Saturday, January 13, 2018

Now Indexing: Illinois Church Records

It's the start of a new year, and I just realized I fell off the genealogical record indexing resolution bandwagon last month. I guess I was just having too much fun in December to remember my promises to myself.

Now, I'm back on track to start the year afresh. For a change of paceand, to be honest, I was looking for something I could race through with only half a brain engagedI decided to switch tracks. Instead of working on naturalization paperwork in the New York home of my paternal roots as I have for the past few months, I headed west to Chicago to see if I could provide a boost to research on my father-in-law's ancestors.

Of course, that brought on a steep learning curve. It seemed like there were pages and pages of instruction to read before I could even get started. And while clerks hired in the 1800s to work in government positions generally could be expected to display some semblance of neat handwriting, I haven't been able to say the same for clerics in the religious world. This, I found out, was bound to come back and slap me out of the running, just when I thought I was on a roll.

Lesson number one in this month's installment of indexing education: church records that qualify for indexing include births and baptisms, marriages, and deaths or burials. Not confirmations. Nor church business meetings.

So what do I encounter on my first page up? Confirmation records. Question: "Should this image be indexed?" Answer: "No." Boom! That wiped out an entire record, and the automatic confetti started falling from the top of my computer screen. Easy peasy. I felt so good about that one, I sprung for a repeat.

The next record set was for marriages. Despite the format asking for all sorts of details genealogists would love to get their hands onnames of parents for both bride and groom, not to mention even the city in which the ceremony was to take placedo you think the record provided any information so I could fill in those blanks? No. And so it repeated, times twelve, until I was able to submit that batch in record time, as well.

Figuring I was really on a roll now, perhaps I got a bit too cocky. I went for a third batch. That was my mistake. Bringing up a page of chicken scratch that looked vaguely like German, not Englishremember, this was in Illinois, the kind of good, flat farm country a German immigrant could pay good money forI took one look at the prospect in front of me and chickened out. Perhaps I had, after all, bitten off more than I could chew. Or at least process on FamilySearch's handy web-based indexing system.

Perhaps another time.

In the meanwhile, at least I'm back in the groove, reintroducing myself to the useful habit of regularly giving back to the genealogy community which has, for so many years, been so helpful to me in all my early attempts to discover my family's stories through the documents holding their names.

Above: "Winter Getaway," oil on canvas by Norwegian artist Axel Ender (1853 - 1920); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Thanks for the reminder I missed December too:( I think I will stay away from Church records:)

    1. To be fair, those church records aren't always handwriting disasters, Far Side...although I've put in my fair share of time deciphering some pretty impossible priestly scrawls.


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