useful in genealogy research including member’s sacramental records, minutes from church meetings, and pew reservations. For this blog, I will focus on the use of church records regarding the seven sacraments of the Church. Those sacraments are Baptism, the Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. Let’s examine each and their usefulness in genealogy research.
Baptism –the sacrament of Baptism is administered at a very early age in the Catholic Church, usually within six months after birth. Often, knowing the baptismal date can narrow the
researcher’s efforts in attempting to retrieve birth dates and birth locations. They are especially useful in Irish genealogy research where civil records were rarely kept. The baptismal records usually contain the following: the date of the baptism, the full name of the baptized, the date of birth, the names of the mother and father, the names of the God-parents, and the name of the priest performing the baptism. You can see why baptismal records can be a great resource for genealogist. The date can often narrow the search for birth records; the full name can be very useful since some people are known by their middle name, but civil records are in their first name; the date of birth can lead directly to civil records; the names of parents can lead to a generation the researcher has not yet discovered; the God-parent’s names can lead to uncles and aunts the researcher had not yet discovered. Baptismal records have aided my research efforts significantly and I would highly recommend you use them in your research.
Reconciliation– the sacrament of Reconciliation is administered to Catholics at about the age of 7 or 8. In my research, I have found records of this sacrament spotty at best. Some priest do
record the dates and names of reconciliation recipients, but this data has limited use in genealogy research other than indicating the approximate age of the recipient.
Eucharist –the sacrament of the Eucharist or First Holy Communions is usually administered shortly after Reconciliation at about age 7 or 8. Like Reconciliation records, First Holy Communion records have limited value to the genealogy researcher. These records can provide the approximate age of the recipient, but that is about it.
Confirmation– Catholics are confirmed about the ages 12-14 and most churches keep these records in a register. The records contain the date of the confirmation, name, including the Confirmation names chosen by the confirmed, parents names, and sponsors. These records can be useful for researchers when birth dates and names of parents are in question. The records also can identify family and friends close to the person being confirmed. Ironically, I learned that my great-grand father Horn chose his future father in-law to be his sponsor at his Confirmation and my great-grand mother chose her future mother in-law to be her sponsor.
Marriage –marriage records are considered vital records and can include lots of information about the married couple. Usually the date of the marriage, the names of the married couple, the parent’s names, names of the best man and maid of honor, and the name of the priest
performing the sacrament. If you are having difficulty finding marriage records, take a close look at the baptismal records. Often the priest recorded information about the marriage by placing a notation on the baptismal records.
Holy Orders –if there was a priest in your family, most dioceses have very good records regarding the dates priest’s received the sacrament as well as the parishes in which he served.
Anointing of the sick – also known as last rites or extreme unction, these records usually provide the date of death, the names of parents and spouses, and often the date of birth, and the name of the priest administering the sacrament.
A few tips: 1) these records are almost always in Latin so get Google translate ready; 2) vital records include civil birth, marriage, and death records so Catholic Church records are very
useful in genealogy and often provide those key dates; 3) you may have to do some digging as some churches maintain the records locally and some are housed at the diocese that serves the parish. The bottom line is these records are very useful in genealogy research so do not overlook them!