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Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 237

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 237

The Genealogy Gems Podcast is the leading genealogy and family history show. Launched in 2007, the show is hosted by genealogy author, keynote presenter, and video producer Lisa Louise Cooke. The podcast can be found in all major podcasting directories, or download the exclusive Genealogy Gems Podcast app to listen to all the episodes and receive bonus content. 

Podcast host: Lisa Louise Cooke
January 2020
Download the episode mp3

We are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Genealogy Gems app. We blazed a new trail back in 2010 when we launched the app – apps were still really new back then.  I loved the idea of having a way to deliver exclusive bonus content to you as well as the audio, the show notes and best of all an easy way for you to contact me and the show.

genealogy gems podcast app 10th anniversary

It’s more popular than ever, and as far as I know we are still the only genealogy podcast app available. If you haven’t already downloaded it just search for Genealogy Gems in Google Play or Apple’s App Store, or get the right app for your phone or tablet here.

In this episode I have two interviews for you on very different subjects. First up will be a follow up to last month’s episode where we focused specifically on the New York Public Library Photographers’ Identities Catalog.

Well, in this episode we’re going to talk to the genealogy reference librarian at the New York Public Library, Andy McCarthy. And as you’ll hear, there are a massive amount of resource available there for genealogists everywhere.

Then we’ll switch gears to Scandinavian genealogy with David Fryxell, author of the new book The Family Tree Scandinavian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Ancestors in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

The free podcast is sponsored by RootsMagic

Rootsmagic

GEM: The New York Public Library’s Milstein Division of United States

History, Local History & Genealogy with Reference Librarian Andy McCarthy.

The NYPL is one of the largest public genealogical collections in the country. They have a “wide-angle” approach to providing reference materials for local and US History.

The Top Resources at The New York Public Library

#1 The reference librarians.

Email them at history@nypl.org Ask questions, prepare for your visit.

#2 The online catalog:

Click here to visit the New York Public Library’s Online Catalog.

While they subscribe to many genealogy databases, they don’t host many. Use the catalog to determine what’s available, and what to ask for. See if what you’re looking for exists. Pay close attention to subject headings to identify resources.

#3 The Digital Collections

Click here to visit the Digital Collections at the New York Public Library. 

  • City Directory Collection up to 1933.
  • Manhattan is the largest and is coming soon. This collection was only available previously on microfilm. It is a browse-only collection (not keyword searchable)
  • The 1940 Phone Directory is online.
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Map collection is digitized and online.
  • The Map Wharper which is a crowd-sourcing project providing for historic map overlays, and super zooming in views. 

Offline Materials: 

They also have a massive collection available in house of books, pamphlets, newspapers, etc. There are research and photo copying services available.

#4 Research Guides online

Click here to view the New York Public Library’s research guides. 

Before you go:

  • Definitely reach out before you go.
  • Provide them with specific questions and they can help you identify what to focus on while you’re there.
  • Visit the Milstein home page. They also have many public classes. Check to see what will be available during your visit.

One of Andy’s Favorites Collections

The Photographic Views of NYC Collection. Arranged by cross streets

The free podcast is sponsored by MyHeritage

MyHeritage

GEM: Scandinavian Research with Author David Fryxell

David Fryxell’s book on Scandinavian Genealogy

David A. Fryxell is the author of the book The Family Tree Scandinavian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Ancestors in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

David is an award-winning author, editor, speaker and publishing consultant. He founded Family Tree Magazine, the nation’s leading genealogy publication. As a writing expert, he wrote the Nonfiction column for Writer’s Digest magazine for more than a decade and served as director of the famous Maui Writer’s Retreat. He has authored countless articles for Family Tree Magazine, and is also the author of additional books including Good Old Days, My Ass and MicroHistory: Ideas and inventions that made the modern world.

David Fryxell Scandinavian Genealogy Author

Author David Fryxell

Here’s a brief outline of my Q&A with David Fryxell on his new book and Scandinavian genealogy research:

Question:

To understand the ties between the Scandinavian countries, and why countries like Finland and Iceland aren’t included, we have to learn about the cultures and languages, right?

Answer:

Scandinavian countries are really tied by language. And at one point all the countries were united. Borders change. The records reflect these various changes.

Question:

What’s the timeline of Scandinavian immigration?

