Information available in sacramental records
Parishes have five kinds of Sacramental records: Baptismal (birth), Marriage, Death, First Communion, and Confirmation Records. Baptismal (birth), Marriage, and Death contain information that can vary from record to record and church to church. By the Code of Canon Law (Church Law which governs the administration of our parishes), pastors were required to maintain Sacramental Records. The Code specified what kinds of information were to be reported in those Records. Click HERE for the Sacramental Record Request Form.
For a baptism –the child’s name, his or her date of birth (though some very early records omit this), his or her date of baptism, the parents’ names (including the mother’s maiden name) and sponsors’ names along with the name of the officiating priest.
Marriage records were to include the complete names of the bride and groom, the date of the wedding, and the names of the witnesses along with the officiating clergy. On marriage records some pastors would add the names of the parents of the bride and groom, perhaps indicate where the bride and groom had been born, or even occasionally note the ages of the bride and groom. This form of record-keeping was not consistent and the information noted did vary by parish and by priest. Even two records recorded at the same time by the same priest could and did have different amounts of information.
Death records are very inconsistent regarding the kind and quality of information because the Code was not specific as to exactly what information was required. Some pastor recorded only the person’s name and date of services. Other pastors recorded additional information. Records from the same time period and sometimes the same church can provide vastly different amounts of information.
The information contained in First Communion, and Confirmation Records is usually limited to name and date the Sacrament was received.
Parishes did not keep anything comparable to a census or detailed registration form on parishioners.
After 1908 a change in Canon Law mandated that the church and date of baptism be included on any Catholic marriage record for the Catholic bride or groom. Records created before that time (and unfortunately some after date) do not have that information.
Location of sacramental records
Sacramental Records ordinarily are maintained by the parish which created them. Like many Dioceses, the Cleveland Diocese has closed some parishes. The records of closed churches were sent to the Archives Office.
The Archives also has microfilmed records from some of our older parishes throughout the Diocese. Unfortunately many early records were not maintained because of the mission status (and extreme shortage of priests) of Northern Ohio. Though Catholics were present in the city since 1812, our earliest Sacramental Records for the city of Cleveland date from the early 1840’s.
Our Diocesan policy is to keep our archive records closed. We can and do research information on a time available basis. Please be patient with us — sometimes response may take two or three months depending whatever projects the office is working on.