Anyone who’s been reading my columns for a while will probably recall that many of my ancestors were Irish immigrants who settled in Brooklyn, New York. So it won’t surprise you when I say that I’m hard pressed to get my work done today since I discovered that Ancestry has posted two volumes of baptism and marriage registers that span the years 1837 through 1900. Some of you may even remember me mentioning the first volume in my columns over the years. We’ve made quite a few breakthroughs on my family lines using that book and I’ve been very anxious to dive into volume 2! They are the work of the late James Reilly and my mom and I (and hopefully many of you!) will forever be in his debt for his hard work, without which we’d probably be at a standstill on some lines.
Here’s an excerpt from his introduction:
St. Paul’s Church was the focal point of Irish immigrants to the City of Brooklyn during the Great Irish Famine years of 1845-51 and the early years of the new Diocese of Brooklyn founded in 1853. Since the City of Brooklyn did not require residents to report births and marriages until 1866, St. Paul’s sacramental registers serve for that era as the sole documentation of these events for many new arrivals. Some immigrants believed that baptism fulfilled both their religious and civil obligations; consequently many births went unrecorded. Marriages too went unrecorded in some cases.
On April 8, 1934 Brooklyn was incorporated as a City. With its increasing population overflowing into the southern part of the newly created City, farms and hills were turning into suburbs, in turn to be changed into closely packed residential (tenement) areas.
The unfinished foundation of the new Brooklyn City Hall lay between St. James Church, the first Catholic church in Brooklyn and on Long Island, and the proposed new church for the people living on the southwest side of Fulton Street. The new edifice would be called St. Paul’s and would rise on a large field at the corner of present-day Congress and Court Streets. The land for the church was donated in September 1836 by Cornelius Heeney, a generous Catholic merchant and philanthropist who had taken up residence in Brooklyn after the disastrous New York City fire of 1835. Dedication of the completed church building took place on January 21, 1838 with the Bishop of the Diocese of New York, the Most Reverend John DuBois, presiding.
The registers are both searchable and browseable and are a great resource.