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

With permission from Catholic Diocese of Belleville, SCCGS created microfilm duplicates of historical Parish Registers.

Click here for Parish finding aid (and links to Descriptive Lists)


SCCGS’s microfilm project

  • Includes just over 140 parishes in 28 southern Illinois counties
  • Geographic coverage – East from St. Clair to Lawrence and all counties to the south
  • Contents – baptisms, communions, confirmation, deaths, and marriages
  • Dates – from formation of the parish through 31 December 1930.
  • Part of SCCGS holdings for public use released in 15 April 2002 at the Belleville Public Library.
  • Influenced a later agreement between the Diocese and the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) to digitize all extant parish records of the Diocese. These high quality images are ONLINE at FamilySearch. Follow prompts there for free access.
  • SCCGS’s microfilm edition has some records and even some books not found at FamilySearch – the reverse is also true. See what SCCGS has at the Descriptive Lists link above.


The Society copied the original security** microfilm held by the diocesan archives.  By agreement, SCCGS edited out any records from 1931 to present.

**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.


Not all registers are indexed nor are the book indexes all-inclusive. Indexes available on film were retained whenever possible, Consult the Descriptive List for years covered by an index.

Often unnumbered, early parish registers generally were in chronological order. The Descriptive List notes events recorded out of sequence.

Records in baptism, marriage, death, communion and confirmation books through 1930 appear on the microfilm unless the event occurred after 1930. Note that baptismal records sometimes noted a marriage sometime after 1930 and were retained since marriage records are not restricted in Illinois. It was physically impossible to retain parts of pages.

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. Both are on SCCGS’s reels, provided the original and the copied registers were microfilmed by the Diocese.


The condition of the original church registers varied greatly which in turn were reflected on the microfilm. Writing instruments, inks and handwriting all contributed to the legibility or lack thereof.

Faded ink was 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.

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, first consult the digital images at FamilySearch (see Introduction).

Parish records are private records, hence, a request for an ancestor’s record after 1930 might be refused. The Diocese of Belleville website provides contact information.

When a parish closes its registers are sometimes given to a neighboring parish. Some are preserved at the Belleville Diocesan Archives. Closed parish records are noted in the Descriptive Lists. The diocesan archives cannot perform research for you. Use the digital images at Family Search. Consult the diocesan web site for its research policy.

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 volunteers Robert Biehl, Gloria Dettleff, Dorothy Falk, Esther Laumbattus, Larry Kritis, Mary Parker, Diane Walsh
Donations Donations ($1300.00) offset SCCGS’s project costs, for which SCCGS graciously thanks its members and others. Microtek Document Imaging Systems, Inc., St. Louis, granted free use of their microfilm editing equipment which ensured tighter, more accurate data control over the course of the project.

Latin language aids
French language aids
French surname variations (the dit name), introduction and link to *an Excel* file, courtesy of American-French Genealogical Society.
Names from English into any language, a free database.
Given names translated from French and Latin into English , courtesy American-French Genealogical Society.


Annotations to the Parish Finding Aid and the Descriptive Lists were taken from:

  • 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.

Locally, a complete set of microfilm and may be viewed at the

  • Belleville Public Library, 121 East Washington Street, Belleville, Illinois 62220
  • St. Louis County Library, 1640 Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63131.

Catholic sacramental registers

  • Precede civil vital record registration
  • The event is recorded at or very close to the time it occured; this makes 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, many of whom 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 name of the 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.

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