Boston Catholic Archdiocese to Digitize Thousands of Genealogical Documents

Digitizing the records showing the Catholic Church’s evolution can also help some families trace their ancestry back to their European roots.

Hundreds and thousands of Roman Catholic Church documents are going in for digitization under the directives of the Archdiocese of Boston. These documents of the seven sacraments to be digitized and indexed are from 1789 to 1900. This can give people a clue about family history and genealogy. The Archdiocese is pairing up with the New England Historic Genealogical Society to carry out this project.

Boston Catholic Archdiocese to Digitize Thousands of Genealogical Documents[/tweetthis]

Until the 19th century, Catholics were severely suppressed and ill-treated in America, which was largely a Puritan-Protestant Nation. Seen as Papists, and largely from Irish communities, these early Catholics in America were viewed with suspicion and distaste. Catholic priests were rare, and the Catholics in America didn’t have an organized Church to go to for their spiritual needs. It was at this time that highly detailed records began to be carefully maintained by the few priests in the nation, such as Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus.

These documents give a deep insight into how the Catholic Church evolved with time. Besides, it’s an excellent source for genealogical information. The books are now in a bad condition, and some simply fall apart due to growing brittle with age. Digitizing these books can enable people to still have access to this information, and for the Diocese to preserve its highly valuable records.

According to archivist and records manager of the Archdiocese, Thomas Lester, the parish records were the most referenced of books in the archives. However, when he saw the damage that was being done to the books – some so old that they simply crumbled – he realized that it was about time something had to be done to prevent the loss of information. He adds that although restoration would have been a good idea, there was not enough time to do so. He feels the books need to be at least scanned so that further loss of information could be prevented.

For now, the records of only four churches are available online, the Mother church, Our Lady of Victories, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and the now-closed Holy Trinity (also known as the German Church) are iconic and have a lot of importance to the Archdiocese.

Jean Maguire of the genealogical society believes digitizing all the records will make it easier for people to trace their ancestry and their homelands in Europe.


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