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Delano, Jack, photographer. Sunday Mass at Saint Elizabeth's Catholic church. All the pastors here are white with the exception of Father Smith. The congregation is entirely colored. Chicago, Illinois. United States Cook County Illinois Chicago, 1942.

Researching Catholic Ancestors

April 20, 2024 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. ET
Course materials available starting April 12
Rhonda R. McClure
Melanie McComb
10% Member Discount

If you have Catholic Ancestors, there is a wealth of information available when it comes to family history research. The Catholic Church keeps meticulous records of its congregants, and there are many records documenting baptisms, marriages, and more, which can help you trace your Catholic ancestors. These records can provide a window into their lives, help to establish family connections, and they can provide clues to help you track down hard-to-find vital records and more. Join us for this 5-session online seminar, where we’ll discuss the records, repositories, and strategies for tracing your Catholic ancestors. You'll receive access to all five recorded lectures and additional course materials on April 12. Then join us for a live Q&A session with the instructors on April 20, 2:00-3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. 

This course includes:

  • Five+ hours’ worth of pre-recorded lectures
  • Exclusive access to handouts, slides, templates, and other materials
  • An in-depth Q&A session with the instructors
  • Access to all materials for the foreseeable future

Image Credit: Delano, Jack, photographer. Sunday Mass at Saint Elizabeth's Catholic church. Chicago, Illinois. United States Cook County Illinois Chicago, 1942. Mar. Photograph. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. 

Class 1: The History of Catholics in America
Presented by Rhonda R. McClure

While most of the British colonies were predominantly protestant, as the United States expanded it became more religiously diverse as well. The 19th century saw the acquisition of many states that were historically under the rule of Catholic France and Spain. From the mid-19th century onward, waves of Catholic immigrants came into America from European countries such as Ireland and Italy. In this class, we'll discuss the historical context that is essential for tracing your Catholic ancestors in America.

Class 2: Identifying the Church 
Presented by Rhonda R. McClure

In order to find records for your Catholic ancestors, it is essential to pinpoint the church that they attended. In this class, we will cover strategies for determining which church your ancestors belonged to and how to locate the church records. 

Class 3: Sacramental Records
Presented by Melanie McComb

The Catholic Church has seven sacraments that congregants may receive during their lives—Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance and Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. Sacramental records can contain a wealth of information to assist with establishing family connections, determining birth and death dates, and more. 

Class 4: Essential Records for Catholic Family History Research
Presented by Melanie McComb

In this class, we will move beyond church records and discuss less commonly thought of records for tracing your Catholic Ancestors. We'll discuss non-sacramental records such as vestry minutes, cemetery records, and burial records. We'll also cover records from fraternal organizations, charities, and newspapers

Class 5: Researching Nuns and Clergy
Presented by Melanie McComb

Many of our Catholic ancestors joined the clergy or became nuns. These “ancestors of the cloth” have their own sets of records that can provide additional insight into their lives. In this final class, we will explore these important records.

Education and Programming
Rhonda R. McClure
Immigration and Naturalization
Genealogical Software
Areas of expertise: Immigration and naturalization, late 19th and early 20th century urban research, missionaries.
Education and Programming
Melanie McComb
Eastern Canada
Areas of expertise: Irish genealogy, DNA, Atlantic Canada, Jewish genealogy, and military records.