Church Record Sunday: The Roberts Family Migration and West Fork Baptist Church, Ripley County, Indiana

Indian County Map, current day, Wikipedia, public domain.

Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

Finding that some of our Roberts ancestors were buried in Westfork Baptist Church Cemetery in Ripley County, Indiana, of course a next step would be to learn about the church and seek a list of members, hoping that our family would be included. Church records can be great sources for women, as women were sometimes the first of a family to join a church- or sometimes the only one of the family, but she would usually take the children to church with her. (Of course, one of a woman’s most important duties then was to be a ‘moral compass’ for her family, especially her children.)

Still a small congregation like most rural churches (especially as farms get bigger , more mechanized, and less people actually live on them, the population in rural areas is in decline), there is a Facebook page for Westfork Baptist Church but no webpage.

An old Baptist history book does provide us a bit of background on the church.

“In the year 1826, the West Fork Baptist Church, Ripley Co., Ind., was constituted, and eleven members of this church, (Indian Kentucky,) was granted letters to form that church… These churches are laboring to sustain the cause of Christ in their midst and to show forth the declarative glory of God among the children of men.”

The Indian Kentucky Church was formed in 1814 originally, near Canaan, Jefferson County, Indiana. Records from this church are on microfilm and have been digitized at the Family History Library; unfortunately they can only be viewed at one of the LDS Church Libraries or affiliates. (Adding to To-Do list…) These records include minutes of the church meetings as well as membership lists

The above article does not include any names from the earliest times of the church that are familiar, however having the name “Indian-Kentucky” hints that some (all?) of the members were from Kentucky originally. The history of Indiana does support migration from Kentucky to the other side of the Ohio River in Indiana.

[Note: Subsequent research has shown that Indian-Kentuck Creek is in Jefferson County, Indiana, and has a West Fork as well as an East Fork- might this instead be the origin of the name? Must remember we can’t assume anything… also, county boundaries changed over the years between Jefferson, Switzerland, and Ripley.]

When the Roberts family migrated to Ripley County is unknown. The youngest child of Edward and Rosy (Stewart) Roberts, Mary Ann (Roberts) PRATHER, was born in Kentucky on 28 Jan 1817, so the family’s migration likely was after that date. We still have not sorted out information about their oldest daughter Elizabeth Roberts, but the second oldest child was Sarah Roberts and she married 6 Jul 1826 in Ripley County, Indiana, to William MILES.

The fact that William Roberts, the oldest child of John S. Roberts (son of Edward and Rosy) and Jane SAYLOR Roberts, was born 01 Feb 1827 in Madison, Jefferson County, Indiana, adds to the evidence of the family being in the county by 1827.

Additionally, court records prove that John S. Roberts was given guardianship of his 3 youngest siblings after the death of his father Edward (sometime between 20 Dec 1826 when his will was written and 1830 when it was probated in Ripley County). Thus all this information strongly suggests that the Robertses could have been founding or very early members of Westfork Baptist Church.

So we don’t even have the church records to review yet, but just this small amount of research provides many clues and reinforces what we think we know about the family:

  1. They lived in Kentucky then migrated to southeastern Indiana.
  2. The family’s migration was likely between 1817 and 1826-7.
  3. The family followed the Baptist religion, since they were buried in the local Baptist Church cemetery. (Most religions only allow members to be buried in their cemetery.)


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. “History of the Indian Kentucky Baptist Church,” 1870, originally from Madison Baptist Association Minutes, 1870, posted at
  2. Old membership roll & minutes, 1931-1945, 1818-1852, 1862-1914 (Indian-Kentucky Baptist Church (Canaan, Indiana))- information for researching–,_1931-1945,_1818-1852,_1862-1914_(Indian-Kentucky_Baptist_Church_(Canaan,_Indiana))
  3. “Indiana Counties and Townships” by Clyde F. Snider, Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp119-152, 1937.


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