LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the Boston Globe, the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston released a joint statement to all Catholics.
On Tuesday, they announced a project to create digital copies of sacramental records.
These records can be used to look up family histories, the history of the Church, learn about stories of people who remain hidden within the veil of the past and offer a comprehensive list of baptisms, marriages, confirmations and sacraments performed between 1789 and 1900.
D. Brenton Simons, the Genealogical Society's chief executive believes the project will be the largest collection of American Catholic genealogical records available online.
The archive will include over 10 million names and information regarding 154 parishes and the people who worshiped there.
"This is a first," Simons stated during a news conference at the society's headquarters. "This is truly a gift to Boston and to the world."
The Catholic Herald reported over 5,000 volumes were to be scanned, some with as many as 500 pages within their battered covers.
Thomas Lester, the archivist and records manager for the archdiocese noted the sacramental records were the ones most frequently referenced, resulting in much wear and tear.
"Pages are brittle and flaking, bindings are coming unstitched, some are just falling apart," Lester explained. "Of course we try to restore them, but we can't do it fast enough. So we looked into scanning all of them, that way if we can't save the books we can at least save the information."
Some records were so old, the ink was faded and some books were held together with electrical or duct tape. When he realized the state of things, Lester contacted the society and asked for help preserving the records.
Over 10 million names will be available online (David L. Ryan/Boston Globe).
"It was immediately evident that this collection was important, a lot of the books were in poor shape and some immediate action needed [sic] to be taken to do something about that," he explained.
The records from four of the oldest parishes in Boston and mission in Providence, including the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Our Lady of Victories, have already been scanned and are available at AmericanAncestors.org. Anyone who is not a member of the society is asked to sign up free of charge as a guest to the site.
Its sister site, CatholicRecords.AmericanAncestors.org includes the history of the Boston Archdiocese, a timeline of the early church in Boston, information about the process of putting records online and an instructional video on how to browse the archive.
Officials announced soon the site will offer records according to collection names. The society announced the establishment of the Historic Catholic Records Fund, which is working to raise $1 million to pay for the delicate project, which will take at least three more years to complete, depending on funding.
Lester shared the importance of the digital copies will not only allow millions to access records but will also keep the information safe.
In 2016, Lester said his office received over 1,400 record inquiries and over 200 people paid personal visits to the archdiocese's library.
Most of the records are in Latin but most Catholic churches were established for specific immigrant groups, some records are available in French, Italian, Polish and other languages.
Jean Maguire, f the genealogical society, shared: "The whole 19th century was a time of waves of immigration to Boston, and this project will make it easier to study that era and for people to trace their family history back to Europe."
Soon the sites will offer an option to search for records by name later this year but acknowledged it may be several more years before the entire project is complete, adding, "We have a lot of parishes to cover."
Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK
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