Every record will give you a transcript and an image of the original sacramental register. The detail found in each transcript can vary depending on the nature of the document. You will find a combination of the following facts:
Records year range
The image will provide you with additional detail about your ancestor. By viewing the image you will gain a greater understanding of why your ancestor’s name appeared in this particular type of document. The documents in this collection include anniversary books, confirmation lists, congregational lists, lists of benefactors and converts, parish diaries, and more.
These are some examples of the type of records you will find in this collection. The majority of the records come from the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Most records from the Westminster Diocesan Archive are records of confirmations.
Anniversaries – These records are from Harvington and Kenilworth parishes in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. The parish priests recorded anniversaries in the parish. Anniversaries of individuals’ deaths were recorded in order for them to be remembered in the mass and prayed for. In Kenilworth, the parish priest kept anniversary dates daily along with a quote from scripture or a poem every day. For example, on 4 April 1881, he records, ‘Let us be patient. These severe afflictions, not from the ground arise, but often times celestial benedictions assume this dark disguise’, which are lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Benefactors – Records are from Solihull parish and Coventry at the Most Holy Sacrament & St Osburg. The two books are different, but most entries will include the name of the benefactor, the amount given, and the anniversary of the benefactor’s death.
Confessions – These records are from Leek parish in North Staffordshire. It is a monthly record of which children were going to confession. The register also includes a list of the whole congregation of Leek.
Confirmations – Confirmations is the largest record type in this collection. The lists will provide your ancestor’s name, age, and residence, as well as the name of the bishop who performed the confirmation.
Monks – The lists of monks come from Coventry, the Most Holy Sacrament & St Osburg. Among the names of monks you will find William Bernard Ullathorne, who became the first bishop of the Archdiocese of Birmingham when it was formed in 1850. He had immense influence on the growth of the Catholic Church in the 19th century and established a number of free elementary schools in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Prior to becoming Birmingham’s bishop, he was the vicar general of Australia.
Parish diary – The parish diary is from St Mary in Walsall. The diary recorded which masses were said and by whom, the names of any sick parishioners, and the names of those who have died. It also recorded bann announcements and had a section for additional notes such as if there was a lecture that week or a special procession.
The records in this collection have been made available by the Birmingham Archdiocesan Archives and Westminster Archdiocesan Archives. Findmypast is dedicated to adding further dioceses to this collection of Roman Catholic records. There are records available from 1657 until 1907. The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales placed a 110-year closure period on all sacramental records. Most of the records available here are from the 19th century.
As of 2001, there were approximately 4.2 million Roman Catholics in England and Wales. The religion has flourished since the 18th and 19th centuries. Prior to that time, Catholics endured persecution and restriction of their religious life in England for centuries. In the late 18th century, Parliament began to pass relief acts, which ended restrictions on Roman Catholics in England. In 1791, the Roman Catholic Relief Act legalised the practice of Catholicism. Further acts were passed and barriers removed, such as the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, which allowed Catholics to sit as Members of Parliament, and the Universities Test Act of 1871, which allowed Catholics to enter universities.
After the reestablishment of the Catholic hierarchy in 1850 by Pope Pius IX, the dioceses of Birmingham and Westminster were formed. Westminster diocese includes Greater London boroughs north of the River Thames and across to the River Lea in the east. Westminster is one of the smallest dioceses in geographical size but one of the largest in population. At the time of its creation, the Archdiocese of Birmingham had 73 missions with about 35,000 parishioners. It did not take long for both dioceses to grow with the arrival of Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, and Italy, as well as with large numbers of English converts to Catholicism.