Friday, November 1, 2013

Thankful for Baptismal Records

When faced with researching a name as common as John Brown, online indices seem to be a God-send, especially when they zero in on exactly the right man. After all, there are a lot of John Browns out there.

But when the records we’re seeking don’t happen to be available online, there goes the handy search engine, too.

When it came to seeking birth records for John Brown’s son Frederick, I found the tried and true route used by genealogists for decades—those old microfilm records—to be the answer to my quest.

Fortunately—and this isn’t always the case—the baptismal records for the Catholic Church in Cass County, Indiana, were indeed available on microfilm. If you remember, John and Emma Carle Brown were residents of Logansport, and we had already located their marriage license there.

Scrolling through microfilm #1578977 at my local Family History Center was the same as checking records in any microfilm: slow-going, tedious work. If you’ve ever found yourself taking that route, you know what I mean. You can be sure I carefully recorded “Part Six” of the location where I found Frederick’s baptismal information in the documents from Saint Joseph Catholic Church and all the details of that document as I transcribed them here:
baptised February 20, 1898: Fred William Brown, born January 29, 1898, parents John Brown and Emma Carl, witnesses Wm. Bri... and Maud Carl, by Rev. Kohne.

Of course, with the certificate darkened by age and the handwriting not consistently clear, I missed a key element of one “witness” name—that of William Bri…—but I captured as much of the record as I could.

In addition to an exact date of birth obtained from this document, I did glean several helpful bits of data. First, I confirmed the mother’s maiden name—albeit, admittedly, without the “e” for Carle—and the possibility that it was Emma’s sister who was also named in the document. I also noticed that, despite being listed as Frederick in the 1900 census, Emma’s son was actually baptized simply as Fred. Then, too, I had his middle name to add to the record. While I can’t quite decipher that “witness” William B’s name, it is possible that it might also have been Brown, thus providing a hint for a possible brother’s name for John.

Just as copies of source documents—such as this microfilm of the baptismal records for Saint Joseph’s Church—help locate information as yet unavailable in online resources, historic newspapers provide a lens with which to zoom in on the details of the ancestors we are researching.

Keeping in mind that, within two years of young Fred’s birth, he lost his father, my next hope was to see if I could find any hints for what became of the man he never quite got to call “Dad.” For this step, my goal was to find two resources: death certificate information, and any narrative in the small town newspapers being published at that time in tiny Logansport.

If, that is, any of those newspapers were available in online resources.


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