Answer:

The First Wave, 1825–1860

The Second Wave, 1865–1880

The Third Wave, 1880–1924

Question:

What value do you think DNA testing provides, and what should we keep in mind if we do test?

Answer:

DNA results are most helpful to find other relatives who may be able to assist in your research.

Question:

Let’s say we know we’ve identified the ancestor who immigrated. What else do we need to know before we can jump the pond and start digging into Scandinavian records?

Answer:

In the case of Scandinavian ancestors, you may not have to find the U.S. passenger records. They have excellent passenger departure records.

Question:

Tell us about the census in Scandinavia. Is it consistent among all three countries?

Answer:

Norway and Denmark have good census records. You can find them at:

They are increasingly searchable, and much like our census records in the U.S.

Sweden doesn’t really have useful census records. But they have Household Inventory records in church books. They were recorded every year. Turn to websites such as ArchivDigital, and Ancestry.com.

Question:

Let’s dig into the records. Where do you recommend we start?

Answer:

Church records are key. (Vital Records, census, vaccination, etc.) Also Military, Land and Tax.

Question:

I love that chapter 16 is called What to do when you get stuck! Give us an example of a common area where researchers get stuck and one of your favorite strategies for unsticking them.

Answer:

  • Get familiar with and pay close attention to patronymic naming conventions where a man’s name is typically based on the given name of their father.
  • Look closely!
  • Challenge your assumptions!

More Resources from David Fryxell: https://vikinggenealogy.com

Protect Your Precious Genealogy Data

Don’t wait another day. Get the computer backup that I use www.backblaze.com/Lisa.

Backblaze lisa louise cooke

Profile America: First Radio Broadcast

Monday, January 13th. Today is the anniversary of the first radio broadcast to the public. It took place 110 years ago in New York City, engineered by Lee deForest, a radio pioneer and inventor of the electron tube.

Lee de Forest First Radio Broadcast

The 1910 broadcast wasn’t made from a purpose-built radio studio, but from the Metropolitan Opera house. DeForest broadcast the voices of Enrico Caruso and other opera singers. A small but impressed audience throughout the city gathered around special receivers to listen with headphones.

Today, 95 percent of American households have at least one radio.

One-hundred ten years after deForest’s lonely effort, some 5,400 radio stations employ about 92,000 people.

Sources:

Courtesy of Census.gov.

MyHeritage LIVE conference

I’ll be speaking at this conference in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 25 & 26, 2020. Read more here.

RootsTech 2020

I’ll be presenting 4 sessions and look forward to visiting with you at the Genealogy Gems booth at the front of the exhibit hall. Get all the details here.

Read our latest articles at Genealogy Gems:

 

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Download the Show Notes PDF

New Genealogy Records and Updates

New Genealogy Records and Updates

Here are the important system and records updates from industry leaders. Each new feature and record offers a new opportunity to learn more about your family history. Let’s get started!

 

new genealogy records and updates

MyHeritage Updates

MyHeritage announced an update their Related Records features on December 16, 2019. Here’s the latest from their blog:

“We recently revamped Related Records in SuperSearch™ to ensure that you don’t miss any important historical records that can lead you to new discoveries.

Related Records, previously known as Record Detective™, shows additional records or family tree profiles that might belong to the person or people featured in the historical record you are currently viewing.

The technology scans the record you’ve discovered in SuperSearch™ and matches it to our entire database of over 10.2 billion historical records and family tree profiles to locate related records.

For example, a birth record could point to a newspaper article about the wedding of the same person, where you could learn about new family members that you weren’t aware of.

To make Related Records more practical and ensure that you won’t miss them, we now show them in a convenient panel on the right-hand side of the record instead of below it.

Related Records are generated by MyHeritage’s record-to-record matching technology, and we’ve just re-calculated these matches, adding hundreds of millions of additional Related Records. This will open the door to many new and exciting discoveries.”

MyHeritage Records

MyHeritage has also been busy adding new records:

Germany, War Graves Index, 1902-1961

An index of 4,234,266 records

“This index of over 4.2 million records containing information on German soldiers and civilians who died in wars or military operations between 1902 and 1961.

 Many of the records are for soldiers killed during World War I or World War II. While the amount of information in each record varies, the vast majority of records contain the following searchable data: first and last name, date of birth, date of death, and place of death. Some records also include birth place, burial place, and military rank.

