Friday, January 17, 2014

Church Records

I don't write much about church records, so here is a post about my use of church records- specifically Catholic church records.

A lot of my Irish Catholic lines moved to Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey in the 1800s.  The church records have been microfilmed and can be ordered through your local Family History Center.  I didn't get to it yet.  I figure I'll need a long sabbatical from my day job to chase all those Irish lines.  I was also hoping that the film would appear as images online so I could view them without leaving home.  In the meantime, you can access some of the information at home through the online New Jersey collection: Births and Christenings, 1660-1980, which is transcribed versions of some of the information you would find if you viewed the actual church record.

I was looking for information on an Irish line and found that the online collection of the Hudson County Genealogical and Historical Society has greatly expanded.  Brian Patrick Molloy has transcribed some of the records for the parish of St. Mary, Star of the Sea, in Bayonne.

I browsed all of the transcribed records and was delighted to see the baptismal entry for my great grandfather, Francis "Frank" O'Donnell.  I already have Frank's 1888 state-issued birth certificate, as well as his 1911 marriage return to Anna Preston.  Anna died in 1921.  I was told that Frank may have remarried.  There are a few ways of looking for a remarriage, but a (transcribed) church record is how I found this remarriage.

Look at the entry for Francis O'Donnell in the New Jersey Collection at

Another researcher has helped me tremendously with German lines by sending me copies of actual church records.  Look at the example below of the information that you can find in the record of baptism.

The baptismal record can contain date of birth, date of baptism, names of parents, addresses.  But wait- there is more!  The sponsors are listed and they are usually related to at least one of the parties.  But that is not all!  The baptismal record can be updated with matrimony records!  Yes- you may find out the name of the spouse and the date of marriage.

As I mentioned, I did not look at the actual church record for Frank O'Donnell.  I viewed the online transcription.

The sponsors are listed!  Rose Kenny was a sister of Patrick O'Donnell and paternal aunt of Frank, the baby being baptized.  The first marriage to Anna Preston is listed, which I had already.  As a bonus, I get a lead on the possible second marriage.  "Sp?" indicated that the transcribed spelling may not be accurate, but that's okay- this is a transcription designed to lead to a closer record.  1940 is the final year of marriage records available at the New Jersey State Archives for me to walk in and copy.  Looking under the Letter O for the groom, which is how New Jersey organized marriage records in this time period, I found the marriage record for Frank O'Donnell to Mary Gertrude Farnan, widow of James Paradine.

Remember that indexes and transcriptions lead you to records and are not sources in their own right (unless there is a remarkable discrepancy, but that's for another post).