When I was quite young, not yet in my teens, my friend asked me to her house to meet her aunt, visiting from Cleveland. She was a nun. I had never thought of nuns being a part of anyone's family, nor had I ever met one. I was disappointed that she wasn't wearing a habit, she just looked like anyone else's aunt to me.
The first time a saw a religious person not at my church dressed in the trappings of his faith, was a good friend of my grandparents who was a Franciscan Friar in Montreal. My first thought was - he looked like Friar Tuck! Another time I saw a religious person outside the church, was when I was a Ranger (GGC) we had a weekend conference at a retreat. I was exploring the building and entered a room to find an old priest praying and meditating. I was a bit embarrassed to be barging in, but he was kind and invited me in to chat about what we were doing there. I was 15 and only wanted to get back to my friends to tell them what I saw. Sigh. If only we could go back and redo some moments that are lost to us forever.
My grandfathers family were Methodists and belonged to the Salvation Army in Montreal. My great grandmother was a Major, and my great-grandfather was in the Citadel Band, along with my grandfather and his brother. I didn't know anything about this until after my grandparents had died and I found this 1907 newspaper clipping of the band. My grandfather quit them when he came back from WWI. I am still searching for information on them being in the Salvation Army.
My husband's aunt was a nun with the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. I took a shot at emailing the order with what information I had (parents names and birth date) and received a reply that my request was being sent to the archivist. The sister at the archives sent me a very nice email with all the information and dates they had on Sister Thérèse Joséphine. With that info I made this Memory Card for her.
There are many publications from churches, local and global, that may contain the names of your ancestors. They not only name the religious leaders, but some give lists of the church members, donations made for building perhaps, ministers that died the previous year, etc... I have listed some of these publications below.
To look for mention of your ancestor, go to Internet Archive and search "year book church", "centenary Church", "[state] church", "[religion] church [town]" - get creative!
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in the Northwest: 1859-1909
The Grey Nuns in the Far North - 1867-1917
The English Franciscan Nuns 1619-1821 : Friars Minor of same Province 1618-1761
Catholic Record Society - Nuns of London 1914
Roman Catholic Religious Sisters and Nuns by Order
Toland's History of the Druids
Canadian Methodist Ministers
Bygone church life in Scotland
Ecclesiastical Chronicle for Scotland, with catalogue of Scottish Bishops
The English Church and it's Bishops 1700-1800 Vol 1
The English Church and it's Bishops 1700-1800 Vol 2
A Roll of Honour: Irish prelates and priests of the Last Century - 1905
The Irish Priests in the Penal Times (1660-1760)
Irish Catholic Directory 1900
Love Letters of a Priest (abt 1912) Australia
Bahai Revelation 1913
Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, in the Chinese literary language 1902
Records of Romsey abbey: the Benedictine house of nuns, (A.D. 907-1558)– 1906
Presbyterian Year Book and Almanac - Dominion of Canada and Newfoundland 1875
The Methodist Year Book - USA (several years)
Methodist Church - Clergy: A gallery of distinguished men.
Church Year Book, history and Directory of Stoney Creek (1776), Shiloh (1913), Burlington Second (1913) Presbyterian Churches, May 1933 (NC)
Year Book Trinity Church 1922, Woodbridge, NJ
Year Book St Andrew's Church, Ann Arbor, MI 1891
Year Book to the Salvation Army, Detroit, MI 1971-1972
The Church of Scotland Year Book 1885
The Official Year Book of the Church of England (a few years)
Year Book of the First Mennonite Church of Berne, Indiana (several years)
Directory and Year Book: Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church, NC 1929
Year Book, Woman's Foreign Missionary Society, Methodist Episcopal Church (1888+)
The old non-parochial registers of Dudley : comprising those of the Society of Friends, the Old Meeting House, the Independents, the Wesleyan Methodists, the Baptists, and the Methodist new connexion. 1899
An alphabetical arrangement of all the Wesleyan Methodist ministers and preachers on trail in connexion with the British and Irish Conferences; also, a list of the presidents of the Conference from 1791to 1892; and an alphabetical list of the ministers who have died in the work
St. George's Parish Church, St. Catharines, ON - jubilee celebration 1892
The Story of St. Paul's parish, Toronto - 1922
Saint John Methodism and history of Centenary Methodist Church St. John, NB 1890
The American Church Almanac and Year Book 1911
The Lutheran almanac for the year of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ 1870
The Canadian Catholic directory and ecclesiastical register 1904
Ireland - Catholic Directory, almanac and registry for 1853
Catholic Order of Foresters - Montreal Souvenir Book 1892
Protestant Episcopal almanac and church directory - US 1875
Year Book and Membership, First Presbyterian Church Plymouth,PA 1907
West Grove Monthly Meeting (Wayne Co., Ind) Membership 1843
Genesis of Churches in the United States, Newfoundland, and Canada - 1907
Canadian Congregational Church 1910-11 - names of contributors and also graduates of the congregational college.
List of Deacons Ordained in the Protestant Episcopal Church 1785-1857
The 23rd Annual Report of the Newfoundland Church Society 1864
1st report of the Wesleyan Home Mission and Contingent Fund, South Australia 1867