Digitization progressing

It has been over one year since the Archdiocese of Boston entered into a partnership with the New England Historic Genealogical Society to digitize our sacramental record collection. Since it began in August 2016, there have been some exciting developments, and our progress has exceeded expectations thus far.

As of last month, 142 volumes from 22 different parishes and missions have been scanned and made available online, amounting to 40,948 pages of records. Of those, 63 volumes have been completely indexed, which amounts to 17,469 pages; 263,279 records; and 979,348 individual names. Many other online databases include only the main entry, the person who received the sacrament, but our index includes baptismal sponsors, witnesses to marriages, and parents.

The records contain a variety of languages including English, Latin, French, Italian, and German, making transcribing and indexing these entries very difficult. About half of this work has been completed by a team of 69 individuals who have volunteered approximately 4,000 hours of their time to this task. The other half has been transcribed by a third-party vendor and is checked for quality by NEHGS staff and volunteers.

The collection can be accessed via the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society -- AmericanAncestors.org. The collection is free to browse after registering for a guest membership, and full NEHGS members can use the search feature.

It is our hope that within the next several years, all records dating from 1789 through 1900 will be scanned, indexed, and available online. The research library at the Pastoral Center will continue to be open to researchers so they may view original records, and the library staff will still provide assistance to researchers both in the library and remotely.

- Thomas Lester is the archivist of the Archdiocese of Boston.