Opinion

Church records can help

Church records can be valuable aids in tracking your family.  There are times when town records are non-existent, probate records of no help, deeds show nothing, and at those times church records can be the charm that provides the link you need. That is, if you can find them.

I’ve been hunting for years for a link between Israel Damon of Edgecomb and his son, Seth.  Everyone in the family “knew” Seth was Israel’s son but there were no records to prove it.  There were no family or birth records existing, no probate record, no deed other than the one where Israel purchased his land and later sold it, and nothing in town records. I was stymied.

There was a book on the Damon family where Seth was listed as a son of Israel, but the book had no sources for its assertion.  I even tracked down the publisher, who told me the original author had died, his nephew had taken up the project and died, and the nephew’s widow had turned over the manuscript to the publisher but no one knew where any of the information came from.  Times like this tempt genealogists to bang their heads against the nearest wall.

It seemed like the deadest of dead ends.  I searched Wiscasset, Westport and Edgecomb church records and found nothing.  I knew the family had come from Scituate, Mass., by way of Duxbury to an island in the Sheepscot River where the father supposedly drowned.  But that was it.

But sheer luck led me to look at the transcribed records of a church in Woolwich.  If you know your Maine geography you know Woolwich is beyond Wiscasset, and while I’d gone up and down the Sheepscot it never occurred to me that my Damons might have taken to the water and traveled to a church in Woolwich.  But they did.

There were the baptismal dates of three of the Damon sons, and Seth was one.  The records were wonderful and listed both parents and their residence. Just like that, I had the information I needed to prove that yes, Israel Damon was the father of Seth Damon.

Sometimes church records are held at churches themselves or at historical societies.  Some can be found transcribed in books or at national or state headquarters of the church in question.  Some kept wonderful records, others have been lost or destroyed.  

When searching for a church record, look everywhere.  Your ancestor may have moved around more than you realize so records can be found in more than one church or town. Start with a general Google search, contact local libraries, historical societies, and churches, try State libraries and Historical Societies, and keep searching.  As in the case of Israel/Seth it took years for me to find the connection between them, but in the end the wait was well worth it.

Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Reader emails are welcome at nbattick@roadrunner.com. Her semimonthly column is sponsored by the Aroostook County Genealogical Society which meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Caribou Library at 6:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.

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