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Archdiocese archives now doing genealogy research

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The Chancery Archives of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati have resumed participating in genealogical research. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)

The Chancery Archives of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati contains items and documents of historical significance to the entire region, but it also contains critical information for those researching their family’s past.

For the first time since 2012, when the archives were closed for renovation and moving, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is participating in genealogical research. The cost is $25, payable via Paypal or check. For that fee, a person can request up to four specific sacramental records and an hour worth of research. Records after 1930 are restricted.

Starting with a quiet launch in August, the archdiocese has been able to provide this valuable service thanks in large part to the Hamilton Country Genealogical Society (HCGS). Sarah Patterson, archivist for the archdiocese, is the only staff member at the archive. To assist in genealogical research, HCGS provides 10-12 volunteers. Those volunteers conduct the research, and will mail a copy of what is found to the person requesting. In-person research at the archives is not available.

Kenny Burck, president of HCGS, said most volunteers thus far have been members of the organizations board or various committees.

“We have a pretty strong group of dedicated people who are coming down,” Burck said. “It has been working out really well for everybody.”

When it comes to researching a family’s genealogy, government records can only go so far, making the archdiocese’s archives a valuable repository of records.

“We have microfiche backup copies of every sacramental register, whether the church is open or closed we have those copies,” Patterson said. “So we are able to look at the records and make copies for people.”

The first standardized certificates for recording vital events (births, deaths) in the United States were established around 1900. In Ohio, some counties had reporting earlier but obligatory birth reporting wasn’t instituted until 1908.

“A lot of the records that we have are things that don’t exist in civil records,” Patterson said. “The state didn’t start requiring birth certificates until the early 20th century, but we have baptismal records going back to the 1840s. We supply what the state has not done…. Sometimes the Catholic church record is all we have.”

Patterson said the archives currently receive about 30-40 requests per month for genealogical records. The $25 fee helps to offset the cost of a new scanner purchased in the spring, as well as other efforts to preserve the history of the archdiocese.

Not all dioceses assist in genealogical research. The Archdioceses of Indianapolis and New York, for example, refer researchers to individual parishes. Among those that do assist, a comparable fee is generally charged per hour.

To learn more or to request sacramental records for genealogical research from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati archive, CLICK HERE. The archives can also be contacted by mail at: Archdiocese of Cincinnati Archives, 100 E. 8th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.


This story first appeared in the December 2015 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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