Many years ago , the sacramental registers of Roman Catholic (RC) parishes in the RC Archdiocese of Chicago were microfilmed for preservation purposes by the LDS (Mormon) church. The records through 1915 were initially available on microfilm reels for viewing at LDS Family History Centers for purposes of family tree research. Those records have now been digitized and are available for (free) online viewing at the LDS website FamilySearch.org. The digitized records available online now include, for some parishes, registers through the end of 1925. FamilySearch.org refers to this set of records as: "Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925." Index and images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org.
In the early twentieth century, there was a large number of European immigrants living in Chicago. At that time a very large number of the RC parishes in Chicago had a "national" (ethnic) identity (e.g., Belgian, Bohemian, Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovak, Slovenian). From the point of view of tracing one's ancestors, the parish registers of these ethnic churches can be valuable because the priests who made entries in the baptism, marriage and death registers were more likely to enter an immigrant's "pre-Americanized" surname even if the immigrant was using an Americanized surname outside of the ethnic community.
If your immigrant Lithuanian ancestor was in one of these parishes, these records, especially the marriage records, might be of significant help in finding the link to your immigrant Lithuanian ancestor's birth family in Lithuania.
- Marriage Records:
- Baptism Records:
- Death Records:
Of course, these records are also sources of "family tree" information about births, marriages and deaths in the US family of your immigrant Lithuanian ancestor and his/ her US relatives. Other sacramental registers, such as for confirmation and first communion, might be of interest to family members but are unlikely to be of help in finding the link to your ancestor's birth family in Lithuania.
For purposes of this LithuanianGenealogy.us website, I have focused here on only those Chicago parishes that had an ethnic Lithuanian identity. If your Lithuanian ancestor was a member of a non-Lithuanian (e.g., Polish, Latvian) parish in Chicago, you can still use much of the information here to help find the information about your ancestor.
The pre-1926 online registers of the ethnic Lithuanian Roman Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago can be viewed online at the FamilySearch.org website. (You must join (for free) to gain access to the records.) They are listed there under the following parish names (click on a parish name below to go to my web page about that parish, including a specific link to the records of that parish at FamilySearch.org):
All marriage, baptism and death registers through 1925 are available unless otherwise noted above after the name of the parish. There are some indexes within the registers that go (well) beyond 1925.
Although Nativity BVM RC church (68th and Washtenaw) was also a Lithuanian church, it was not opened until 1927 and so does not appear on the above list.
The pre-1926 registers of Chicago Roman Catholic parishes are in Latin, but most of them are not that difficult to read once you become accustomed to the patterns. In general, the registers were fairly standardized, and were on pre-printed forms that often contained many of the Latin words in pre-printed form, so that it is usually only necessary to read the handwritten portion of the register entry to find the information that is unique to your ancestor.
With respect to reading the Latin entries, in my opinion the best overall source for this purpose is the Latin volume (Reference 3) of the "In Their Words" documents by Shea and Hoffman. I have also included here [or plan to include] transcriptions and translations of example register entries along with the descriptions of the registers of the individual Chicago Lithuanian RC parishes. [Such examples are currently included for All Saints Parish.]
With respect to given names, these are almost always entered in Latin for the principal persons (bride, groom, parents of bride and groom, baptized child, parents of baptized child, deceased person, parents of deceased person) in the entry, and usually entered in Latin for the supporting persons (marriage witnesses, baptism godparents) in the entry. In translating the record, the given name must be converted to the equivalent non-Latin given name that the person was actually using at the time. (The lists of equivalent names in any of the "In Their Words" volumes (References 1, 2, 3) can be used for this purpose. There are also ways of looking up many names on the internet.) In my opinion, because these are records of an ethnic Lithuanian parish where the person was most likely known by his/ her Lithuanian name, it would be proper to convert the name to the Lithuanian equivalent unless it were known that the person was not a Lithuanian.
With respect to surnames, they were entered in the vernacular rather than in Latin, so no translation is needed.