The burial place is seldom recorded, but when available it can provide valuable information about the location of the grave.

While this is largely an early 20th-century military death index, many women are present in this collection.

In the case of soldiers who went missing, the date of death field may refer to the date on which they went missing. Similarly, the place of death may refer to the place from which they went missing.”

Australia, Military Lists and Awards

An index of Australian military rolls.
960,081 records

United States, Index of Burials, 1900-2019

An index of records from various cemeteries located in the United States.
492,002 records

Australia, Index of Burials, 1900-2019

An index of records from various cemeteries located in Australia.
438,587 records

England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Index of Will Registers, 1384-1858

An index of wills proved before the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and other jurisdictions.
979,653 records

United Kingdom, Royal Navy Ratings’ Service Records, 1853-1928

An index of Royal Navy service records for ratings who entered the service between 1853 and 1928.
803,684 records

United Kingdom, Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Royal Navy Reserve Ratings’ Records of Service, 1908-1958

An index of service record cards of Royal Naval Reserves, mainly those who served during the First World War.
129,896 records

United Kingdom, Royal Air Force Officers’ Index, 1918-1919

An index of service records of those who served in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the First World War (1914–1918).
101,411 records

United Kingdom, Royal Marines’ Service Records, 1842-1925

An index of service registers of men who joined the Royal Marines between 1842 and 1925.
112,012 records

United Kingdom, Index of Merchant Seamen’s Campaign Medals, 1939-1945

An index of 108,387 records

United Kingdom, Index of Merchant Seamen’s Campaign Medals, 1914-1918

An index of recipients of British War Medals, Mercantile Marine Medals, and Silver War Badges issued to merchant seamen and officers in the First World War.
157,424 records

United Kingdom, Recommendations for Military Honours and Awards, 1935-1990

An index of recommendations for military honors and awards between 1935 and 1990 to British Army personnel and army personnel from British dominions.
78,497 records

United Kingdom, Royal Navy Officers’ Service Records, 1756-1931

An index of service records for officers who joined the Royal Navy between 1756 and 1931.
66,686 records

United Kingdom, Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Index, 1903-1922

An index of First World War service records for officers and ratings of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR).
59,784 records

United Kingdom, Index of Death Duty Registers, 1796-1811

An index of 51,146 records

United Kingdom, Admiralty and War Office: Royal Naval Division: Records of Service, 1914-1919

An index of service records of ratings and officers in the Royal Naval Division (RND) during the First World War.
50,017 records

Click here to search for these records at MyHeritage.

 

FamilySearch Records

FamilySearch has also continued to add indexed records. Most are to existing collections, but some are new collections. Here’s what they announced on December 9, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT—New, free, historical records were added to FamilySearch.org  from American Samoa, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, England, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Venezuela and the United States. Over 800,000 records were added from the Cape Province of Africa (1895-1972.)

American Samoa 

American Samoa, Vital Records, 1850-1972  
3,550 indexed records 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Brazil

Brazil, Santa Catarina, Civil Registration, 1850-1999  
8,512 indexed records 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Chile

Chile, Catholic Church Records, 1710-1928  
7,707 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Colombia 

Colombia, Bogotá, Burial Permits, 1960-1991  
79,631 indexed records 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Croatia

Croatia, Delnice Deanery Catholic Church Books, 1725-1926   
2,870 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Costa Rica

Costa Rica, Civil Registration, 1823-1975     
151,856 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

England

England, Herefordshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1583-1898  
599 indexed records 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

England, Huntingdonshire Parish Registers  
52,367 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

England, Oxfordshire Parish Registers 1538-1904
51,159 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

England, Yorkshire Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1613-1887 
2,587 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

England, Cambridge Parish Registers, 1538-1983      
468,063 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

France

France, Vienne, Military Draft Cards, 1867-1921
3,633 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Ireland 

Ireland, James Alexander Henderson, The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory for 1856  
37,363 indexed records 
New indexed records collection

Ireland, Thom’s Irish Almanac & Official Directory 1868 
103,355 indexed records    
New indexed records collection

Northern Ireland, Tithe Applotment Books, 1822-1837
175,575 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Ireland and Britain, Transatlantic Migration from North America, 1858-1870
42,695 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Ireland, Thom’s Official Directory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 1894, Irish Section
121,181 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Ireland, Thom’s Official Directory, 1910
131,734 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Italy 

