3 Strategies for Finding Catholic Church Records
Look for ancestors’ parents in Catholic church records. Here’s a success story and 3 tips for finding Catholic parish records you need in the U.S.
Not too long ago, Lisa shared these 6 suggestions for finding an ancestor’s parents. Kathie V. wrote back to Lisa almost immediately: “Here is a 7th way to find parents. I found my grandparents’ church marriage record, in which it listed their parents by name & WHERE THEY WERE BORN!”
Kathie went on to say that the Catholic records were from St. Stanislaus parish in Buffalo, NY. Though Kathie grew up in that area, she’s since moved around the world, and has found it difficult and expensive to research family from back home. Finding the church records was tough, she says: she started by writing to every Catholic parish in Buffalo, “with varying results.”
Eventually Kathie found this this church marriage record on a film ordered from the Family History Library many years ago. (Click here to learn more about using Family History Library resources wherever you are.) It’s for her grandparents, Stanislawa Zdrojewska and Konstantyn Schultz, shown in the beautiful wedding photo here that Kathie sent us. The record is tough to read but it shows several columns packed with the names, dates and locations she most wanted to find.
Once Kathie located the right church, she was able to get much more than just this marriage record. She found baptismal records in another book. “I also was able to get burial information on some few relatives by writing the parish, which has its own cemetery.”
3 Tips for Finding Catholic Parish Records in the U.S.
(You may also be able to use these tips to find Catholic parish records in other countries.)
1. Start with existing parishes. Catholic parishes generally keep their own sacramental records. Use this Parish Locator link to locate existing parishes near your ancestor’s home (enter a ZIP code). Contact the parish and ask how old it is, whether it has its own records and whether they can send you copies.
2. Contact Catholic archives regarding closed parishes. If a parish closes, its records are supposed to be sent to a diocesan or archdiocesan archive. Click here to find a directory of diocesan and archdiocesan offices and contact their archivist. Ask what now-closed parishes existed in that neighborhood and time and whether they have the sacramental records.
3. Look for ethnic and national parishes. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, Catholics from many countries had come to the U.S.: Irish, Italian, Polish and others. Many desperately wanted to worship and socialize in their own language at church. As a result, Catholic parishes began to be organized based on language or national origin. Look for a parish in your ancestor’s town with the right ethnic background or contact a diocesan archivist to see whether there were any.
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