical events that occurred there.

"If there's a church there today, that's it," he said. It can be part of the archive even if it opened its doors only yesterday.

From the site's main page, click on Reference in the left-hand menu and then choose Shenandoah County Churches.

Crown has color coded different search options on the site, anticipating researchers who might know only the name of the church, but not the location, or vice-versa. The listing is alphabetical by denomination, he said.

"Any denomination," he said. There are 13 churches classified as "others."

"[You] can click onto the home of a church, if you know it," he said.

But researching churches is a bigger job than just clicking on the name.

"Some churches have changed names," he said. Of the 150 churches he has identified, 16 are inactive.

Inactive churches are color coded blue and those that are updated with a brief history are yellow. If they include a history and are inactive, they'll be blue and yellow.

"The next thing was actually to get a history, a brief history." That's where he needs the community's help. He also wants to know if he has mistakenly left out any churches.

"The more information we get, the more useful this site will be," he said. First and foremost, It serves to help those wondering which churches their ancestors attended.

"And secondly, we're encouraging tourism in the county, aren't we?"

Other communities around Virginia have online historical archives like this one, he said, but not this area, until now.

"No one seemed to have gotten a [handle] just on Shenandoah County," he said.

"It was a bit exciting, because we were finding roads in Shenandoah County that we never knew existed," he said.

"What I [intended] to do was get the churches themselves to provide the information," he said. He figures those affiliated with the churches will know which history is important to record and which isn't.

"I don't want to use information what has come out of a book," he said. He said he has copies of history about some churches, and "It's not kind of very personal."

He also hopes to collect photos depicting changes in the churches over the years.

"Until we get the history, you'll just get the photograph," he said.

One church whose history he found interesting is Woodland Mennonite Church in Basye, he said, which, from the looks, is pretty old.

Crown said he's been in contact with the pastor to send him the church's history.

"He told me that's the third site that they have been on in that area," Crown said. It's little things like that that interests Crown and which, he thinks, will interest others as well.

"There's a little more interesting history I think if we can get the churches to help us out by giving us the history; we're learning a lot more," Crown said. "To my mind, that's what people want. [They] don't want just a photograph."

Contact the Shenandoah County Historical Society at www.ShenandoahCountyHistoricalSociety.org. Contact Philip Crown at 237 Battlefield Bluff Dr., New Market, VA 22844 or at philip.crown3@gmail.com.

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