How to Obtain Church Records

It's not hard, really. But some people fail to grasp the concept. Case in point, the following reader whose name will be withheld for her own sake:

I am trying to get some information that would be in St. Henry's Church records. I see from the internet that they are at Incarnation Church, but do not know how to access that information.

I get a lot of e-mails like this, so for the sake of my sanity, let's answer this question once and for all.

1. Find out which church has the records. If it's a Roman Catholic church, look it up here; if the parish is closed, they will tell you which one currently holds the records. When it doubt, or when dealing with a Protestant parish, use a search engine.

2. Contact them. They have all telephone numbers. Call them and see what magical things happen. You may even be able to send them an e-mail.

See? Wasn't that easy? I hate to get condescending, but you would too when confronted with a barrage of e-mails that can easily be answered in 5 minutes via Google search. Or even Yahoo! or another lesser search engine.

So please, DON'T ASK ME AGAIN ABOUT RECORDS. I have no more insight or resources on this than you or Google, and all I'll do is repeat the advice provided above. And if the church won't answer you, I'm sorry. No, I don't know their secretary by name.

Now, in this specific e-mail, the reader--let's call her Mabel--already did the hard work. She found out, quite correctly, that St. Henry was Swath'd in 1993 and transferred its records to Incarnation of Our Lord. But when confronted with the news that Incarnation has the records, and contact information pointing to Incarnation, she throws up her hands in a tizzy.

Mabel, parish records will not just jump out of your computer at you. Here's an idea: the same place that tells you that Incarnation has the records will no doubt offer a telephone number. Pick it up and call them. I imagine the conversation could go something like this:

Ringy Dingy

:INCARNATION: Lift high the cross! Thank you for calling Incarnation of Our Lord parish! How may I help you?

:MABEL: Ah, yes, hi, I'd like to inquire about some spiritual records from the old St. Henry parish.

:INCARNATION: Oh yes, we certainly do! Such a shame about that parish, don't you think? Just hold one moment please and then I'll get all of your information and see what we can do for you.

Even if they're not especially polite, and some secretaries aren't, they should still be able to get you exactly what you need. Easy, huh? They may also have a website and e-mail address, so you could even contact them through e-mail, the same thing you used to contact me.

Legitimate requests will still be honored. But anything approaching this will result in a visit from the Project's tire iron. No, it's not just used to rate neighborhood safety.

You have all been warned.