Digital archives

ArchiveGrid is a beta-system from OCLC research. We contributed our finding aids, in the form of Descriptive Inventories (DI) and Control Forms (CF). Researchers can access these documents to see what we have in our archives. It should be noted, ArchiveGrid does not include the DI/CF for every collection in the BHLA.

Brethren Digital Archives is an on-going project from several Brethren groups tracing their roots back to Alexander Mack. The Brethren Digital Archives is in the process of digitizing Brethren periodicals for inclusion on, where the documents will be available to read online, search, and download in a variety of forms.

Directions for using the BHLA Digital Archives

  1. You can access the BHLA Digital archives on this page: ArchivesGrid provides access to the BHLA Descriptive Inventories (DI) and Control Forms (CF); the second link appears as “digitizing Brethren Periodicals for inclusion on” As you can guess, it leads you to our collection of online periodicals (back issues of the Gospel Messenger, Messenger, Brethren at Work, Primitive Christian, and various Brethren almanacs).
  2. If you were to click on the link to access ArchivesGrid, a new tab will appear and reveal a list view of all the DI/CF’s that we have listed. You can either type your subject directly into the search bar or explore our DI/CF’s topically (however this will also include other archives). To do this, direct your attention to the “Summary view” tab to the left next to “list view.” You should then be looking at six boxes with various archives, places, people, or topics for every archives that has chosen to digitize their DIs using this website.
  3. If you are more interested in searching the online Gospel Messenger articles in hopes of finding an ancestor’s obituary from 1926—for example—then you would click the link labeled “digitizing Brethren Periodicals for inclusion on” as mentioned before. This will lead you to the Brethren Digital Archives, containing all the online databases of Brethren organizations. Since you are interested in the Gospel Messenger, you should go to the BHLA tab. You will then see many black covers that signify the bound volumes of the Messenger. Using our example, to search for the 1926 issues, you can type “1926” in the “search this collection” bar to the left of the page and it will bring up each online publication for that year. Once you select the issue, it will lead you to an overview page with options for download and information on the publishing. You now have two options:
    1. Click through each page slowly and read the articles at your own leisure
    2. Find the magnifying glass icon on the top right corner of the page, just under the search bar. If you hover over it, the words “search inside” should appear. Now that you’re inside of the magazine, you can adjust the layout by choosing your preference of viewing one page, two pages, or 15 pages at a time. You can also use the minus and plus sign magnifying glass icons at the top to zoom in and out, because chances are you will give yourself eye strain trying to read the words at 8-point font. However, the most helpful tool for finding an obituary or event or any subject—is to type the name into the “search inside this book” bar near the zoom icons at the top of the page. It may take a few moments, but the website will flag every mention of that name in the bound volume for that year.

    If you have any more questions about accessing the digital archives or questions about Brethren life in general, don’t hesitate to contact the BHLA at or call 847-429-4369 x368 or 369