Lidija Sambunjak, professional genealogist

Help saving vital records from the worms!

One thing every genealogist is concerned about is the condition of the books he or she uses in the research. Today, many of the archival documentation has been preserved by microfilming or digitalizing, but in areas of Croatia and Slovenia, this is not the case for all of the documentation, especially for vital books that hadn’t been taken by the government, but stayed in parishes.

Some parishes didn’t (or still don’t) want to send their birth, marriage & death records to local archives due to some reasonable, but also sometimes unreasonable reasons and lots of times one would find books in a terrible condition – in moisty cabinets, books eaten by worms lying on a soily ground or books where there are more missing pages than those preserved.

Parish burned to the ground

But last week I visited a parish in Slovenia where I was pretty amazed by the care given to the books by the priest. The parish burned to the ground in 1944 and all that was preserved were copies of originals in a far away archive in Trieste, Italy.

After copies of these copies arrived back to the parish they were used by many and weren’t treated with much respect, so they were soon worn out. Then a new priest was assigned to this parish, who obviously knew how important these records are for people that live or have lived there. So, he did something which is rarely seen in parishes accros the world.

Books preserved in a digital form

He traveled to the archive where the copies are stored and he took a shot of all of the preserved books, converted them in the computer format and made them available to everyone who would visit his parish!

If only more priests were like him! So when you go to the next parish again and see records that are not properly stored or preserved, try to convince the priest to do more for preservation of the records. Perhaps you may end up being the reason why records of thousands of people would have been saved.