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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

Basics of Researching Catholic Baptism Records on Findmypast

Being able to research Catholic records online is exciting. And today, we're going to talk about the Findmypast record collection for US Roman Catholic Baptisms.

Which US Catholic Records are on Findmypast?

At this time, you can research and view the church records for the following parishes on this British-based genealogy website.

  • Baltimore

  • Boston

  • Chicago

  • Cincinnati

  • New York

  • Philadelphia

  • Toledo

If you don't see your Catholic family members' locations on this list, don't be discouraged. This website is working to bring new parish records online in the future.

What's super duper exciting about these records is how early some of these records start. They start long before you can find a birth record in some of these locations. And that date right there is from a collection in Pennsylvania in the 1700s. How cool is that?

Use Wildcard Searches in the Search Forms

Findmypast allows you to use wild cards when searching Catholic Church records online.

  • Use an asterisk to take the place of multiple letters.

  • Use a question mark to replace one letter.

  • Place the asterisks, or the question marks anywhere in the name.

  • You can use multiple wildcards in one search.

In this video, I searched for the name Westermeyers by searching Westerm*.

Video: Findmypast Catholic Baptism Records

Catholic Church Records May Be in Latin

Many Catholic records are written in Latin. The further back in time you go, and depending on locality, you're going to run into not only difficult handwriting to read, but it's in Latin.

Screenshot of Chicago Roman Catholic Baptism Record in Latin

Now, if you're lucky, you're going to be able to easily understand the document because they're broken up into columns like this baptismal record.

Thankfully, you don't necessarily have to learn too much Latin after learning a few basic terms to help you when you're reading baptismal records.

Table of a few Latin terms found on Catholic Baptism Records

However, there are even more terms that may appear on these American sacramental resources. Don't worry.

Grab my cheat sheet of Latin Baptismal Terms that you'll want to use for your reference.

What May You Find on Baptismal Records?

Depending on when and where your American ancestor's baptism happened, you may learn the following from the priest's parish register.

  • Baby Name

  • Baptism Date

  • Birth Dates

  • Church location

  • Parents

  • Godparents

  • Legitimacy

  • Grandparents

  • Race

Not every document has these facts, but those that do will turn you into a fanatic about your family history.

Tips When Evaluating the Church Records

As you are reviewing your Catholic ancestor's documents, keep these tips in mind.

Baptism and Birth Dates

It's really great when you not only have a baptismal date, but you also have a birth date. When you look at these documents, don't assume that the individual is a child because there are converts to the church later in their life. So, it's nice to have both dates.

Priest and Church

You will know the church's name and location, minister, or priest who baptized that person. You can research this minister, and you might discover cool tidbits about this man and your family.


When you see the godparents or witnesses' names, don't automatically assume that they were relatives. There's a good chance that they are. You might create a larger family structure based on the names of the godparents.

However, if that's not the case, you might find relatives that traveled with your ancestor to a location. That can give you clues to your ancestor's hometown. FAN Club research is really what I'm telling you with these godparents.

Do the math between the baptism date and the birth date. If the two dates are close together, you might be able to infer where the godparents lived at that time.

If a child was baptized in 1846 two days after their birth, where did the godparents lived? It's not likely they lived in California if the child was baptized in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Parents and Legitimacy

In addition to recording the parents' names, you may discover some details about their relationship. Unless the record marks the child as illegitimate, you can infer that the baptized person's parents were likely married. Even if the baptized person is recorded as illegitimate, the father's name is regularly recorded.

Be Aware of the Catholic Church Privacy Rules

The Catholic Church maintains a hundred-year privacy policy. Therefore, any sacrament performed within the past 100 years will not be available for public view.

Additionally, some dioceses feel that church records are private and should be restricted from the public. Thus, some locations make take longer to become available online.

Catholic Church Record Change that Benefits Genealogists

Around Easter 1908, there was a change in the Catholic Church that helps genealogists immensely, even though that was not their intent. Beginning on 19 April 1908, if you wanted to get married in the Catholic Church, your priest had to verify that you were a church member.

As such, the local priest had to contact the church where the baptism was performed. Once the priest obtained confirmation, he noted when and where the baptism took place on the marriage record.

Simultaneously, the priest at the church where the parishioner was baptized recorded the date and place that person married. For instance, Emma Louisa Delaney's baptismal record notes when she married John Lily at Mount Savage Church.

Explore Findmypast Catholic Baptismal Records

Dive into these church records online with a subscription to Findmypast. Perhaps you'll find a link to several generations from one record. Perhaps you'll know not only the parents, godparents, and grandparents of a child but also their spouse.

For more tips about research record collections on Findmypast, check out these blog posts.

  • The Basics of Researching FindMyPast's Newspaper Collection

  • Searching the 1939 British Register on FindMyPast

  • Use the Findmypast Card Catalog for Locality Research in Genealogy

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