This is the First Holy Communion certificate of my husband's great-grandfather, Anthony Schroeder. Isn't it beautiful?
Here is a close-up of the written section of the certificate. The writing is faint, but still legible (thank goodness!). He received his first communion on May 31, 1908 in St. Patrick's Church in St. Patrick (Shelby Co.), Ohio. The presiding priest was Rev. J. H. Metzdorf.
Here is a newspaper clipping from The Minster Post listing the small group of first communicants that day. Anton Schroeder is named first in the list.
©2016 Emily Kowalski Schroeder
Today, the Catholic Church is canonizing Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. In 1997, when I was 18 years old, I was fortunate enough to visit The Vatican City and attend the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, at which Pope John Paul II presided. Somehow, as our group was filing into the seating rows in St. Peter's Basilica, I managed to get an aisle seat. I was literally close enough to touch him and I was able to take some great photos.
After the trip, I gave this particular photo to my Grandpa Kowalski. I think my mom gave him a little frame for it and it sat on one of his TV room side tables for the rest of his life. My grandfather was the son of Polish Catholic immigrants, so you can imagine the pride he felt in having a Polish man as the head of the Catholic Church.
Here is the "ticket" we were given to be admitted to the Mass that morning.
©2014, copyright Emily Kowalski Schroeder
This past Sunday on the blog, I shared a 1940 census schedule listing my husband's maternal grandmother, Rita Brunswick. At this point in her life, Rita was living with and working for a minister's family in Fort Recovery, Ohio. Two years later, Rita married Frank Tumbush at St. Paul Church in Sharpsburg, Mercer County, Ohio. Below is a copy of their marriage license application (top) and marriage certificate (bottom), as kept within the Mercer County Probate Records. (Click on image for larger view.)
Here is a short description of the wedding service from the November 27, 1942 issue of The Minster Post. Alvera Wimmers is Frank 's first cousin and Melvin Brunswick is Rita's older brother.
Below is a photo of St. Paul's Catholic Church. Like many of the older Catholic churches in this area of Ohio, St. Paul's is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was designed by Anton DeCurtins, a Swiss immigrant who helped design and build many Gothic-style churches in Mercer County. Those who are not from this area of western Ohio or who have never visited are often surprised to learn about the area's many beautiful Gothic-revival churches that were erected in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is often called the "Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches."
©2014, copyright Emily Kowalski Schroeder
Over the past week or so, I have been (slowly) researching one of my husband's distant uncles, Henry Drees, who was a Catholic priest in Ohio during the late 19th and very early 20th centuries. I have been using various Catholic directories on Google Books to trace his career and places of residence between census schedules. Wikipedia does a nice summary of the evolution of Catholic Directory publishing in the 19th century.
What makes these directories so helpful? The directories, usually published annually, provides a listing of every Catholic-run church, hospital, school, college, orphanage, asylum, convent, seminary, and missionary in the United States. And, actually, many of the directories that include the U.S. also include British North America as well. This one, from 1876, includes a listing of clergy from Ireland, too:
Each diocese/archdiocese is given its own sub-section; within the city proper, the parishes are listed alphabetically by name (left). Then, every smaller town in that diocese that has a Catholic church is listed alphabetically (right). If the church has full-time pastor and assistants, their names are listed. Some of these directories will provide a church's "ethnicity," if its services were typically conducted in a language other than English or if the majority of its parishioners were of a particular nationality.
Obviously, if you have relatives who were Catholic priests, these directories are wonderful for figuring out which institutions they served at and when. As I mentioned above, these directories also list Catholic schools and hospitals, which were often run by women's religious orders. The directories DO list the names of the women in charge of these institutions, BUT many women serving in Catholic religious orders adopt new religious names once they take their final vows. So, unless you know the name your relative took at the time of her vows, you might not be able to find her if she is listed, say, as Mother Superior of a convent.
The directories also have an obituary section in which the deaths of priests and other female and male religious members that occurred over the past year are listed. Typically, due to space constraints, not much information is listed: Date, name, location, age, order - SOMETIMES place of birth and cause of death are listed, but not always. The bonus in the obituaries is that women religious often have their birth names listed next to their religious names and titles.
Even if you do not have ancestors who were priests or other Catholic religious members, you may find these directories helpful. Perhaps you know your relatives were Catholic and you know the town in which they settled. Use these directories to figure out what church they attended (and then try to track down those sacrament records!). Perhaps you don't know where your Polish Catholic immigrant great-grandparents attended church in a bigger city, like Cleveland. Use these directories to figure out where the Polish Catholic churches were located and start researching those churches first. Remember that Catholic churches and schools are not static entities; new ones open, old ones close and merge with other parishes. These directories give us a snapshot of which parishes and schools were open and active every year in just about every location in the country.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how many Catholic directories from the 19th and early 20th centuries can be viewed and downloaded for free through Google Books. Simply go to Google Books and type "catholic directories" in the search box. You will be able to browse through them and, if you are looking for a specific year or range of years, you can narrow down your search even further.
Emily Kowalski Schroeder