31 Days to Better Genealogy – Day 4: Explore your Ancestor’s Religion

Amy Johnson Crow has been sharing on her Generations Cafe Facebook Group a prompt each day for May. They are based off of her book 31 Days to Better Genealogy that you can buy on Amazon (shown below).

Day 4 of 31 Days to Better Genealogy is: Explore Your Ancestor’s Religion. Amy Johnson Crow talked about how Church Records often existed before Civil Records and that they may also contain more information than Civil Records. She listed some other connections an ancestor may have with their Church, such as attending the Church’s school, being in Church newspapers, and being a member of an organization (fraternal or social) that was involved with the Church.

She also talked about how including their religion and church involvement is another piece of identify for that ancestor and that it could be helpful when trying to sort out people with the same name. For example, this Mary Smith attends the Baptist Church whereas the other Mary Smith attends the Roman Catholic Church.

I have been particularly noticing Churches and groups mentioned in obituaries in my family tree research lately. For example, my 2nd Great-Grandmother, Julia Devlin, had a Church and a group or groups mentioned in her obituary:

Julia Devlin Parkin obituary from the Buffalo Courier-Express, Sunday, April 6th, 1930.

The obituary says:

PARKIN – In this city, April 4, 1930, Julia Parkin (nee Devlin), beloved wife of Albert E. Parkin, and mother of Albert E. Parkin Jr., and Mrs. Edwin Kelley; sister of Frank Devlin and Mrs. Daniel Gainey. Funeral from family resident, No. 34 Melvin Place, Monday morning at 8:30 o’clock and from St. Monica’s Church at 9 o’clock. Friends are invited to attend. Deceased was a charter member of the Ladies Auxiliary, Knights of St. John Commandery No. 57.

If the funeral was to be held at St. Monica’s Church, I would assume that she was a member there. I looked in the Family Search Catalog in Buffalo and there is no St. Monica’s Church currently listed. I next checked the Grosvenor Room guide for their Church Records (located at: http://www3.buffalolib.org/sites/default/files/pdf/genealogy/subject-guides/ChurchRecords.pdf) and they also have no listing for a St. Monica’s Church within their collection.

So, a few to-do items would be to see if I can find an address for this church. I’d also like to check out the Sanborn Maps and learn more about 34 Melvin Place and St. Monica’s Church.

The obituary mentions that she was a charter member of the Ladies Auxiliary, Knights of St. John Commandery No. 57. I’m confused by the comma or period after the Ladies Auxiliary. Is the Ladies Auxiliary a separate organization than the St. John Commandery No. 57 or was she a member of the Ladies Auxiliary for the St. John Commandery No. 57? Was this group part of St. Monica’s Church?

So, more to-do items would be to research the St. John Commandery No. 57 to learn more about them and if they had a Ladies Auxiliary. Also, there are 3 different churches in the FamilySearch catalog and 15 in the Grosvenor Room guide with the name “John” in the title. Maybe she wasn’t a member of St. Monica’s Church where the funeral was held, but of a St. John’s church? I wonder if I could find Church records for her.

Also, after Julia passed away, her husband Albert went to live with his daughter-in-law and son, Margaret Hetzel Parkin and Albert Parkin, as he died in 1937 at 842 Smith St. (the Hetzel family home). I wonder what happed to 34 Melvin Place – more land records to search for! Plus I could do a newspaper search for the 34 Melvin Place address. Holy cow – that’s a lot of to-dos!


  • Google/Newspaper search for St. Monica’s Church to find out history of it, where it was located, if it is still there, what religion it was, are there still records, find it on a Sanborn Map, etc.
  • Find 34 Melvin Place in the Sanborn Maps and run newspaper searches by that address.
  • Have I newspaper searched for Julia and Albert that much? I should do that, too…
  • Google/Newspaper search for St. John Commandery No. 57 to learn more and see if they were affiliated with St. Monica’s Church.
  • Look up land records for 54 Melvin Place.