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Sacramental Records at Vincennes

April 21st, marks the anniversary, in 1749, of the first official entry in the Sacramental Record at Saint Francis Xavier, Vincennes.

In this day and age, when genealogy is still a very popular pastime, the existence of early Church records makes a genealogist’s pulse increase. Although I am sure that many baptisms, marriages etc. were performed in the early history of Indiana, many priests carried their sacramental records with them, mainly because there was no church to deposit the records into. One example of this would be the Sacramental Record carried by Simon Lalumiere and others. This record, located in the Archdiocesan Archives is from Saint Peter, in Daviess County and Saint Joseph in Terre Haute. The link displays a transcript. Original sacramental records normally carry a particular “form”. The rules have not really changed over the years and yet, even to this day, many priests and parishes take the task lightly and records are not always updated. Then there is the problem with penmanship. Some records are very very difficult to read and, as already stated, Sacramental Records have been shuffled around as parishes and priests have moved around.

Canon Law requires that a “parish” maintain their Sacramental Records:

Can. 535 §1. Each parish is to have parochial registers, that is, those of baptisms, marriages, deaths, and others as prescribed by the conference of bishops or the diocesan bishop. The pastor is to see to it that these registers are accurately inscribed and carefully preserved.

§2. In the baptismal register are also to be noted confirmation and those things which pertain to the canonical status of the Christian faithful by reason of marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 1133, of adoption, of the reception of sacred orders, of perpetual profession made in a religious institute, and of change of rite. These notations are always to be noted on a baptismal certificate.

§3. Each parish is to have its own seal. Documents regarding the canonical status of the Christian faithful and all acts which can have juridic importance are to be signed by the pastor or his delegate and sealed with the parochial seal.

§4. In each parish there is to be a storage area, or archive, in which the parochial registers are protected along with letters of bishops and other documents which are to be preserved for reason of necessity or advantage. The pastor is to take care that all of these things, which are to be inspected by the diocesan bishop or his delegate at the time of visitation or at some other opportune time, do not come into the hands of outsiders.

§5. Older parochial registers are also to be carefully protected according to the prescripts of particular law.

Suffice it to say, the Code of Canon Law is not always followed. However, it is always a mark of true ‘stability’, if you will, when a sacramental record ‘stays put’ in one place and taken care of. With that in mind, today we honor the memory of at least three people who helped to make that ‘stability’ happen at St. Francis Xavier in Vincennes. On April 21, 1749 The marriage of Julien Trattier and Josette Marie was witnessed by Fr. Sebastian Louis Meurin S.J.

John Law wrote:

The first entry on the church records here, is dated April 21st, 1749. There is neither title page nor introduction. The first entry is the certificate of marriage between “Julien Trattier, of Montreal, Canada, and Josette Marie, the daughter of a Frenchman and an Indian woman.” The only baptisms recorded during the year, are those of the Indian adults. One of the first deaths was Madam Trattier, aged eighteen years, whose marriage we have above recorded. She was but a short time a bride, having been buried in December, 1750, in the church, under her pew, on the “Gospel side” “” so says the record. The resident priest was “Father Sebastian Louis Meurin.” All certificates except those of deaths are signed by “M. de St. Ange, Lieutenant of Marines and Commandant for the King, at Post Vincennes.” Father Meurin left in 1753. His last official act was the burial of “the wife of a Corporal in the garrison, March, 1753.” He was succeeded by “Father Louis Vivier.” His first recorded act is a marriage, May 20th, 1753. On the 24th of the same month he buried “Pierre Leonardy, Lieutenant of the garrison.” His last record is dated August 28th, 1756. The number of baptisms and marriages is small, but increasing. Half of them are of “Red or Indian Slaves,” belonging to the Commandant and to the inhabitants. It was a number of years after the departure of the Jesuits, who had officiated as priests until about the year 1760, that another priest visited Vincennes. During the interregnum, one “Philibert,” Notary Public, administered baptism as a layman, privately, and duly recorded the names of those to whom he administered the rite, on the register. 1

In the Illinois Catholic Historical Review 2 there is an article about Father Meurin, the Jesuit who made the first entry in the sacramental record. It said:

“In the year one thousand seven hundred and forty nine the 21 day of the month of april ,after having published three bans between julien trottier du rivieres son of julien trottier des rivieres of the parish of Montreal and josette marid daughter of antoine marifi and marie anne chicamicge the parents (“les peres et meres”) living in this parish without their being any impediment, I the undersigned missionary of the company of jesus performing the functions of pastor have received their mutual consent of marriage and have given them the nuptial benediction, with the ceremonies prescribed by Holy Church in the presence of monsieur de St. Ange. Lieutenant of a company of detached marines, Commandant at poste Vincennes, of jean Baptiste Guilbert, Toussaint Guilbert, antoine Bouchard, jean B. Ridet, Louis Gervais witnesses who have signed with me. S. L. Meurin jesuite.

St. Ange Commandant Boucher at poste vincen J. B. Ridday filliatro Louis Gervais
This sheet has been transferred by me the undersigned.
S. L. Meurin Jes.

It went on to say:

This happy family was soon broken up by death. On page 56 of the Records we read:
27 December 1750 died in this parish Josette Marie Wife of julien trottier Desrivieres, trading in this poste, 18 years of age, after having confessed and received the Holy Viaticum and the sacrament of extreme unction. Her body
was buried with the usual ceremonies in the church of the parish under her bench on the gospel side the 28th of said month and year. 8. L. Meurin Jes.

Two months later occurred the death of the infant son, whose birth had most probably occasioned the death of the youthful mother.

“15 February, 1751, died in this parish Julien desriviers son of julien des rivieres & josette marie two months old. Buried with the usual ceremonies in the church of this parish near the body of his mother. S. L. Meurin S. J. ”

[This post originally appeared in April 2016]

  1. Law, John. The Colonial History of Vincennes, under the French, British, and American Governments, from its First Settlement Down to the Territorial Administration of General William Henry Harrison, Being an Address Delivered by Judge John Law, Before the Vincennes Historical and Antiquarian Society, February 22d, 1839, with Additional Notes and Illustrations . Vincennes: Harvey, Mason and Co., 1858[]
  2. Illinois Catholic Historical Review, v.3, n.1 July 1920[]

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