Good news! While thieves broken into St-Joachim Catholic Church in Chute-à-Blondeau, Ontario, in late September and carried away the safe, that safe has now been recovered. Bad news: the church’s parish registers kept in the safe have been damaged.
The safe contained a small amount of money and all the church’s hand-written parish registers, including christening and marriage records. In some cases the missing papers traced the same families for 130 years as generations lived, married and died there. See my earlier article about the theft at http://goo.gl/NM6uPf.
On Friday, police in Grenville, Quebec, found the safe lying in a ditch. It wasn’t in good shape after being forced open, and was also lying in water. The hand-written record books were soaked.
Now the parishioners are doing research on how to save century-old books that have been left in dirty water. For now, no one has tried to open the books. It appears that some parts may be in better shape than others, and there are a variety of options for restoring them — some more expensive than others. Step one may be to freeze the books for six months.
As sad is this story is, there is also a positive note: there are photocopies of these parish records in the archdiocese office in Ottawa.
Comment by Dick Eastman: Luckily, there are copies of the St-Joachim Catholic Church parish records in the archdiocese in Ottawa. However, these stories should remind all of us about the need for multiple backup copies, whether on paper, microfilm, or on digital media, to be stored in multiple locations. Making multiple backup copies and storing them in multiple locations will eliminate the tragedies of losing the only copies of valuable documents.