Sometimes we forget to research an Irish-born Catholic priest or brother in the family. If you can’t find where your ancestor was born using the typical immigrant records, then switch your focus to the religious relative. Why? Because these were educated men, and records were left behind. This typically can include their birth place.
For a “how to” guide on approaching this topic; I will refer you to Kyle J. Betit’s two articles: in The Irish At Home and Abroad journal. You can find copies in many major libraries. Betit’s first article is “Researching Catholic Nuns, Brothers and Priests in the U.S. for Place of Origin” (Volume 4, #3 (1997), pages 121-125); and the second is “Priests, Nuns and Brothers in Ireland” (Volume 5, #2 (1998), pages 70-76). While his articles are dated, the strategies he utilizes and the records discussed remain current.
A priest or brother would have belonged to a particular order. This is identified by initials behind the name of the priest. For example, OFM (OSF until 1897) stands for Order of Friars Minor which is the Franciscans. OSB is Order of St. Benedict (Benedictine Monks)
and SJ is Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Once you know this, then the records of the order are opened up to you.
In a reverse strategy, if you know a priest, for example, is in the family, but don’t know the order, then look for what order of priests served the home parish. Parishes were often served by a particular order, and young men from that parish were drawn to the order of the resident priests.
This blog only scratches the surface of this important topic in the search for immigrant origins. I will continue this discussion tomorrow with Female Religious.