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Archiver > NFLD-LAB > 1998-10 > 0907244116

From: "Cathy Kendrick" <>
Subject: Birth / Death parish records
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 08:15:16 -0400

Hello all,
Since the topic of the week seems to be parish records, I am going to
repost a portion of this article written by my cousin Peter Shea regarding
Roman Catholic parish records in the Harbour Grace, Harbour Main, Brigus
and Avondale areas.

"....Let's start, for example, with Parish Records. These are, of course,
the births, deaths and marriages as recorded by the priests in the parish
register. Going back to the first original records, you would have to
start searching in the parish register of Harbour Grace - a large town
about 30 miles from Salmon Cove (Avondale). The coast was very sparsely
(and illegally) settled in those days - there was actually a law forbidding
settlement - and this, together with the "penal laws" which were in force
at the time, made the keeping of any records unwise. Certainly, there were
a number of priests who were caught and deported back to Ireland in the
early 1700's. By the late 1700's, the Penal Laws were revolked and the
strictures about settlement were repealed, and in 1805, a cathedral was
built in Harbour Grace. It was normal for a priest to leave Harbour Grace
on a "mission" and he would travel to various communities, marrying and
baptising anyone who needed these services while he was in that community.
Of course, he either carried his parish register with him or made the
appropriate entries when his "mission" was over. In the past, I have found
a number of pertinent records in these parish registers.
In 1825, the town of Brigus, which is about 10 miles from Salmon Cove, had
grown big enough to warrant a church (and thus a parish register of it's
own). So, after 1825, the priest from Brigus would minister to the people
of Salmon Cove (Avondale), and their records would appear in the Brigus
parish register. By 1857, the town of Harbour Main (right next door to
Salmon Cove) established a church and became the spiritual home for Salmon
Cove. The parish of Salmon Cove came into existance about 1885 when the
church was built, and a new priest, Fr. Roe, arrived from County Wexford.
The priest had grown up next to a great estate named "Avondale" owned by
Charles Stewart Parnell who lead the fight for Irish Home Rule in the
Brittish House of Commons. Anyway, Fr. Roe's first act was to change the
name to Avondale and of course he would have started a new parish register.
The community of Conception Harbour, next to Avondale, built a church
shortly after.
So you can see how, when searching parish records you would have to
leap-frog back in time to the various registers to trace the family line.
Unfortunately, the church in Brigus burned down in the early part of this
century destroying all of the parish records in the process. For us, this
means that the time that Salmon Cove was being ministered to (1825 - 1857)
there are no records. This is particularly bad because it was, after all,
the time of the Great Famine, when many of our ancestors came to
Newfoundland, settled down, and started families. As well, the church in
Avondale burned down in 1910, so all records from 1885 to 1910 are also

Hope this puts some light on the parish record problem.

Cathy Kendrick
Grand Rapids, Michigan


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