Course #1: Catholic Records

Instructor: Margaret R. Fortier, CG
Dates offered: March 23, 30, April 6 and 13
Time: 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm ET/1:00 pm to 4:00 pm PT
Cost: $300

At the completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Summarize the history and context of Catholic records
  • Describe why Catholic records were created
  • Identify the breadth of Catholic records, beyond sacramental records
  • Interpret genealogical clues from a variety of Catholic records
  • Locate Catholic records online and offline

The case studies will provide students with practice in the various types of Catholic records. Students will use their intermediate-to-advanced research skills in identifying, locating, interpreting, and analyzing these records to uncover all the clues they provide. These exercises will expand knowledge of Catholic records and increase the ability to effectively leverage their unique value in research.

Skill Based Requirements:
Ability to use FamilySearch and other sites to locate unindexed records
Ability to use tools and resources to aid in translating foreign language records

Required subscriptions and course materials:
An account at FamilySearch
Access to Ancestry
Access to FindMyPast
Findlen, George L. “Resolving Duplicate Catholic Parish Registers,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 100 (December 2012): 267-278.
___________. “The 1917 Code of Canon Law: A Resource for Understanding Catholic Church Registers,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 93 (June 2005): 126-147.

Optional subscriptions:

  • American Ancestors (most, but not all, Archdiocese of Boston records are available on Ancestry)

Course Outline

Note: All of the following topics will be covered, but the order is subject to change. There is a pre-assignment.

Session 1:

  • Introduction
  • History, jurisdictions, Code of Canon Law
  • in-class exercise
  • Baptism
  • Case study assignment #1

Session 2:

  • Review and discussion of Case Study #1
  • Matrimony
  • Other sacraments
  • Tools for reading and understanding the records
  • in-class exercise
  • Presentation of Case Study #2

Session 3:

  • Review and discussion of Case Study #2
  • Related sacramental records
  • in-class exercise
  • Institutional records
  • Society/fraternal organizations
  • Religious orders
  • Presentation of Case Study #3

Session 4:

  • Review and discussion of Case Study #3
  • Directories, parish/diocesan histories, newspapers
  • Special topics: Catholic records of indigenous and Black American populations
  • In-class exercise
  • Catholic record access with guest lecturer: Director, Archives & Library at the RC Archdiocese of Boston