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The Family International Records

Identifier: MS-0560

Scope and Contents

The Family International Records document more than six decades of church and personal activity and include newspaper clippings, photos, audio and video recordings, personal papers, organizational documents, federal agency records, and related anti-cult and scholarly documents. During this time, The Family faced many controversies based on their sexual practices and accusations of abuse. The majority of this collection features “witnessing” activities through photographs, church publications such as brochures and A/V materials, as well as news, government, and academic coverage of their religious movement. This collection has some personal documents from the earlier life of founder, David Berg.

There are ten series in this collection: Historic Publications and Photos (1940-1988), Photographs (1969-1981), News Articles (1972-2001), Freedom of Information Act Files (1971-2000), Cult Awareness Network Files (1974-1997), Anti-Cult Movement Files (1979-1994), The Family International Publications (1974-2009), Academic Publications (1993-2000), Audio/Visual Files (1971-2008), and News Articles - Original and Oversized Printings (1972-2001).

Historic Publications and Photos (1940-1988): This series contains Berg Family newsletters and photos as well as early pamphlets from the Children of God and photos of fellowship with the Jesus People Army.

Photographs (1969-1981): This series is divided by location and organized by year where applicable. The photos in this series depict activities and members for The Family International over its first 20 or so years all over the world with a combination of captioned and uncaptioned photos.

News Articles (1972-2001): This series comprises hundreds of news articles about The Family International from all over the world in various languages, some with English translations.

Freedom of Information Act Files (1971-2000): This series includes records released by various American government agencies: FBI, CIA, NSA, DOJ, the State Department, and the US Information Agency, as well as correspondence with these agencies.

Cult Awareness Network Files (1974-1997): This series consists of files created by the Cult Awareness Network regarding the activities and practices of The Family International, including their opinions on the organization as well as scholarly work by Dr. Stephen Kent of the University of Alberta.

Anti-Cult Movement Files (1979-1994): This series is related to the Cult Awareness Network Files, containing documents related to an organization that is against alternative religions with controversial practices like The Family International. These documents were created by the Anti-Cult Movement regarding The Family International and include interpretations of The Family International featuring experiences of disaffected members who corroborated instances of abuse. The folders about Argentina and Chile are mostly, if not completely, in Spanish.

The Family International Publications (1974-2009): This series contains media guidance, press releases and policy statements made by The Family International as well as proselytizing brochures, all in various languages.

Academic Publications (1993-2000): This series is made up of a dissertation about sexual practices in The Family International and statements from scholars regarding The Family.

Audio/Visual Files (1971-2008): This series has CDs, DVDs, VCDs, and audio cassettes with proselytizing video, church-created documentaries, religious music, and scholarly presentations related to The Family International.

News Articles - Original and Oversized Printings (1972-2001): This series includes the original and/or oversized news articles that came as part of Series 3: Children of God/ The Family International News Articles, 1972-2001. Due to their size, folds, and age, they are separate from the photocopies in Series 3.


  • 1940-2009
  • Majority of material found in 1968-1981


Conditions Governing Access

SDSU may grant permission for selective use of photographic and audio/visual material for academic purposes only in research-based papers, studies, books, or publications. Requests for permission to use materials in this collection must be submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Historical Note

The Family International was founded in Huntington Beach, California in 1968 by David Berg. The group has gone by several names including Children of God, The Family of Love, and Teens for Christ. Berg was also know by several other names; Father David, Moses David, Mo, Grandfather, and King David. The group focused on spreading the Christian gospel through the counterculture of the 1960s and into the 1970s. Berg disagreed with mainstream Christianity and used his particular brand of Christianity to convert unchurched people, first in Southern California and eventually in many countries around the world. The first twenty or so years of the organization’s history was fraught with controversy including child sexual abuse, practices such as “flirty fishing” and “sharing,” as well as racism and anti-Semitism. After Berg’s death in 1994, his second wife Karen Zerby took over leadership of the Family. Many of those controversial positions have since been disavowed by the current church leadership. This collection includes correspondence with federal agencies, news articles, Anti-Cult documents, scholarly statements on The Family International, official statements and publications from the Family International, cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, and photographs, as well as information on related religious groups from the organization’s early years.


4.17 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I.    Historic Publications and Photos, 1940-1988

II.   Photographs, 1969-1981

III.  News Articles, 1972-2001

IV.  Freedom of Information Act Files, 1971-2000

V.   Cult Awareness Network Files, 1974-1997

VI.  Anti-Cult Movement Files, 1979-1994

VII. The Family International Publications, 1974-2009

VIII.Academic Publications, 1993-2000

IX.  Audio/Visual Files, 1971-2008

X.   News Articles Original and Oversized Printings, 1972-2001

Source of Acquisition

The Family International

Accruals and Additions


Related Materials

Peoples Temple Collection

The Family International Records
Stephanie Griswold
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US