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Researching Those in Religious Vocations

Kelly Ordination

   If we’re friends on Facebook, you probably already know that I spent the weekend in Connecticut for the Ordination of my daughter, Kelly.   On May 21st she graduated from Yale Divinity School and was ordained a Transitional Deacon this past Saturday in the Episcopal Cathedral in Hartford.  She’ll have about six months before she’ll be ordained a Priest.   

   In the Episcopal Church clergy do marry, but if you had someone in your family that was a Roman Catholic priest, a nun or brother, you may not think about researching them since they left no descendants.  The opposite is the case...always check these people.  Their obituaries or curriculum vitae (the education and positions held)  may provide you with lots of family information.  

   My mother-in-law had two cousins who were Carmelite priests.  When Father Walter died in 2004  his obituary provided extensive family information…the names of his parents, all of his siblings, where he was born and educated and all of the parishes he served in during his career.  For priests in a religious order, such as the Carmelites, contact the headquarters of the order, addressing your request to the archivist.   If the individual you're researching was a diocesan priest, contact the archivist of the diocese.  Today I received the obituary and curriculum vitae from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (charge was $10) for client research I'm doing.  In this case it confirmed the names of the brothers, but didn't provide the parents' names. It's always worth checking. 

   Other denominations also keep information on ministers.  For Irish research, the Presbyterians have the Fasti of the Irish Presbyterian Church which gives biographical information on their ministers.   I had a photograph of a minister from a scrapbook belonging to my great grandmother of a Rev. James Moody.  The Fasti provided the details of his life, including his birthplace, education, parishes in which he served, the name of his wife, her father and marriage date, his death date, as well as the detail that his brother was also a minister.


   The Church of Ireland also provides information.  Check out Clergy and Parishes by Canon J. B. Leslie.

   When looking for records for nuns, you need to determine the religious order of which they were a member.  You may find this information in an obituary.  I found a reference to a Hugh Moughty in a World War I list of soldiers in Australia.  I had lost this individual, as most of his siblings had emigrated to Argentina and it popped up in a google search.  The information stated that his next of kin was his sister, Sister Mary Gertrude of Cabara Convent in Dublin.  Another google search told me this was a Dominican convent and provided an email address.  

   If you can get a copy of The Irish At Home and Abroad in your local library, Volume 5, Number 2 (2nd Quarter 1998) has an excellent article by Kyle Bettit on "Priests, Nuns and Brothers in Ireland."

   Happy Hunting!

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2013