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Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions


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About this Collection

Introduction: Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions

Introduction: Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Documents administered by the Houghton Library of Harvard University

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was organized by the General Association of Congregational Churches of Massachusetts in 1810 "for the purpose of devising ways and means, and adopting and prosecuting measures, for promoting the spread of the gospel in Heathen lands." The first missionaries sailed for Calcutta in 1812; since that date, thousands of regularly appointed missionaries and shorter-term workers have been sent out under Board auspices.

These missionaries reported back to the Board in the U.S., and the archive contains their letters, journals, and reports. Not only does the archive document the history of the Board and its individual missionaries, it also provides some of the earliest recorded information on the cultures these missionaries encountered. Flora and fauna; manners and customs; the development of written languages; and economic, social, and political conditions are all documented in these papers.

Since 1944 this vast archive, consisting of more than half a million documents, has been housed in and administered by the Houghton Library of Harvard University. In the 1980s, portions of these papers were published by Research Publications Inc. (now Primary Source Microfilm, an imprint of the Gale Group) in a microfilm edition; this index to missionaries and missions, based on lists at the Houghton Library, was prepared as a guide to this microfilm set.

Permission to publish or quote from the documents on this microfilm must be obtained from both Harvard and the United Church Board of World Ministries; write to the Curator of Manuscripts, Houghton Library, for details.

Organization of the [Print] Guide

The print guide consists of three separate indices: (The Missionary List is provided here as a searchable index. All information in the Station and Substation lists can be accessed in the Missionary List.)

1. Missionary List. An alphabetical listing of all missionaries who served with the ABCFM. Married women missionaries are listed under their husbands name, with their own first name (when known) following.

2. Station List. An alphabetical listing by station, subarranged alphabetically by missionary name. The Stations are: Africa, the Americas, China, India, the Pacific Islands, Japan, the Near East, and the Papal Lands.

3. Substation List. The Stations were further divided into substations. Substation 1 in this guide is usually a geographic region (e.g. West Africa, South China). Substation 2 is a further subdivision, such as a country, city, or tribe (e.g. Rhodesia, Peiping, Cherokee). Stations in the Americas and Japan (the smallest, geographically, of the Stations) have been listed by Substation 1; all others by Substation 2.

This guide is a transcription of a typescript index at the Houghton Library:

Merlin W. Ennis, "A List of the Missionaries of the American Board from the Founding Up to the Year 1947."

Merlin W. Ennis. "A List of Associate Missionaries, Term Appointees, and Others Not Having Full Appointments from the American Board to 1947."

Information was transcribed as found in the above list; no attempt was made to regularize or modernize the spelling of personal or geographic names.

Explanation of Terms and Abbreviations

Titles of missionaries

APM = Appointed Missionaries. Missionaries appointed for life service.

ASSM = Associate Missionaries, including Term Workers. Missionaries not appointed for life, but for a specific period. The definition changed slightly over time, but this category included medical missionaries, single women, and wives of appointed missionaries.

NUA = Missionaries not under appointment. Another term for Associate Missionaries.

Station. The ABCFM divided the world into large geographic areas called stations, or missions.

Afr. = Africa
Amer. = North America (U.S. and Canada)
Ch. = China (including Indo-China)
Ind. = India
Is. = Pacific Islands (Sandwich Islands [Hawaii], East Indies, Micronesia)
Jap. = Japan
N.E. = Near East (including the Balkans, Turkey, Syria, Persia)
PapL. = Papal Lands (predominantly Catholic countries such as France, Mexico, Spain, Austria)
Un. = Undetermined

Substation and Substation 2. Smaller units within stations.

From and To. Dates of service with the ABCFM.

Reference. The Ennis index gives references to sources of additional biographical information about missionaries. Unfortunately, his terminology is not consistent, so these should be used with caution.

b.r.
Board Report. Annual report of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. v. 1-150; 1810-1960.

c.
card catalog. This is not part of the Houghton archive.

o.b.
Old Book. The same as v2 (see below)

v1
Vinton, volume 1. John Adams Vinton and others, "Missionaries of the ABCFM, I: 1810-1885."

v2
Vinton, volume 2. "Missionaries of the ABCFM, II: 1885-1910." Same as "Old Book."

v3
Vinton, volume 3. Not part of the Houghton archive.

y.b.
Year Book. Year Book of the ABCFM. Superseded by The American Board Year Book. Superseded by American Board Year Book and Calendar of Prayer

The published Board Reports and Year Books can be found in many major research libraries.

Reel. A reference to the microfilm collection issued in six Units.

Reels 1-48
Unit 1: Letters to Domestic Correspondents (Indians) and Letters to Foreign Correspondents

Reels 49-223
Unit 2: Africa

Reels 224-387
Unit 3: Asia, China, Japan, Siam, Arcot, Singapore, Amoy, Borneo

Reels 388-501
Unit 4: Asia: India

Reels 502-720
Unit 5: Near East

Reels 721-858
Unit 6: Americas: Islands of the Pacific, North American Indians, Mexico, Hawaiian Islands, Micronesia

Remarks. Any additional information found in the Ennis index is included in this column. Such information includes dates of marriage, maiden names, service at other stations, etc.