Case Study: Historic Christ Church and Burial Ground in Philadelphia, PA
Christ Church and Burial Ground, located in the Old City section of Philadelphia, is a National Historic Landmark site with a rich 312-year history. Known as “The Nation’s Church” because of the famous Revolution-era leaders who worshiped there, Christ Church was founded in 1695. The original church structure was a small brick and wooden configuration that fit into its Quaker-dominated surroundings in the late 1600s. The current church was started in 1727, and has long been considered one of the finest Georgian structures in America. The steeple, financed by a lottery organized by Benjamin Franklin, was the tallest structure in the colonies for 56 years. This beautiful building continues to support an active, modern-day Episcopal parish and congregation, including a full worship schedule with related services and activities. Neighborhood House, also known as the Christ Church Annex, is another historic building in the complex that houses offices and provides meeting spaces for community groups as well as serving as a cultural venue.
From the brief background given above, it may be apparent that the complex (including the Church, Neighborhood House, and the Burial Ground) is simultaneously an important historic site as well as the home of a modern day living Church. There are several distinct audiences that needed to be served by the new website:
- Historians, Tourists, School Groups, and Teachers.
- Tour Registration and Support.
- Parish and Congregation.
- Community Groups.
- Christ Church Preservation Trust. (A non-profit organization created in 1965 to ensure the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of historic Christ Church, Neighborhood House, and the Christ Church Burial Ground).
Formerly, there were two websites maintained, one for the “Historic” Church and one for the “Modern” Church. The sites were very different looking and also required duplication of some information in both places. They created confusion for the various discreet audiences, and therefore would sometimes not provide the “correct” audience specific information. Neither site was easy to update or maintain. Philosophically, members of the Preservation Trust and the Parish do not see the Church as divided between the historic and modern, but rather as having a continuing and rich, living history. NetReach designers brought all the various aspects of the Church together under one website. The home page essentially gives the visitor three main choices: Explore Our History, Worship With Us, or Plan Your Visit. After making a selection, the site’s interior pages use a simple tab structure to allow audience members to navigate primarily in one section while simultaneously having easy access to all sections of the site. As a dynamic living entity, the Church complex and its many communities generate a lot of news and events; these are sectioned and easily accessible from the homepage. cmScribe makes updating and maintaining the site extremely simple. It’s flexible permissioning system allows the different areas to be assigned to and maintained by the appropriate editor(s).
Christ Church’s rich heritage is well documented by an extensive collection of artifacts as well as archival and library materials. Of particular interest to genealogists are the parish registers which list baptisms, marriages, and funerals. These were indexed in 1930 as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, enabling the Church to find records of past parishioners. Many of these listings were entered into an Access database. NetReach customized cmScribe to allow staff members to upload the Access database, enable it to be searched, and display records to allow users to find past church members via the web. Information currently available includes:
- Baptisms: 1708-1843.
- Marriages: 1708-1768.
For the genealogy search, NetReach developed the following:
- An upload function accessed through the new website that transferred the General Register Access database exported in .csv format to an SQL Database table.
- A keyword search that will examine specific database fields (outlined below).
- A Search Results page that will list the results that will be linked to a Genealogy detail page.
- A Genealogy detail page that will display the full database record for the search result.
The upload function is tied to the exact fields as they currently exist in the General Register Access Database. These fields are:
Type of Event.
Day of Event.
Month of Event.
Year of Event.
Day of Birth.
Month of Birth.
Year of Birth.
Minister Bride First Name.
Bride Last Name.
Bridegroom First Name.
Bridegroom Last Name.
Burial records are not yet listed, but 5 “free blank” records fields will accommodate this functionality in the future, when funding permits.
For more information about Christ Church or other Netreach projects, please contact us at 215-283-2300.