The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

A Search for Civil Records Finds Churches Long Gone in Cobble Hill

 Parish of St. Paul and St. Agnes on Congress Street.
Parish of St. Paul and St. Agnes on Congress Street.
View Full Caption
Facebook/Parish of St. Paul/St. Agnes

COBBLE HILL — When Mary Ann DiNapoli, a professional genealogist, searched for records of family histories, she discovered pieces of a neighborhood's past, too.

Using old records from religious institutions for details of people's pasts, DiNapoli found memories of churches in Cobble Hill that only exist on paper.

To show her findings to the public, the Municipal Art Society of New York, along with DiNapoli, are hosting a tour of these churches titled “The Here, the Now, the Long Ago and the Forgotten,” on April 6 with tickets priced at $10 for general admission.

The tour will take people through 10 churches around the neighborhood and even some recognizable landmarks, like St. Paul’s and St. Agnes at 234 Congress St., and Christ Church Cobble Hill at 324 Clinton St., an institution that gained attention last year when a state prosecutor was killed after a lightning strike to the church’s steeple caused scaffolding and debris to fall on him.

In her search for early birth or marriage documentation, DiNapoli often has to look beyond city records, particularly before 1907 when they were not as reliable as today, she said.

So DiNapoli turned to the House of God.

Searching through directories of churches and synagogues, particularly for birth and marriage records, DiNapoli has been able to piece together family histories, sometimes going as far back as 1830 and in some cases, working only with the name of a minister or an old address and the family’s religious denomination.

There are still some remnants of past churches, like an old pilgrim chapel at Henry Street and Degraw Street that is now a supermarket.

“You can still see the outline of the [church] building,” said DiNapoli, who has been a genealogist for over three decades, a person who studies family history and lineage.

Sometimes DiNapoli will show you a street corner of a former church and “meanwhile, we’re looking at an apartment building,” she said.

Often all that’s left are “fragments or even hints of the church.”

To purchase tickets for the tour, visit the Municipal Art Society of New York website.