Vatican Restricts Access to Genealogical Info

More on the Vatican’s decision to restrict access to genealogical information from the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune. They stress the point that I made in an earlier post on this subject–this doesn’t just affect Mormons, but affects everyone with an interest in genealogy.

From the Deseret News article:

The move by the Vatican could have a profound impact on the ability of genealogy researchers to trace many family histories.

Russell Bangerter has been doing professional genealogy research since 1979 and has a degree in genealogy family history from BYU. Bangerter said his clients, from many faiths, all have an interest in creating a bond with their heritage.

“Some of them are LDS and some of them are not LDS. They simply just want to know their roots,” Bangerter said.

He said he has used parish registers in his research before. Bangerter said a typical parish register, Catholic as well as those of other Christian faiths, contain christening and birth data, marriage data as well as deaths and burial information.

Bangerter said much of his research doesn’t have anything to do with religious work, and closing those records simply hurts families who want to know their roots.

“There’s also the ecumenical side of things,” Bangerter said. He points to the LDS Church’s own Family History Library, in which people from all walks of life are welcome to access data. “I’ve seen all kinds of people there. I’ve seen rabbis, I’ve seen nuns and I’ve seen priests there as well.”

A genealogist friend of mine quipped, “Kind of late isn’t it? They [the Mormons] already have all of Quebec and New Brunswick records and goodness knows how many others.”

This friend asked what I thought about the Vatican’s point that they wanted to make it harder for Mormons to find their Catholic ancestors so as to make it harder for them to confer baptism on the dead. I responded, “Well, I’m reminded of the person who said, If I call this three legged stool a horse, how many legs does a horse have? A horse has four—him calling a stool a horse doesn’t make it so. So, if Mormons want to baptize each other and say they’re doing it for the benefit of my 10th-great-grandparents Daniel and Francoise LeBlanc—I figure they’re just getting each other wet, and it really isn’t affecting Daniel and Francoise.”

The Mormons have done us all a favor by going to parishes and city halls and microfilming records that are fragile and deteriorating and making them available to everyone. Their local research centers are staffed by helpful volunteers who quickly obtain any records you request. They are preserving records that could so easily be lost through natural disaster. The Vatican should be grateful for this, and should be assisting the Mormons on a wide scale instead of quibbling in this manner.

Another commentator echoes these points.

2 thoughts on “Vatican Restricts Access to Genealogical Info

  1. Forgive my ignorance on this issue, do the LDS charge for the info they have ind if so how much? Is it a case of the Church being p.o.’d that the LDS are charging for info that they provide for free?

  2. The LDS only charge a tiny fee, like two bucks, for each microfilm you request from the main library, to help cover the postage. You can use any resources there, including lots of on-line sources, at no charge. And you get it all in one place without having to go from parish to parish, dealing with different kinds of priests and secretaries, with various levels of willingness to cooperate.

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