Sunday, March 28, 2010

Church Record Sunday: Records of Immigrants

I'm re-reading Lou Dennis Szucs' book They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins. One of the ways Lou recommends finding immigration information is through church records. She points out that when someone came to America they would have found some comfort in attending a religious congregation that mirrored the one back home, i.e., spoke the same language, others in the membership also were immigrants, etc.

Her advice continues about using church records, "Whenever possible, study immigrant church registers; patterns sometimes emerge that will identify the foreign emigration point for an entire group. For example, while looking for an immigrant in Catholic church records in a small Indiana town, a genealogist searched baptism and marriage entries in several ledgers.  The native towns for many of those receiving the sacraments were noted in the church registers, as were the native towns of the witnesses and sponsors. (Szucs, Loretto Dennis. They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1998. Page 61),

What struck me as I was reading this is that you need to "think outside of the box" when it comes to records.  You may have in your mind that you need to look at church records for vital statistical information like birth, marriage and death-but they may offer you much more than that.  That's why it's so important to seek out many different kinds of records and see what they may say about your family and their community.  Look for patterns, not just what the document appears to say.  Look for other records that document your ancestor's collateral kin, friends and neighbors.

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