Italy, Trieste, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1924-1944
100 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Netherlands

Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records, 1600-2000
101,765 indexed records (over several weeks)
Added indexed records to an existing collection

New Zealand      

New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Probate Records, 1843-1998
637 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru

Peru, Amazonas, Civil Registration, 1935-1999
26,959 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru, Ayacucho, Civil Registration, 1903-1999
1,394 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru, Huánuco, Civil Registration, 1889-1997
23,227 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru, Prelature of Yauyos-Cañete-Huarochirí, Catholic Church Records, 1665-2018
1,494 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru, Tacna, Civil Registration, 1850-1998
193,495 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, Civil Registration, 1805-2001
714 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

South Africa

South Africa, Cape Province, Civil Deaths, 1895-1972
818,292 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States

Alabama

Alabama, Confederate Pension Applications, ca. 1880-1930’s
168,372 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Alabama, County Birth Registers, 1881-1930 
8,206 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Arkansas

Arkansas Confederate Pensions, 1901-1929  
96,713 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

California, San Francisco Arrivals

United States, California, List of United States Citizens Arriving at San Francisco, 1930-1949
434,995 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Georgia

Georgia, Chatham, Savannah, Laurel Grove Cemetery Record Keeper’s Book (colored), 1852-1942      
24,094 indexed records   
New indexed records collection

Georgia, Columbus, Linwood and Porterdale Colored Cemeteries, Interment Records, 1866-2000       
28,946 indexed records  
New indexed records collection

Georgia, County Delayed Birth and Death Records, 1870-1960           
202 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Hawaii

Hawaii, Board of Health, Marriage Record Indexes, 1909-1989     
85,716 indexed records          
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Hawaii, Hansen’s Disease Records, Kalaupapa Census Index, 1839-1970                                 
2,336 indexed records    
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Louisiana

Louisiana, New Orleans, Interment Registers, 1836-1972   
133,660 indexed records         
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Louisiana, Orleans Parish, Birth Records, 1819-1906         
85,840 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Louisiana, New Orleans Index to Passenger Lists, 1853-1952         
151,894 indexed records
New indexed records collection

South Carolina

South Carolina, Charleston County, Charleston, Birth Registers, 1901-1926     
14,132 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Tennessee

Tennessee, Davidson County, Nashville City Cemetery Records, 1843-1962  
18,187 indexed records           
New indexed records collection

Tennessee, Shelby County, Memphis, Board of Health Death Records, 1848-1913  
1,121 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Texas

Texas, Harrison County Delayed Birth Records, 1860-1933          
23 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

U.S. Obituaries

United States, GenealogyBank Historical Newspaper Obituaries, 1815-2011     
8,829,622 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Venezuela           

Venezuela, Catholic Church Records, 1577-1995  
109,788 indexed records             
Added indexed records to an existing collection

FamilySearch Update

Also recently announced by FamilySearch:

FamilySearch Adds Ability to Document All Family Relationships 
SALT LAKE CITY, UT (10 December 2019)

“The FamilySearch Family Tree now provides the ability for users to document all family relationships, including same-sex relationships.”

(FamilySearch) “encourages genealogical accuracy based on original source records and contains over a billion user-contributed lineage-linked records. Patrons are now able to document same-sex relationships, including same-sex marriages and same-sex adoptions.”

“When adding a spouse or parent to the FamilySearch Family Tree, the user can now add a spouse or parent of the same sex.  The Family Tree mobile app will also support this new capacity after users install the necessary updates.”

Official Statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

Ancestry Record Updates

Here are the latest new and updated historical genealogy records from Ancestry:

Updated:
Australia and New Zealand, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

Updated:
U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current

Updated:
Brazil, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

New:
New York State, Card Index to Supreme Court and Court of Chancery Documents, 1648-1848

New:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marriages, 1838-1911

New:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Births, 1839-1911

New:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Deaths, 1854-1911

Updated:
Norway, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

Updated:
Sweden, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

Updated:
Italy, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

Updated:
Germany, Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current 

Updated:
Mexico, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

Best Strategies: How to Find Church Marriage Records

Best Strategies: How to Find Church Marriage Records

Finding church marriage records may not be as easy as finding civil marriage records. I’ve invited genealogist Sunny Morton to share her best strategies for finding U.S. church marriage records from her new book How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist’s Guide.

