Personal Research

Letter to Franciscan Missionary Sisters regarding Resta Reeves Finch, 1947

I enjoyed doing my last Amanuensis Monday post so much, I think I’ll make it a regular feature of the blog.

Today’s transcription is part of a mystery I’m trying to solve. It involves my great-grandmother on my father’s side, Resta (Reeves) Finch, wife of Chester Finch. This document popped up in my Ancestry hints about two years ago, and it immediately brought up several questions.

Here’s the document (click to enlarge):

The citation:
Letter from Sister Teresa Francis, 23 April 1947; “Illinois, Compiled Records from Lockport Area Genealogical and Historical Society, 1811-1990,” digital images, Ancestry ( accessed 3 September 2018).

And transcription:
[Postmarked 24 April 1947, 1:30 pm out of Duluth, Minnesota]

Corpus Christi Carmel
Duluth 5, Minn.

The Rev. Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart
415 E. 5th St.
Lockport, Ill.

JMJT [with a little cross above the 1st J]

Corpus Christi Carmel
Duluth 5, Minn.
April 23, 1947

Reverend dear Sisters: The Peace of Jesus. While taking the Catholic Census in a Parish in Duluth, I visited a family in which the mother has some difficulty in obtaining her baptismal certificate.

Her maiden name was Resta Reaves, born about 1914 or 1915. All she remembers is that when she was quite small, she was put out to live with another family. Her only recollection is that at about 8 years of age she received her first Holy Communion in a Convent school where the sisters wore grey habits.

She felt sure it was in Cicero, Ill. but I have written to the St. Dionysius church but the Sisters there have no record.

Could it be possible she was in a school where your Sisters teach?

May I beg your Charity to help us obtain a record of her Baptism, or First Holy Communion as on this depends the validation of their marriage + return of both husband + herself to their duties as Catholics.

Sincerely yours in Carmel,
Sister Teresa Francis [I?] Carmel<

1. What is a Catholic Census? Can I access these records somewhere?
2. Why did Resta and Chester’s marriage need validation, and what does that mean?
3. Is there a record of the letter that Sister Teresa sent to the Cicero convent school?
4. Is there a record of the reply from THIS convent school to Sister Teresa?
5. Why was this letter stuck between these pages? I’ve checked them, and there isn’t any Reeves/Reaves listed there. I also checked through the rest of the book just in case there was info, but didn’t find any.
6. What family was Resta “put out to live” with?
7. If Resta & family were Catholic, does that mean there are records of them in the Duluth Catholic church archives?

So I have a lot to do! Here’s what I’m thinking the main lines of research should be:
1. Contact the Lockport Area Genealogical and Historical Society (the group that contributed the documents to Ancestry) and ask if they know anything else about this letter/situation.
2. Find out what a Catholic Census was/is, and if there are any records of it that I can access.
3. Check Catholic archives in Duluth for records of Resta and family.
4. Contact the Duluth Corpus Christi Carmel group for info on their side.

If you happen to know anything about this letter, or the answers to any of my questions, please leave a comment!


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