With respect to place names used in individual entries, they were typically entered in English rather than in Latin, so no translation is usually needed. One exception is that the names of the parish and of the Roman Catholic cemetery were typically written in Latin, but the same translation of parish name applies to all entries of that same parish, and almost all Chicago Lithuanians of that era were buried at St. Casimir (Lithuanian) Roman Catholic Cemetery.
With respect to dates used in individual entries, the year and the day of the month were typically written in numeric form, so no translation is necessary. The names of the months, although in Latin, are close enough to their English counterparts that there is usually no need to consult an English-Latin dictionary. One exception, and potential source of confusion, is that a priest might use some type of numeric abbreviation for the name of the month; in such cases you have to examine his entries more closely to determine if he is using the numbers or Roman numerals to substitute for Latin names of numbers (i.e., "7ber" → "September"; "Xber" → "December") vs. the number of the month within the calendar year.
The baptism, marriage, and death records might contain or provide a significant clue to the "Pre-Americanized" surname [original Lithuanian surname, including original Lithuanian maiden name] of your immigrant Lithuanian ancestor. Even if your ancestor was using an "Americanized" surname everywhere else, the Lithuanian priests often recorded the "Pre-Americanized" name in the parish register. However, different priests had different idiosyncrasies about how to spell Lithuanian surnames in the Latin records of a US church and so the same name could be (mis)spelled differently by different priests. As years passed, many of the priests were more likely to enter the "Americanized" name into the record, but in the earlier years (first 10-25 years after the ancestor's immigration) they were likely to enter the Lithuanian name.
The entries in marriage registers of U.S. RC parishes typically contain the following information:
names of the bride and groom.
ages and places of residence of the bride and groom.
places of birth of the bride and groom (sometimes).
names of parents of bride and groom
places of birth of the parents of bride and groom (but typical entry is "Lithuania").
names of the two (or sometimes more) principal witnesses
Names of Parents of Ancestor. In general, the marriage registers were on pre-printed forms that were fairly standardized; all of them asked for the names of the parents of the bride and groom. The typical entry for the father's name is limited to the given name; the groom's father's surname is assumed to be the same as the surname of the groom; the bride's father's surname is assumed to be derivable from the bride's maiden name. (Refer to the description on this website About Forms of Lithuanian Surnames.) The typical entry for the mother's surname is the mother's maiden name; however, sometimes the surname is not entered. Some of the marriage registers also asked for the birth places of the parents; I have never seen an entry that gave a specific birthplace within Lithuania.
Ancestor's Home Town or Birth Village. In general, the marriage registers were on pre-printed forms that were fairly standardized; almost all asked where the bride and groom were from, and some asked where the bride and groom were born. For those that asked where they were from, most priests would typically enter the name of a local neighborhood where the bride/ groom was residing just prior to the marriage, and sometimes they would instead enter a general location such as "Lithuania". Some priests, however, would enter the name of the home town or village in Lithuania (although not specifically stated as such, that would typically equate to being the "baptism town" or "birth village"). Similarly, for those registers that asked where the bride and groom were born, most priests would typically enter a general location such as "Lithuania", but some priests would enter the name of the birth village or its nearest town (which would be the "baptism town").
For the marriage registers of Chicago Lithuanian Roman Catholic parishes available online, the following typically have entries that provide specific locations in Lithuania:
The entries in baptism registers of U.S. RC parishes typically contain the following information:
given name of baptized child.
date and place of birth of baptized child.
date and place of baptism of baptized child.
given name and surname of father of baptized child.
given name and maiden name of mother of baptized child.
names of godparents of baptized child.
The entries in death registers of U.S. RC parishes typically contain the following information:
given name and surname of deceased person.
age and residence of deceased person at time of death.
date of death of deceased person.
date and place of burial of deceased person.
names of parents of deceased person (often omitted if the deceased person was an adult)
For such entries in death registers of U.S. Lithuanian RC parishes, there is a good probability that the surnames were entered in Lithuanian, even if those persons were using Americanized names elsewhere.