Strategies for Finding U.S. Church Marriage Records

Marriage records are part of that genealogy trinity of U.S. vital records. In addition to documenting the wedding, marriage records may also serve up the equivalent of genealogical party favors, such as the birth dates, birthplaces and sometimes even parents’ names of the bride and groom.


Civil or government records are generally the first ones we turn to in the United States. These types of records are commonly referred to as “vital records,” since they document important events in a person’s life like birth, marriage, and death.

Civil marriage records can be fairly easy to find and access. However, that’s not always the case. There may be times you can’t obtain a civil marriage record. If you do find it, it may not include all the information you were hoping for. And sometimes you’d just like to find more corroborating evidence or additional clues about their lives. That’s when it’s a good idea to turn to church marriage records.

Best Strategies for finding church marriage records

Though not all of our U.S. ancestors were married in a church or by a member of the clergy, many of them were, so church marriage records may exist.

In general, finding U.S. church records is a two-step process:
1. identify the right church
2. then find its records.

However, this may actually involve a few additional steps.

I’m going to share with you the steps and strategies of this process from my new book How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist’s Guide. Along the way we’ll see how they apply to a real genealogy case that resulted in success.

Step 1: Identify the Church of Your Ancestor

Identifying the church in which an ancestor married is key to locating any surviving record of it.

Let me give you the first and most important tip: the answer may be sitting under your nose.

What do I mean by that? Start by looking carefully back through other records you already have about the bride or groom. These types of records include obituaries, oral histories, county histories, tombstones, etc. Do they mention a church affiliation?

Church Clues in other genealogical records

Example for Lisa’s family history

Even if they don’t mention a church, perhaps one of these records can give you a clue.

For example, let’s say the husband’s obituary mentions his lifelong religious affiliation, like Methodist or Catholic or Baptist, but not the name of the local congregation. My book offers several detailed strategies for tracking down the church name, but here’s one of the most helpful: Look at city directories, histories or maps from that time period to identify nearby churches of that denomination. Keep in mind that before the age of the automobile, people couldn’t travel far to attend church.

Let’s say you find both Irish and German Catholic parishes in the area. Based on what you already know about your family, with which did they likely affiliate?

If you’ve got the civil marriage record, look at the name of the officiator. Do you see a title hinting that this was a minister, such as “Rev” (short for Reverend)? (As an FYI, the initials “J.P.” stand for Justice of the Peace, a civil office.)

Occasionally you may even see the denomination written right in the record, as it is in the Colorado civil marriage record of Mike Fox and Mary Eiarrman:

How to find church records: Colorado civil marriage record

Colorado civil marriage record of Mike Fox and Mary Eiarrman

Most marriage certificates don’t state a minister’s affiliation but searching with Google may be able to help you with that.

For example, the Indiana marriage certificate for another ancestral couple of mine identifies the officiator as “S.B. Falkenberg, Minister.” Googling that name, along with the keywords church and Indiana, led me to online books that identified him as a Methodist.

Additional digging revealed that “Somers B. Falkenburg”—probably the same guy—was specifically assigned to the Rushville Circuit of the Southeast Indiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1860. This was around the time and place I’m looking for that 1861 marriage record. (Learn to do this kind of digging yourself from my book. See Chapter 14 Methodist.)

Step 2: Find Where the Church Records are Located

Once you’ve identified the church, it’s time to search for congregational records that may document the marriage.

Your strategy may vary, depending on the denomination, the time and the place. Again, my book can help you: there’s a chapter with general strategies for finding church records and there are specific chapters on various denominations. Here are some get-started strategies.

Googling the Church

Find out whether the church still exists by googling the church name and location or using the online congregational locator tools I mention in the various denominational chapters.

If the church still exists, you’ll likely find a website, Facebook page, or other contact information. Reach out to their office and ask about their old records.

If you can’t find the church online, it may have closed, merged with another church, or been renamed.

Contact the Church Organization

You might turn to regional church offices or archives, such as those of a Catholic diocese or Methodist conference, to see whether they can tell you anything about that church or its records.

