Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 27 - Religion - What the Records Reveal


In researching my family tree, I have used lots of church records.  Other than census records church records are probably the records I have used the most since they are so full of information and clues.  Each country’s records have some differences but there are lots of commonalities.  All record name of the child, names of parents (including mother’s maiden name) , and god-parents.  The god-parents or sponsors can be an important clue to other family members.

Catholic Church records show that Johan Jacob Burbach was christened in St Antonius Church, in Oberselters , Hessen, Germany,  in 1732.  For well over a century, Burbach family members were baptized, married, and buried from St Antonius. 

Lutheran Church records show immunizations as well as sacraments received.  Confirmation was required before marriage would be allowed.  When families remained  stationary it was easy to track back through the years.  In Scandanavia, permission from the church was required before a person could move to another location.  Such moves were recorded in church records just as entry into a village was recorded.  Norwegian Lutheran christening records also listed the birthplace of the parents.  That’s how I located the birthplace of Martin Hansen, my great-great-grandfather.  In Norway legitimacy was indicated by the order of the parents names listed in the record.  Mother first, father second indicated an illegitimate birth.  Other countries just had columns that were checked to indicate legitimate or illegitimate.

Swedish Lutheran record sets included an annual household inventory or listing of everyone in the family.  In the event that someone had moved, they recorded where they moved to and when.  These inventories included name,  birthday, sex, marital status, and relationship to the head of the house.  Using the household inventory ( Husförhörslängder) helped me to find the brothers and sisters of Karolina Nielsson.

Hungarian church records are very similar to the German church records and are written in a mix of Hungarian and Latin.  The records for the part of Hungary that Augustinus Gulyban came from date back to 1777.  They are very complete with both birth and christening dates, parents names and where they lived in addition to godparents.

Irish church records are notoriously scarce and pretty much do not exist before the 1860s.  Another issue is that even if the birthplace is known it is difficult to be sure that the parish is in the same county.  I recent learned that the records that may be of use are in Tipperary not in County Limerick or County Cork as expected.

Catholic Church records in the United States are similar to the ones from European countries in that they are a combination of the native language of the country and Latin.  They also reflect the changing customs.  Confirmation is received at different ages, notes may be added to the record.  Often the marriage place and date are added to the baptism record or a death may be indicated by a cross marked next to a name with a date included.  In fact a note on my grandparents wedding record  makes me wonder how they had a Nuptial Mass in a Catholic Church in 1907 when Adolph was a Lutheran.  I have found no record of conversion and at that time the Catholic Church did not allow such marriages.  I haven’t looked for a conversion and maybe I should since Adolph was also a god-father in 1908 and was buried in a Catholic cemetery in 1946 both just not done in the years in which they happened.

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