We receive inquiries regularly. A recent question was about the availability of church records at the Grand Rapids Public Library.

Do you maintain historical (approx. 1850-1900) church records from the following churches: St. Patrick’s Catholic church in Ada, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Hubbardston, and Saints Peter and Paul in Ionia?  Are these maintained in the Grand Rapids Public Library?  What hours are they accessible?  I am a member of WMGS.  – Fred

My initial reply was:

“I happen to know the folks at Hubbardston Area Historical Society – they have a lot of information on St. John’s. You can contact them at hubb.northplains@gmail.com.

Check with the Ionia County Genealogical Society for advice on Saints Peter & Paul. http://ionia.migenweb.net/ICGS/icgshome.htm. Email: ioniacogensoc@yahoo.com

St. Patrick’s… since that is in the Grand Rapids Diocese, there might be information at the GRPL. The local history department could say for sure. 616-988-5400 – ext. 5. Library hours are on their website at www.grpl.org.  The diocese has an archive… they may be able to assist as well: www.dioceseofgrandrapids.org/diocese/About_Diocese/Pages/Archives.aspx

I also promised to pass on additional information gained after collaborating with a few WMGS Board members. That is the rest of the story. Here are the results of our collaboration:

There are two indexes of the 240 church records. [The first] is numbered as they were collected and the second [is] Alphabetical.

Note: There is no name index yet; however, there is an active project compiling all the Surnames which will eventually be published online at http://data.wmgs.org

I have found [church records] a complicated process because each church is different.  The librarians have the master folders and can guide you through.  I tried to write it up in one of my columns but had to resort to ask the librarian… Some churches have just little histories; some have everything, some nothing.

I then asked specifically for information about St. Patrick’s church in Parnell.

WMGS has early records from 1844 thru 1900 and there is a book published on [St. Patrick’s] church with many families included, but [it is] not indexed.

That book is at the library. Furthermore…

“St. Patrick’s church records (for 1854-1875), Parnell, were published in Michigana beginning in Vol. 31, No. 4 and thereafter. There are about forty pages; Ellen Siu indexed and typed them in 1985.

I trust this will help a future inquirer.