Analyze This … — 9 Comments

  1. To find records in a Catholic Diocese you need first to determine where the family lived at the time of the birth. Usually up until about the 1940’s, each ethnic group had their own church with Mass celebrated in their native language. You will need to look for a parish that will fit.

    Then, look at the parish foundation dates in area you have chosen and if the records have not been destroyed (flood, fire or just disappeared) you can narrow down the search and hopefully find what church they attended.

  2. Thanks Tonia! It’s pretty much the only way I’ll remember to ask these questions 🙂

    Claudia – that’s where I’m running into a catch-22. I was hoping the diocese would have all the records so I could narrow down where to look, but instead I have to figure out where they lived first. It’s quite frustrating.

  3. Jenny, here are some ideas. My initial response was similar to Claudia’s in that if you knew where they were, you could then use the information at to find churches in the area (once on the site, click Browse, then choose Browse by “Collection,” then choose “Roman Catholic Churches”). Be prepared, there are a LOT and they are plotted on a map. BUT, even if you don’t know WHERE they were, you can still eliminate a huge amount of churches, especially because of your time period. You can narrow it down in two ways:

    1. Use the tool I just talked about and look at each church individually for their establishment date. Churches established after your 1860ish date would obviously not be the right place to look.

    2. Number 1 will help to narrow the churches, but the better route is too look at the Chicago City Directories for the time period. This will not only show you the churches that were there at the time, but may also indicate what type of church is was, such as German, Irish, etc. This way is a lot quicker since you can pick a year and have the choices narrowed, and then determine which of those is the most likely based on ethnicity. City directories for Chicago are on Fold3. I’ve downloaded a copy of the listing for 1864 that should get you started. If you want it, email me genblogjulie (at)

  4. Thanks for the tips Julie! Unfortunately, I don’t even know where in Illinois they lived, and it turns out Louis Burke/Bourke/Burk isn’t as uncommon as I once thought. If I discover that they indeed lived in Chicago, I’ll definitely be putting your tips to work for me! Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *