The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world. Despite the popular perception that it has few adherents in Britain, or was not that important in American settlement, it was always a significant component (up to 25%) of the population. It also has some of the oldest and best preserved genealogical records ever created, which have been maintained over centuries. But they have not been easy to use, until now.
The Catholic Church has long protected the privacy of its records. Their registers memorialise sacraments like baptism and marriage which are important religious events in a person's life. As a consequence every Priest in every Parish has a canonical duty to preserve these registers and keep them safe. To make matters more difficult, the registers are generally written in Latin, so even when you can get to see them they are difficult to understand.
Findmypast has launched a ground breaking initiative to digitize the historic records of the Catholic Church. Last year we published the Irish records, and this year we commence publishing all the historic sacramental registers for England, Scotland and the USA. It's a big task, make no mistake! There are over 30 million records just for the Archdioceses of Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore, our first three US Dioceses. There even more for all of Britain. There are hundreds of millions of records for the USA alone.
These records have mostly not been accessible before online or even offline. We have developed a close collaboration with the Catholic Church that will see the creation of a Catholic Heritage Archive online. These records will be exclusively available on Findmypast. In many cases we will be publishing the images for free, allowing all users (not just subscribers) to look at the registers. They are an exceptionally rich resource that are essential for family historians.
The sorts of records you are likely to find include:
- Deaths & Burials
- Census and more
We are commencing this project with the Registers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the USA and the Archdioceses of Birmingham and Westminster in England. The Philadelphia records start back in 1757, while those for Westminster and Birmingham in 1657.