I recently visited FamilySearch, the world’s largest genealogy organization provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over the last while, they have been working on digitizing and indexing the microfilmed records held at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Of course, it will take quite a while to complete this project — they have MILLIONS of records — but there are some useful records already available.
I was delighted to find that digitized images of records from the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, are available online. They aren’t searchable yet, but they are easy to browse through. I found baptism, marriage and burial records for some of my great-great-great grandparents and their family.
Some of those records had some interesting clues to expanding my family search. For example, I already knew that my great-great-great grandparents, Christian Stern and Anna Maria Jan (or John), were married in Belleville, Illinois, on 15 Jul 1847, and I found the original record on FamilySearch in the records of the Cathedral of St. Peter. One of the witnesses is Charles Jan — likely a relative. Charles is also listed at their first daughter’s godfather.
So, I decided to search the 1850 census for Charles Jan in the Belleville area. I found a Charles John, born about 1800 in Germany, living in Centreville (now Millstadt), Illinois — the same town that my great-great-great grandparents lived in. Given Charles’ age, he could possibly be my great-great-great-great grandfather, though I don’ t have any other evidence of that yet.
Next steps: find more information about Charles John and see if there are connections to Anna Maria John.