Roman Catholic Churches have traditionally kept extensive records about their members. These
records are particularly useful when civil records are unavailable. If you're researching Roman Catholic ancestors, here are some of the major records you should be looking for:
These are usually kept at the local church and contain records of sacraments such as baptism and marriage. Baptismal records generally include the date of baptism, the child's full name, the parents' names (along with the mother's maiden name), and the godparents' names. Marriage records include the marriage date and the names of the bride and groom (with the bride's maiden name). Marriage records may also include the parents' names (and mothers' maiden names), and information about residences and occupations. Marriages often occurred in bride's parish so look for marriage records there.
Deaths, Burials, and Cemetery Records
Some parishes kept records of deaths and burials. Especially look for death records in the church had its own cemetery. These records contain the date of death, date of burial, and sometimes the place of birth.
Marriage Banns, Dispensations, and Validations
Banns were announcements made in the parishes of a bride and groom three consecutive Sundays before a wedding was to take place. They only state an intention to marry and not that the marriage actually took place. Banns were used to help uncover any information about the why the couple may be ineligible to be married. A dispensation would be needed if an individual was not catholic or was a recent convert, or if the couple were closely related by blood or marriage, or if the bride was pregnant. Dispensation or validations of a marriage can be found at the diocese or sometimes at the church.
Status of the Souls or status animarum
Some churches created parish family books which include marriage, birth and death dates as well as migration information for family members.
Church and local histories, anniversary booklets, catholic newspapers and organization meeting minutes may all include information about your family.
Religious Order Records
If you have an ancestor who joined a religious order, there may be records of your ancestor and the family at the order's headquarters.
You can find Roman Catholic Church records at the local parish or the diocese. FamilySearch also has a large digital collection available for browsing online as well as many church records on microfilm.
Catholic Church records for Chicago from 1833-1925 are available online. You can browse this collection by parish and date.