Catholic Church records of baptisms, marriages, and burials are a rich source for genealogical information. To find your information about your ancestors in Catholic Church records, however, you need to know their parish.
During a recent research project on an Irish Catholic family located in Chicago, I found a website that helped me locate specific Catholic churches in Chicago the family may have attended.
The intent of the website is to help those researching in Chicago locate a Catholic parish. The names of the churches are listed alphabetically. The website provides the address where the church is or was located, the years of operation, geographical coordinates, the community where the church is located, and, if known, the ethnicity of the people who attended the church.
One of the best features of the website is the links to the Family History Library Catalog. By clicking on the hyperlink of a particular church, you see the Family History Library Catalog film numbers of microfilmed records of the church. You can access the films at the Family History Library or order them to a local family history center.
By using the church locator in conjunction with city directories, researchers can pinpoint the vicinity of the Catholic Church and peruse the records for their family. These records can help fill in gaps where records were destroyed in the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. I was able to locate a marriage record in 1870 for a couple in the Catholic Church, which was not available in the county records.
The web site provides three important key elements to remember when looking for a specific parish:
- Remember the years of the sacraments you are researching. Churches can be ruled out by the years they were opened. (Look at the website for those years.)
- Catholic parishioners would attend ethnic parishes. The parish they attended may not have been the closest church in proximity to their home.
- Be sure to know where your family lived. You need to know the geographical coordinates.
The Chicago Catholic parish locator website is great resource for anyone involved in research with the Catholic records of Chicago.