European Vacations

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Catholic, or catholic? Religious history of my ancestors

As I previously reported in my last blog post, I was able to obtain the baptismal information of my maternal grandfather, Clement Erdman Sr. In October, 1899, he was born in what was then known as Selgenau, Germany, Prussia. According to Father Ptach, the priest of St. Margaret Scapular Catholic Church in Smilowo, Poland, the baptismal certificate of my maternal grandfather stated surprising information about his mother, Rozalia Rzybazejek Erdmann/Erdman. It stated in the Polish language that she was "ewangeliczka", which meant that she was from the  Lutheran denomination.
The definition for the word "catholic" in Webster's Dictionary states, "Universal or general;affecting mankind as a whole, or affecting what is universal in human interest." Up until 1472, everyone that professed the Christian faith, were devoutly Catholic.
Clement Erdman Sr. was the youngest of seven children, and was baptized soon after his birth in October, 1899. The other surprising thing that I found when I received his baptismal information, was that his older siblings had not been baptized at that same church. Was the Erdman Family frequently moving at the time? Or, were they baptized at at Lutheran church instead?  The other Catholic Church that I have to request information from, was originally a Lutheran church, before it changed denominations. I have not contacted them as of yet though. What I am finding though, is that other Erdman/Erdmann families that share my mother's surname, is that they were  from the Lutheran denomination instead of Catholic.
When I reported my research results to my mother regarding her paternal grandmother's religious denomination, she did not hear me the first time that I told her the information. I had to repeat the information to her again, before she finally understood that there were more converts in her own family, than she had realized. What some of you may not know, is that my maternal grandmother was a convert from the Baptist denomination. Ironically, as I went through my maternal grandmother's family history, I found that a number of her ancestors stated that they came from a wide variety of religious backgrounds. Since this family history goes all the way back to England, several of the ancestors were indeed associated with Church of England, including some that came from royalty. Others reported their denominations as Methodists and  Huegenots, while others stated that they were Quaker and Puritan. The Coffin Family, of which I am a descendant of through the Hill-Raymond side of my family, reported their denomination as Quaker. They were abolitionists as well. Luecretia Coffin Mott, who's father was a minister,  was a descendant of this family as well,  was not only Quaker and an abolitionist, was an educated woman at the time, and was very active in the women's suffrage movement, which  included signing the women's Declaration of Independence in Senecca Falls, New York during the year of 1848. This was quite unheard of for women at that time, and quite controversial as well, as women were not able to vote, hold property in their name, or even obtain a divorce because of a miserable marriage. And, I must not forget the Wiliam Brewster Family, which I am a descendant of through his daughter, Patience, through the Brewster/ Prence/Hill/Raymond branch of my family tree. William  was a member  of the Puritan denomination, and then of course, was a member of the Separatist Movement, and sailed on the Mayflower with the rest of the Pilgrims, and landed near Plymouth Rock in 1620.
On my father's side, only a few of the branches of my family tree were originally of the Catholic denomination. This included the DeRosier, Doucet/Doucette, Dugas', Dupre' and Boisjolie families that came from Canada and France. However, the Moran/Morin family was a bit more complicated than that. They were baptized as Catholic, and at various times in their lives, waited until adulthood to be baptized. I am still trying to do more research with this. When the Flansburg Family immigrated from Germany, they were actually members of the Dutch Reformed Church, which is now known as the Presbyterian denomination. Various members of that family either converted to the Catholic denomination, or decided to become Lutheran instead. On the Dupre side of my family, I found out that my great-great-great-great grandfather,  James Corbett, was not only Irish, but was a member of the Church of England when he married my great-great-great-great grandmother, Hannah Holmes. They lived in the very Catholic community of Sorel, Quebec, and I am sure that they were probably pressured into converting to the Catholic denomination after their children grew into adulthood, and were married as well.

On my mother's maternal side of the family, my maternal grandmother's two younger brothers attended Northwestern College, at its previous location in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Wilbur Sanford was ordained as a Baptist minister, and he, along with his wife, Dorothy, became Baptist missionaries in Buenos Aires, Aregentina. At various times throughout their lives, they would travel to Minnesota, not only to visit with relatives and friends, but to raise funds for their missionary service. I do remember as a child, my mother would receive letters from them at times reporting on their missionary activities and fund raising efforts.

Many religious denominations have gone through turbulent times over the past few centuries. As I stated previously, the word "catholic" means universal. I presently attend a church that professes a universal denomination, even though it has evolved and split off into several various versions of its original denomination, thanks to Martin Luther, who was actually from Germany as well.  What I need to research now about my mysterious great-grandmother Rozalie, is when she converted to the Catholic denomination, and why did she wait so long to do it. Did she do it when they were still living in Germany? Or, did she wait until they moved to Minnesota? Along with that, I still have to find out if Great-Grandpa Albert was of the Lutheran denomination as well. I do have my resources in place to do the research, but I need to research the religious  history of Germany as well. Happy trails, everyone!:)