I have tried to approach this entry a number of ways, and I've deleted all of them. Start from scratch again. And again. I get very caught up in the emotion of of it all. This has become my passion. I almost feel (actually, I think I know) that this is the mission God has given me. See? Very emotional.
We MUST be allowed to search through old Catholic sacramental records. Every diocese and archdiocese has their own ways of "dealing" with requests for these records. Some are much more accessible and friendly than others. Understatement of the year.
Why is it so important that we can personally look through the digitized records and/or microfilm? It's not just to find out names of godparents, places of birth, etc. (although that's incredibly important). It's because there are "lost" children in these records. Children who were never included in census records. Children who died and were buried before cemeteries had a reliable way to record the information. Back in the 1800s (and earlier), Catholic Church records were the only written proof of a child's existence. These babies (as a mother, this is very close to my heart) DESERVE to be included in their family trees. The sanctity of their lives demand it!
My first experience with finding a child who was "lost" was when Dr. Reinhard Cloppenburg searched through Haselünne Catholic Church records for me. I emailed him and told him the details that I knew about my family. He quickly responded to tell me that he'd search, and search he did! In my Kerkhoff family, it was assumed that my great grandfather was the oldest, but we discovered that he wasn't. He shared a birthday with his older sister (by 2 years), Bernadina Antonetta Lisette Kerkhoff. She died at 3 am when she was just 14 1/2 years old. All of her details were included in the Catholic sacramental records of her baptism and death.
When I found out the dates of her birth and death, I had a fuller picture of my great great grandparents and my great grandpa. I realized that Lisette, my great great grandmother, was not only "just" pregnant with my grandpa when Haselünne burned down in August, 1849, but she also had a toddler to save. It gave me a deeper understanding of the panic my great great grandparents must've gone through in those moments. It allowed me a window into who they were, and I fell more deeply in love with them because of it.
When I visited that small German town a few years ago and went to mass at St. Vincent's, a church that many generations of my ancestors went to, I was surprised that I couldn't stop thinking about this 14 year old's funeral. Did my great grandfather, Anthony Kerkhoff, try to be brave? He was only 12, and his sister was dead. A sister who shared his birthday. Or did Anthony sob throughout the mass? I can't even imagine the pain my great great grandparents, Casper and Lisette (Golz) Kerkhoff, went through as they sat through the funeral mass for their only daughter and eldest child.
If Dr. Cloppenburg hadn't looked through the records for me, my family would never have known about this darling girl. If this German diocese had the same policy as a few other dioceses and archdioceses do (which require you to request SPECIFIC records--they will not look through a parish's records for you if you don't know the exact person you're looking for), my family would be poorer for not knowing about this child.
I have other examples discovering things about my ancestors as I look through Catholic sacramental records (things I never would've found if I couldn't have personally gone through the microfilm).
There Are Times I Think I'm Pretty Good At This
But the most recent discovery I've made because I had the freedom to look through old Catholic sacramental records was that my great great grandmother had a baby in 1874, a baby no one in the family had ever heard of.
I was at the Kenton Co. library researching an entirely different branch of my tree and hitting a brick wall that seemed to be reinforced with concrete and was/is 10 miles thick. I wasn't having any luck at all and started looking for anything that would give me a clue. So I pulled out the index for baptisms at St. Al's church in Covington and saw that some Brand family members were listed. I had no idea if they were "my" Brands, but I had nothing to lose. The index gave the page number, so I got the microfilm onto the machine and started scrolling. I stopped close to the page I needed and then started counting. I should've stopped on the page that listed the Brand child who was baptized. At the top of the page, I started going through the names. For some reason, I wasn't looking at the childs' names but was instead looking at the parents' names. And then I saw it--Mary S. Geisen. WHAT??!!!! That was my great great grandmother, and my great great grandfather had died 4 years before that. And I knew for a fact that she had always kept the Geisen name. She was listed on the US Census record as Geisen. The Covington City Directory had her name as Geisen until she died in 1892. Her prayer card has her name as Geisen. Her gravestone has her name as Geisen.
Her obituary is under Maria Susanna Geisen. But here I find her as the mother of a little boy named Philip Moxel. The father's name was Anton Moxel. Thinking that perhaps there was someone else with that name in Covington at the time (even though I knew there wasn't), I looked at the names of the godparents. Her sister, Catherine Schmitz, was the godmother so I knew that this little baby was my uncle.
When I looked at the page number, I realized I was one page off. I shouldn't have been. I counted. But somehow, I found this child. A child who deserves to be included in our tree (and who now is). With further research, I found out that my great great grandmother married this guy when she was 6 1/2 months pregnant and never took his name. The baby is not with her on the 1880 census and neither is the husband. I'm in the midst of trying to find out what on earth happened to my grandma and her baby (my great grandfather's baby brother). I haven't found much else yet, but at least he's now in our tree. As he should be.
My sister Karen writes a blog about her journey of grief since my nephew Brandon died. And something she wrote in one of her entries really stuck with me. "He (Brandon) is moving farther away in people's minds."
A Sorrowfull Mother
Isn't that what every mother worries about? Doesn't every mother want her baby to be remembered, loved and honored by his/her family members? Don't we owe it to them to try and find each one of them? I would assume that the Catholic Church would be at the forefront of understanding this.
If you're looking for Catholic records and the diocese or archdiocese doesn't allow it, please email the Chancellor to ask/request/demand access to the records. Our family members have a right to be found!