Genealogy Research in American Catholic Diocese
A Case Study
1st – most immigrants were religious. So why wouldn’t they remain faithful even when they’ve left their homeland? Or at least marry in the church of their homeland? Or bless a baby there? It’s most likely they did. I never really considered my great grandparents a religious family, so it never dawned on me to search here in America in the Catholic Diocese for my family. But after a failed attempt at finding my ancestors in Slovenia, I realized that the Catholic Church was the predominant religion of my great grandparents and it was worth a shot to look here in America too!
2nd – location location location! In order to even begin looking in the American Diocese records, you must know where your family lived. Not just the state, but the parish they belonged to. You have several options available to you for locating your family; census records and old marriage licenses from the state. For my great grandparents who were lost! Yep, only 3 generations away and we couldn’t find immigrant records, census records, etc. But we happened to know they were married in Wisconsin. My great aunt, their daughter, found a state marriage record several years ago. But the names of their parents on the records didn’t make sense. As I looked at the record, one day it dawned on me to look and see who married them. Even though it was a state record, at the bottom, it said Mark Pakiz. That sounded Slovene. Where I knew my great grandparents immigrated from. So I did a google search on the minister and low and behold there was information on him on the world wide web! I read how he started a Slovenian Catholic church in West Allis, Wisconsin. I didn’t have to know my great grandparent’s exact address, because I knew they would attend the church in their native language. But if your family was English speaking, then you’d need the town, and then a list of all parishes within that area. Then try to limit down the number of parishes by streets and blocks closest to your family’s home. Only would language barriers or parishes filled with people from the same country, would a person travel away from their home to attend church. If you’re lucky like me, you might find the minister’s name on the bottom of a state record and find the exact parish too!
3rd – how to find the correct diocese for your parish. After you figure out the town your ancestors are from, and have made a educated guess on 1 or 2 parishes they could have attended, you’ll then need to search for the diocese that holds the records to that parish/church that your ancestors attended.
Here are some lists on the internet to help you find the diocese you might need in America:
These dioceses are arranged geographically. But watch the boundaries. Most records are kept in the all-encompassing diocese. But there are a few locations, where those records are still kept at the individual parishes. It is rare that a parish still has its records at that church. But in Sweetwater Wyoming, they do! Making sure you don’t waste precious energy, make a few phone calls or send an email to help dial this information down, to know where you must look and who you must ask to do the research in the archives of your family’s records. Most of the parishes and dioceses have wonderful people who are so helpful and great to work with!
4th – each diocese is run different, you may have to fill out paper work, or make a phone call, or in some fabulous instances they will take your requests via an on-line service (the Wisconsin diocese has a great program for this avenue).
Here is a list of some information you will need to give the dioceses in order for them to begin their search:
Family names, with all the variations of spellings. I had about 5 different spellings for my great grandpa and 8 for my great grandma – the reason the names on the state marriage license didn’t make sense – the Slovenian language does not work phonetically with the English language.
The name of the parish you think they might have attended and the reasons why. For me I mentioned; they were Slovenian, the town they were married in according to a state record, and the minister who married them, along with the name of the church.
You need to decide ahead of time what records you’d like to look for. Birth, Marriage or Death. Each record contains different information that might be helpful to finding more family. Some diocese allow you to look for more than one record at a time. I choose the marriage record and the birth record of the oldest daughter, hoping they still lived there when she was born. What did I discover… In the marriage record; a) The correct spelling of both grandparents last names. b) The names of their parents and c) the town they were born in in Slovenia. Now guess what I discovered in the birth record of my great aunt Elsie? That my great grandfather did not grow up James in Slovenia. In fact, his name was Ignacius Skubitz! Haha. I’d change my name too! It was a surprise miracle! I would have never found him. I would never have discovered where he first lived when he came to America or when he arrived in America. What a break thru!
Next; The date of the event you are searching for. Because of the state marriage license, I had a date. If you are not sure of an exact date, you can give a general idea of the year you suspect they were married, born, died, etc, and depending on the diocese, they will search, 1 year before and 1 year after.
The more information you can send to the diocese, the better chances you have of finding the correct information.
5th – Last, if all went correctly, they will find your missing family and information that you’ll need to continue your research. They will then mail you or send via email, a photocopy/scan of the record they located.
Now that I had the information I needed, I went back to Slovenia! Here I am finding my Great Grandmother and her family!!
I hope this has helped you come a little closer to finding your ancestors!
Forever Family Trees, LLC TM
Happy All Things Family History!
P.S. Remember some information is better than none. It gets us a tad closer to discovering whose “Shoulder’s we Stand upon”.