The Archdiocese of Chicago records that have long been available on FamilySearch microfilm have been digitized, partially indexed, and made available for searching and/or browsing in FamilySearch's Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925 collection. The images can be accessed from home.
If you can't find the people you're looking for using the search approach (many of the reocords aren't yet indexed) and you're not sure which parish the family attended, you will need to do a bit of detective work before continuing. First, try to determine where the family was living using records that include addresses, e.g., census returns, city directories, voter registrations, and/or vital records. Then determine which parishes were closest to the address and consider which the family might have attended based on location and ethnicity.
POINTers in Person has the parishes listed alphabetically with information on address, founding dates, and ethnicity. Links for the parishes will take you to the corresponding entries in the Family History Library catalog. (The links are broken as of 6 Oct 2021, but the page is still a valuable resource.)
ChicagoAncestors.org will let you see which parishes were closest to a particular address (make sure you convert street names and addresses, when needed). This website also includes information about when parishes were founded and provides Family History Library film numbers.
You can also use Locations of Chicago Roman Catholic Churches, 1850-1990 by Jack Bochar. It's available online through FamilySearch.
If you need Catholic records not found on FamilySearch—school records, orphanage records, or later sacramental records— or if you have questions about the earlier records, contact the Archdiocese of Chicago The Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Archives and Records Center.
The librarians at the Newberry Library have put together a comprehensive guide to Chicago church and synagogue records titled The Newberry Library Guide to Chicago Church and Synagogue Records. It is excellent! Use it to locate records that might be relevant to your research.
The following is a short list of places to find large collections of Chicago church records:
Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940
Presbyterian Church Records, 1701-1970
Use the browse feature to locate specific congregations; the index doesn't cover all of the records available
Archives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center
The collection is strong in Lutheran records. Visit their Chicago Genealogy page and scroll down to "Churches" to see what they have available.
Augusta Street Methodist Episcopal Church
Bethany Methodist Church
Bowen Methodist Episcopal Church
Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church
Desplaines Street Methodist Episcopal Church
Dickson Street Methodist Episcopal Church
First Italian Methodist Episcopal Church
First Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church
Hyde Park Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church
Ingleside Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church
Luke Hitchcock Methodist Episcopal Church
Moreland Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church
St. Luke's Methodist Episcopal Church
Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church
Swedish Emanuel Methodist Episcopal Church
Wicker Park Methodist Episcopal Church
Adams Street United Evangelical Church
Ashland Avenue Evangelical Church
Douglas Park Evangelical Church
Evangelical Association. Wisconsin Street Congregation
First St. Paul's German Evangelical Lutheran Congregation
Harrison Street Evangelical Church
Hoyne Avenue Evangelical Church
Kimball Avenue United Evangelical Church of Chicago
St. Mark's Evangelical Church
St. Paul's German Evangelical Church
Salem Evangelical Church
South Shore Evangelical Mission
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
United Church of Christ
St. Paul's United Church of Christ
If you know of another set of church records that should be added, please let us know.
FamilySearch has Catholic records to c. 1925, along with a few records from other denominations including Evangelical and Methodist Episcopal. Lutheran records are available at the Newberry Library and the Archives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America located in the western suburbs. But, the very best way to see what's available is to check The Newberry Library Guide to Chicago Church and Synagogue Records.
If you know the name of the priest/pastor and the year that he was serving, check a Chicago city directory. If you can't find him listed under his name, browse the church entries in the front of the book.
Check for a marriage license. If your ancestor was married in a church, it will be listed on the record and will give you a clue.
Check a death record to see where your ancestor was buried. Some cemeteries had religious affiliations.
Also, check the newspaper for a death notice or obituary. The funeral may have been held at a church.
Banner image created from images found in J.C. Bürgler and Wilhelm Kuhlmann, Geschichte der kathol. Kirche Chicago's. Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des katholischen Deustschthums, Chicago : Office des "Weltbürger," 1889; digital images; Flickr (https://www.flickr.com : accessed 25 April 2017).
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