Catholic Parish Registers, Diocese of Belleville in Southern Illinois

The St. Clair County Courthouse
completed in 1861

St. Clair County Genealogical Society (SCCGS)

Helping genealogists discover their Illinois roots since 1977.


Parish Registers of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville
in Southern Illinois: An Introduction

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FREE IMAGES of all parish registers for this Diocese are online at FamilySearch, a totally independent project of the Genealogical Society of Utah and FamilySearch. -- Baptisms (to 1906), first communions, confirmations, marriages (to 1931), deaths (to 1956), and indexes, when available.
SCCGS's microfilm includes records not available through FamilySearch - the reverse is also true.

Trouble viewing images is most likely related to registration. Please work through the FamilySearch site's Help area to solve any viewing problems.

The digital images are owned and operated by Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU).

SCCGS's MICROFILM PROJECT
SCCGS obtained permission from the Diocese to create microfilm copies of historical Parish Registers through 31 December 1930. In 2002 the microfilm was released for public use at the Belleville Public Library and preceded the GSU/FamilySearch project.

Baptisms, communions, confirmation, deaths, and marriages date from the late 1690s (with gaps). Over 140 parishes in 28 southern Illinois counties east from St. Clair to Lawrence and all to the south are included.

IMPORTANCE Catholic sacramental registers precede civil registration

  • The event is recorded at or very close to the time it occurs, making the record a highly reliable resource.
  • The priest entering the data performed the ceremony in nearly all cases, thus indicating the record's high accuracy level.
  • Baptisms often cite a birth date and parental names.
  • Sponsors and witnesses are named. These people are often related to the one receiving the sacrament.
  • Marriages provide parental information for the bride and groom and occasionally provide the age and place of residence.
  • Death and burial registers often record both dates as well as the decedent’s age and spouse.
  • For Illinois, births and deaths were first registered in counties late 1877; at the state level in 1916. Marriages recorded since the earliest times have some omissions.

Read how the SCCGS organized and accomplished its microfilm project below.

PARISH FINDING AIDS AND MICROFILM ROLL DESCRIPTIVE LISTS
Use these Descriptive Lists to identify the parish and exact records on the Society's microfilm edition.

The Finding Aids are arranged by

  • parish name
  • year established
  • city
  • roll number (170 rolls per set)
  • county (St. Clair east to Lawrence and all south, 28 counties)

Indexes and abstracts of these records, as available, are noted within the Parish Finding Aid and Descriptive Lists.

Latin language aids
French language aids

Given names translated from French and Latin into English are located on the American-French Genealogical Society web site

Two resources were used to annotate the Parish Finding Aids and Descriptive Lists, and will help determine other parishes to check when a record is not found where expected.

  • Burnett, Betty. A Time of Favor: The Story of the Catholic Family of Southern Illinois. St. Louis, Mo.: Patrice Press, 1987.
  • Centennial Heritage Festival and Picnic. [Belleville, Ill.]: The Diocese of Belleville, 1987.

For the SCCGS microfilm project, the original security** microfilm at the diocesan archives was used to prepare the duplicate rolls. The Society was responsible for editing out any records from 1931 to present. The editing process is explained elsewhere in this document. A 15 April 2002 release date culminates this year-long project.

**Security microfilm serves as a "backup copy" of parish registers should a fire, flood, or other catastrophy occur. The microfilming process includes little, if any, records organization.

MICROFILMED SET LOCATIONS
Two libraries each hold a complete set of microfilm and may be viewed on location.

LEGIBILITY–ORIGINAL REGISTERS - SECURITY MICROFILM
While the techniques used during security microfilming were generally quite good (focused, good contrast), the condition of the original church registers varied greatly. Writing instruments, inks and handwriting all contributed to the legibility or lack thereof. Ink was often more faded or barely legible during the 1860s- 1870s. A few security microfilms were damaged prior to the project (image scraped off). Consequently this damage is reflected on the duplicate.

INDEXES AND RECORD RETENTION
Not all registers are indexed. Indexes available on film were retained whenever possible, including some after 1930. Indexes should not be considered all-inclusive. Consult the Finding Aid for years covered by an index, as this note does not usually appear on the microfilmed page itself.

Early parish register pages were seldom numbered but events were ordinarily in chronological order. If events were recorded out of sequence, a note will appear in the Finding Aid for that particular register.

Small parishes registers might have two or three years per microfilmed page. For example, an entry for 1929 or 1930 may reside on the same page as 1931 entries, and because the 1931 record had to be removed, the entire page was deleted. It was physically impossible to retain parts of pages.

Baptismal records prior to 1931 to which post-1930 marriage information had been appended were retained.

Communion and Confirmation records hold the fewest genealogical clues. In general, only the name of the person receiving these sacraments was noted in the register. These records were often recorded among baptisms during the year performed.

In some cases duplicate or rewritten registers were prepared by a parish and are part of the diocese's security microfilm set. As a result, both the original register (if extant) and the copied register were included in this project.

UNREADABLE ENTRIES – RECORD NOT FOUND – CLOSED PARISHES
When unable to locate a particular record in the parish expected, researchers should consult parish registers in surrounding areas.

In cases where the microfilmed record is unreadable, or you believe your ancestor's entry falls between the last record cited in the Finding Aid and 1931, either view the images online (see left column above) or write the parish to request a search. Current parish addresses and contact information can be found on the web site of the Diocese of Belleville . The parish reserves the right to refuse to photocopy an entry due to fragile condition of the original register. All requests must be in writing and should include the name, event, date and page number observed on the microfilm. A stamped, self-addressed envelope should accompany each request. Donations are accepted, payable to the parish, and are considered by the genealogical community to be a common courtesy, particularly if asking for more than one record.

When parishes are closed (usually due to declining congregation), the registers are preserved at the Belleville Diocesan Archives. Registers of closed parishes are noted as CLOSED in the Finding Aid. The diocesan archives cannot perform research for you. Use the digital images for better quality at the Family Search link above. All other requests must be in writing to the Diocese of Belleville and accompanied by the parish, name, event, date and page observed on the microfilm, plus a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Donations are accepted, payable to the Archives of the Diocese of Belleville, and are considered by the genealogical community to be a common courtesy, particularly if asking for more than one record. Mail requests to Belleville Diocesan Archives, c/o the Chancery Office, 222 South Third Street, Belleville, Illinois 62220. Consult the diocesan web site for any change in policy.

THANKS
The St. Clair County Genealogical Society extends its sincere thanks to the Diocese of Belleville, Reverend Kenneth J. York, Chancellor, and Sister Mary Kenan Wolff, Archivist, for the opportunity to make this set of records available.

Project volunteersRobert Biehl, Gloria Dettleff, Dorothy Falk, Esther Laumbattus, Larry Kritis, Mary Parker, Diane Walsh
Donations The Society graciously accepted donations from its members and others amounting to nearly $1300.00 to help offset project costs. Microtek Document Imaging Systems, Inc., St. Louis duplicated the microfilm. The company granted the Society free use of their microfilm editing equipment which kept costs to a minimum and ensured tighter, more accurate data control over the course of the project.


St. Clair County Genealogical Society
PO Box 431
Belleville, IL 62222-0431
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©April 2002, the St. Clair County [IL] Genealogical Society. All rights reserved.
Revised December 2004, updated periodically, most recently on 29 December 2014.

Information may be linked to but not copied. Authorized by SCCGS Board of Directors.