by James J. Czuchra
This index is a finding aid to marriages in the Archdiocese of Chicago's Roman-Catholic parishes populated predominantly by Poles. These are the parishes identified as Polish in John Parot's, Polish Catholics in Chicago, 1850-1920. He identifies some 57 parishes. Forty-two of those parishes are included in this index. Most of the remaining parishes were founded after 1915.
The 1915 cutoff date is significant because the index was prepared from the microfilmed copies of parish registers. Privacy concerns prevented the release of records after 1915. Why prepare an index to marriages? Not all of us are lucky enough to know when our Polish ancestors married or in which parish. In some cases the records are not indexed at all, or more commonly by the first letter of the groom's surname and chronologically thereafter. It is rare that the bride's name is indexed and even rarer that any names follow strict alphabetical order. By combining data from the many Polish parishes, you are more likely to find reference to marriages of interest.
Check out the church by church breakdown of Polish parishes included in the index, separated into city of Chicago and suburban parishes. The film numbers are believed to be correct and can be ordered at your local Family History Center if they are not already there. In the Chicago area, the Wilmette FHC has all of the listed films on indefinite loan.
As the index is only a finding aid, you should look up the actual record yourself to glean any additional information it may contain. Not all parishes were diligent about naming the parents of the bride and groom although most did. There were only a few parishes whose records named the Polish village where the person was born. You may even find interesting stories like the man who had a wife in the old country and was trying to marry someone else here under a different name. Don't miss out on potential "gold nuggets" of information by not going back to the original record.
"Why can't I find my ancestor? I know he/she was married in Chicago?" Be creative. Try various spellings of the name. The priest may have spelled the name differently from what you expect. The handwriting was not always very good in these records, so transcription errors are possible in addition to typographical errors. You might also try a search with no surname listed. That will display the names where the beginning part was messed up, but maybe you recognize the ending. Consider also that maybe the person was married after 1915 or in a parish that was not predominantly Polish.
How is the index laid out? It is primarily an alphabetical list of surnames (of both brides and grooms) followed by their given names. The given names are usually English equivalents of the Polish or Latin versions appearing in the records. As the index was prepared over the span of several years and no firm style standards were established, there could be variations in how a given name is rendered. The name of the spouse and the date of marriage follow that. The next column gives the name of the parish. The next columns give the volume number and page number that the record appears in. The volume number refers to the marriage register number for that parish. It is not a real number in that you will always find it stamped on the cover of the register. Rather they are assigned in chronological sequence-- the first marriage register is "1", the second register is "2", etc. The page number is the page number at the top of the page of the marriage register. The "Film" column is the Family History Center film number that should contain that record. The "Item" column is the sequential record group on the film.
A few additional notes: St. Stanislaus Kostka Church Volume 0 is a book of banns and contains a repetition of most marriages appearing in other volumes. It is a nice source for Polish towns of origin. Volume 1a is the part of the first volume with many marriages per page. The page number given in the index is really a serial number for that marriage since these marriages were numbered sequentially. Volume 1b has four marriages per page. The page numbers in the index correspond to real page numbers in the register.
Where a date is given for St. Stanislaus Kostka Church marriages, it is often the last date listed in the record. It may be the date the banns were published or the actual marriage date. In one case, the groom-to-be died before the wedding took place. In a few cases, a marriage may be listed in two parishes. One listing may be when the banns were published in one home parish while the other listing may be from the parish where the marriage actually took place.
St. Blase Church in Argo was a mission of St. Joseph Church in Summit and did not achieve parish status until 1924. The index includes marriages from St. Joseph since it contains marriages from what was to be St. Blase Church in Argo.