The Diocesan Archives maintain a variety of sacramental and educational records as well as diocesan artifacts and information.
Parishes have five kinds of records: baptismal (often a proxy for birth records), marriage, death, first holy communion, and confirmation. The information contained in these records can vary from record to record and from church to church.
Baptismal records usualy include 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 pastors recorded only the person’s name and date of funeral services. Other pastors recorded additional 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.
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 a nearby parish or to the diocesan archives.
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.
The primary purpose of sacramental records is to help a person to verify his or her sacramental status in the Church; responding to these requests is our priority. Requests based on secondary uses of sacramental records, e.g. for geneological or legal purposes, are dealt with on a time-available basis by archives staff.
For high schools that have closed, transcripts and letters verifying your graduation can be provided from the Archives Office. Unfortunately, we do not have copies of high school diplomas.
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.
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