Methodist Conference c. 1904

Each denomination has a different organizational structure. (See the 12 different denominational chapters in Part 2 of my book.)

An Example Search

How to find church records: civil marriage records search

Searching for church directories

Remember that 1889 civil marriage record for Mike Fox and Mary Eiarrman I showed you previously? Let’s take a look at the process I used to find their church marriage record.

Since the civil marriage record told me that the officiator Godfrey Raeber was a Catholic priest, I turned to the annual Catholic Directory for that year to see what parish (local congregation) he was assigned to.

I googled catholic directory 1889 and found that year’s edition online at HathiTrust Digital Archive.

Keyword-searching within the directory for Raeber didn’t bring up any results, but I didn’t stop there. I paged through it until I found the listing for the diocese of Denver (it is now an Archdiocese).

I found the priest listed at St. Ann’s, but his surname was spelled a little differently, which is why I couldn’t find him with that keyword search:

How to find church records for genealogy

Immediately, I googled St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Denver, Colorado. Nothing came up. So, I googled Denver Catholic diocese archive and found the archdiocesan archivist’s contact information. I called him and asked what he could tell me about St. Ann’s parish and its records. The parish had closed, he said, and he had the records right there. What did I need?

Hooray! I mailed him a check and emailed him the specifics of my request. He sent me back a copy of Mike and Mary’s entry line in the marriage register:

In case you can’t read it easily, the entry references their marriage on the 28th (the month and year, in preceding columns, are “ditto-marked” the same as the entry above it, which I can’t see, but I have the date already from the civil marriage record). Then Mike Fox’s name appears, age 23, “1” for his first marriage, Denver residence, son of Martin & Francis, born in Germany.

How to find church records for genealogy

How to find church records for genealogy - marriage entry

Similar information appears for Mary, the bride, though her surname is mostly illegible. These details (age, parents’ names, birthplace) were what I hoped to learn when I originally ordered the civil marriage record—but it’s not there. Only by taking the extra steps to find the church marriage record did I uncover these additional details.

I’m still looking for a Methodist record of that marriage recorded by S.B. Falkenberg. I’m guessing his was a traveling assignment covering many small towns, which means his own personal log book may have been the only place he would have created a record, if indeed he did. The records of itinerant ministers are not easy to find.

The Search for Church Marriage Records Can Lead to More Gems

It’s true that you won’t always find church records of ancestors’ marriages or other life events such as births, baptisms, deaths or burials.

Sometimes the records weren’t created; for example, Baptists didn’t generally record marriages, as they weren’t considered a religious rite.

Or perhaps membership records have been destroyed or lost.

Occasionally, you’ll track down the records only to find they aren’t accessible to researchers. That’s sometimes true for Catholic sacramental records, which are confidential—though many church or archive offices will release copies or transcriptions of older records.

How to find U.S. church records

But while following the process for church records, you may discover other gems that can add color to your family history stories.

For example, when I was looking for Catholic parish records in Olyphant, Pennsylvania, I found a short history of the church. It described the devotion of its earliest members, who raised the funds to erect their building and even helped dig its foundations. Though I can’t prove it, I have reason to believe this family was part of that devoted group.

Other times, you may find photos, directories, reminiscences or other records that give you a glimpse of your ancestors’ church community life.

A Genealogist’s Guide to Finding Church Records

While the 2-step process for finding church marriage records is straight-forward, each case requires unique resources. In How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist’s Guide which I wrote with Harold Henderson, CG lays out a plethora of specific resources for the major Christian denominations in the U.S. before 1900:

church records book cover• Amish,
• Anglican,
• Baptist,
• Congregational,
• Dutch Reformed,
• Latter-day Saint,
• Lutheran,
• Mennonite,
• Methodist,
• Quaker,
• Presbyterian,
• Roman Catholic,
• and various German churches.

More than 30 archivists, historians, and genealogical experts in specific faith traditions have contributed their knowledge to the book.
Church records won’t always be your genealogical salvation, but every so often—hallelujah!—they will prove to be your saving grace.

About the Author

Sunny Morton (along with Harold A. Henderson, CG) is the author of the books How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records: A Genealogist’s Guide, and My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories. She is also a contributing editor to Family Tree Magazine.

(Disclosure: Genealogy Gems is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Thank you for supporting articles like these by using our link.)

 

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