Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Consider Catholic Newspaper Archives

We know how important newspaper research is for learning more about our ancestors' lives. For those of you with Catholic relatives, there's a list compiled by the Catholic Research Resources Alliance that you may find helpful. It includes various Catholic newspapers from both the U.S. and Canada.

Genealogy and the Pittsburgh Catholic Newspaper
The Pittsburgh Catholic, February 20, 1913: "The management earnestly solicit
your interest and assistance in the cause of the homeless boys sheltered at the
Protectory. If in need of an office or errand boy, apply at the Institution."

My great-uncle Peter LaFianza, whom I was lucky to have met, married my grandfather's sister and eventually lived in the Bloomfield area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While researching his life, I learned that Uncle Pete was an orphan by the age of 14. He is listed in the 1920 Census as a resident of St. Joseph's Protectory for Homeless Boys.

I was curious to learn more about what life might have been like at this institution, so I searched The Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper archive. Here are two paragraphs from an article I found in the September 2, 1920 issue, which would have been the same time my great-uncle lived there:
"Twenty-five years ago when the Diocese of Pittsburgh celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its establishment some project was sought which would give public and lasting evidence of the grateful appreciation of the blessings of heaven bestowed during the half century of Catholic activity then drawing to a close. Realizing the urgent need of an institution to care for the army of homeless destitute and unprotected boys of the city of Pittsburgh and towns of the diocese, the erection of a home to save them from the temptations and sufferings of poverty and from the evil associations and perils of the street was strongly advocated. The project met with the hearty response and generous support of the clergy and faithful alike, and in 1895 St. Joseph's Protectory for Homeless Boys opened its doors to its first inmate. 
At the institution the boys, who must be 12 years of age to be admitted, are clothed, sheltered and educated. A day school is maintained and when a boy has reached his fourteenth year and is sufficiently advanced in his education, employment is sought for him with the business firms of the city. Every endeavor is made to place him where he can acquire the knowledge of a trade and where advancement is possible. Although employed such boys continue to make the Protectory their home, depart each morning for their place of business and return when their day's work is done. During the winter months the working boys attend night school at the institution."
Duquesne University maintains the digital collection of The Pittsburgh Catholic for the years 1844-2001. If you have Catholic ancestors from the Pittsburgh area or need to learn more about the city's past, you should definitely search this archive.

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