Church records can be a goldmine of information for genealogists. Not only will you get that valuable birth, marriage and death information, but you can also get names of extended family. These records can also pre date civil registration and census records, getting your family further back.
The problem with church records is that they are harder to track down that census and civil registration. They are held by the various churches and dioceses, not by the government. When you're researching from a distance, anything you can find online is a definite bonus.
If you have Manitoba ancestors, you'll want to check out Family Search's collection, Manitoba Church Records, 1800-1959. This browse only collection contains entries from Catholic, Lutheran and Unitarian parishes. It is not a complete collection, but still worth a look.
According to the Family Search wiki on the collection, you should be prepared to look at records written in English, French, and possibly even Icelandic. The wiki has helpful links to help you understand and locate key French and Icelandic words, as well as a link on Scandinavian naming patterns.
There are 6,567 images in the collection, but you can narrow down things down pretty quickly. First you're going to click on Browse through 6,567 images.
Then you're going to pick one of the shown locations:
Next you can narrow down by denomination/parish, and further by record type/year range.
I am more familiar with Catholic records, since my maternal grandparents were French Canadian/Acadian. So I decided to look at St. Eustache. I looked at Baptisms, marriages, burials 1874-1882, vol.1. The first image in the set says that the collection actually goes to 1897. So I immediately went to the last image to see, and the dates on the last few entries are indeed in 1897.
The first page of text for this one is quite interesting. My "franglais" serves me well enough, so from what I can gather, there are some entries included for Baie St. Paul, the original location of the church. Due to flooding, the church had to be moved, and in 1882 became St. Eustache.
Since the main congregation of the church was French and Metis, these records are in French. What is nice about them is that the handwriting is quite clear, however you will need to use the zoom feature to be able to read some of the entries. Depending on the writer, the handwriting can be quite small. Anyone who has experience in researching French Catholic records will be quite pleased overall though. French Catholic researchers have all seen at some point handwriting with the appearance of a drunk snake slithering across the page. Thankfully, that isn't the case here on the pages I looked at. The information in the records here is quite standard for Catholic records:
- Date of event
- Names of baby/bride/groom/deceased
- Parents/Witnesses/Godparents' names
- Parish they belonged to
- Marriage by license or banns
Those who are unfamiliar with French Catholic records will be pleasantly surprised that a woman's maiden name followed her after marriage. There are a lot of burial entries where a married or widowed woman's name will be listed as well as her married name. Another bonus I've found in Catholic records sometimes is notations in the margins of the register. It isn't that uncommon to find a notation next to a baptism of a marriage later in life, or even a death. I found a few of these in this record set.
I also looked at the First Lutheran Ardal Congregation in the Gimli municipality to see how these compared to the nicely done Catholic ones. These ones had the look of a civil registration register. The birth ones had spots to record:
- birth date and location
- baptism date
- parents' names (including mother's maiden name)
- signature of the parent
- father's occupation.
- Place and date of death
- Cause of death
- Birth place
- Name, relationship, and residence of informant
- Date of funeral
The marriage records have a bucket load of information for the bride and groom:
- Single or widowed
- Parent's names
- Birth place
- Occupation of the groom
- Names and residences of witness
- Date and place of marriage
- Married by license or banns
The records for this congregation are written mainly in English, and with a nice hand. I have absolutely zero familiarity with the Icelandic language, but I was still able to make out names clearly.
Now, this isn't a complete set of records. There are gaps in years, and I'm sure there aren't records for every parish. It's still a nice pleasant record set to deal with. It made me wish I had Manitoba ancestors.