The records of the American Home Missionary Society contain correspondence, both incoming and outgoing, and printed matter. The collection documents the financial and administrative aspects of the Society, as well as the personal activities of and issues faced by its missionaries. Immigrant and frontier communities are also detailed within the letters and reports by missionaries.
The strength of the American Home Missionary Society records is contained within the incoming and outgoing correspondence files. The correspondence between 1816 and 1826 in any state file relates to the activities of the Young Men's Missionary Society of New York or to the United Domestic Missionary Society. This correspondence was originally part of the files of the United Domestic Missionary Society, whose operations were assumed by the American Home Missionary Society in 1826. The largest quantity of incoming correspondence consists of the letters received by the society from its missionaries. These letters contain annual and quarterly reports, information on the missionaries' relations with parishioners, finances, and other matters and problems encountered by the missionaries and their families in fulfilling their commissions. The letters vary in length and content. Many employ conventional religious phraseology; some include statistics of conversions, sermons preached, and miles traveled. Many of these letters also contain comments on and descriptions of the local residents and their social, economic, and religious conditions.
There is correspondence relating to the details of life on the frontier, and later about the work with immigrant groups and in city missions. Similar in content to the missionaries' correspondence, but generally more detailed, are the reports from the society's agents, as well as reports from the officers of the major state missionary societies that were auxiliaries to the American Home Missionary Society. These reports contain comments on particular missionaries, attitudes of local citizens toward the society, and financial matters, in addition to overall observations on the missionary field and the general social and religious conditions under which the society's missionaries carried on their work. Another type of incoming correspondence is comprised of letters about a particular missionary. This correspondence from local citizens, church elders, former associates, and other clergymen contains character references and reasons for or against the granting of aid. These letters are filed alphabetically under the last name of the missionary. The last type of incoming correspondence includes letters from individuals and organizations that do not relate to any particular missionary. They contain general requests for aid; praise, criticism, or inquiries concerning the society's operations; and notices of legacies, donations, and other contributions.
Most of the outgoing correspondence is directed to the society's missionaries, agents, and auxiliary officers. Letters to missionaries generally acknowledge renewal or cancellation of commissions, offer guidance or encouragement, comment on a particular missionary's progress, or respond to inquiries. Letters to the agents are often detailed responses to inquiries and reports sent in by these men, as well as directives for the implementation of society policy. Letters to auxiliary officers comment on the progress and problems encountered by the auxiliary groups. The outgoing correspondence also includes numerous letters to individuals not employed by the society. These letters often ask advice from prominent scholars, statesmen, and clergymen, and answer inquiries from citizens and local church groups.
Most of the administrative records of the society have been lost. What remains, although incomplete, covers all years of the society's operation with the exception of gaps between 1874 and 1875 and 1878 to 1892. Included in this series are auditors' reports, summaries of Executive Committee action, memoranda, circular letters, committee reports, expense accounts, and some incoming correspondence from society officials.