Please see the Genealogy Records Handout for materials that may be useful for your research.
Searching Sacramental Records
The sacramental records, including baptism, marriage, confirmation, first communion and death, are organized by parish, then chronological. They are not indexed electronically by name. Therefore, it is necessary to know which parishes to look at for a person’s records.
You might narrow down the specific parish by using the interactive maps our office maintains in the links below. By searching the address of residence in the search bar, you can see which churches were closest to where they lived. Clicking on the icons on the map will bring up additional data, and you can narrow down by year and ethnicity.
Parishes (open and closed) in the Archdiocese of St. Louis since 1956:
African American Catholic parishes and institutions in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, pre-1951:
We do not conduct genealogical research into sacramental records due to limited resources. The microfilm of the Archdiocese of St. Louis sacramental registers is available digitally at https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog. The website requires that you register with them, but there are no fees involved. In the catalog, search the author field for ‘Catholic Missouri [name of church]’ to pull up that specific church’s records. You can search ‘Catholic Missouri’ to pull up all Catholic Churches in the state of Missouri. When you click into a specific record set and are brought to the bibliographic page, scroll down to find the camera icon under the heading ‘Format.’ This will bring you to the digitized images. Again, the images are not text-searchable by name, so you must “page through” the digitized registers.
To successfully navigate the records online, you should consult the St. Louis County Library’s published guide to the sacramental records on microfilm, which include helpful appendices categorizing churches by year, ethnicity, and county. Find it at https://www.slcl.org/sites/default/files/HG%20SLAPR%202015_0.pdf. The library also has a YouTube video online on how to use the guide with the Family Search website to search for sacramental records: https://youtu.be/SGaJvmY0ux0.
The St. Louis Genealogical Society is another excellent organization with a variety of resources, including helpful annotated lists of institutions and searchable databases. You can check out their website at http://stlgs.org/.
African American Genealogy
If you are searching for records of African Americans prior to 1951, there may be special challenges to finding records. Please see the handout on African American Parishes and Institutions in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, 1832-1951. The handout lists all of the known parishes, missions, and institutions erected for African Americans, and it describes other archival repositories where you might search for further information. Before 1951, much of ministry to African American Catholics was assigned to religious orders rather than diocesan clergy. For that reason, religious order archives may have additional genealogical resources, particularly for missions, schools, and other institutions. Please see the handout to identify which orders operated the various ministries, and consult this interactive map of African American Catholic parishes and institutions in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, pre-1951: VIEW MAP.
If you are looking for the sacramental record of an enslaved person, look at the parish records of the parish that the slaveholder attended. Baptism, marriage, and death would be the most common sacraments found.
Between emancipation and Archdiocesan integration in 1951, sacramental record-keeping could be more complex. African American Catholics were sometimes not allowed to attend their local “white” parish. If they were allowed to attend Mass, they were usually relegated to segregated sections within the church. For this reason, it may still be possible to find your ancestors’ record within the parish registers of the church closest to where they lived. However, more than likely you will want to search missions or parishes that were designated as African American. There were many missions and parishes founded for African Americans. Please see the handout for a listing which includes the founding date of the entities and the religious order that operated it, if any. Missions and school were run through a parish; therefore, the parish’s records should be consulted. For example, St. Clement’s Mission and School were run through St. Alphonsus “the Rock” Parish. Thus, you would consult the sacramental records at St. Alphonsus.
Looking at other records
The Archives holds other records on parishes and institutions within the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Please see the Genealogy Records Handout for examples of other collections that may be useful for your research.
Churches were often the center of social activity in a community. Researching the parish may provide the genealogist with more context of life and times of their ancestor(s). There are files on each parish, which may include photographs, parish histories, priest appointments, parish boundaries, and limited correspondence. Note that the parish files may not necessarily have biographical information about specific persons.
Please see our Collections page for finding aids to various collections. Note that the Collections page does not have guides to all of the collections in the Archives.
Please contact the office to discuss parish materials or other collections by calling, emailing, or using our online contact form.