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Rules of Access for Parish Sacramental Records

The Diocese of Gaylord has the sole copyright and ownership for all sacramental records of the parishes under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Gaylord. The creation, preservation and use of the sacramental records are the responsibility of the priest as pastor or the pastoral administrator in charge of a parish. Catholic institutions (i.e. hospitals) sometimes maintain their own sacramental records but more often notations of the celebrations of the sacraments are recorded in the nearest parish. 

Every parish is required to maintain its own sacramental registers for the following sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage. First Communion registers are not required; most parishes do record them however. Death records are maintained but are not considered sacramental records. The sacramental records of all parishes are retained and maintained in the individual parishes. In those parishes that are active but have no resident priest, the records are usually retained in the parish where the priest resides. If a parish has a pastoral administrator, the administrator maintains the records. In those parishes that are no longer active and have been closed, the records have sometimes been retained in a neighboring parish of the same community or have been transferred to the Archives. Those parishes that have been closed since the formation of the diocese in 1971 include:

Closed Parish/Chapels Records Retained
Alpena, St. Mary Indian Reserve (closed 1950) Diocesan Archives
Alverno, St. Francis Parish Cheboygan, St. Mary-St. Charles Parish
Cheboygan, St. Charles Parish Cheboygan, St.Mary-St.Charles Parish
Cheboygan, St. Lawrence Parish Cheboygan, St. Mary-St. Charles Parish
Cheboygan, St. Mary Parish Cheboygan, St. Mary-St. Charles Parish
East Tawas, St. Joseph Parish East Tawas, Holy Family Parish
Glennie, St. Francis of Assisi Parish Hale, St. Pius X Parish
Karlin, St. Joseph the Worker Parish Hannah, St. Mary Parish
Maple City, St. Joseph Parish Maple City, St. Rita-St. Joseph Parish
Maple City, St. Rita Parish Maple City, St. Rita-St. Joseph Parish
McBain, St. Rita Parish Lake City, St. Stephen Parish
Peshawbestown, Immaculate Conception Parish Peshawbestown, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish (name change only)
Tawas City, Immaculate Heart of Mary East Tawas, Holy Family
Traverse City, All Faiths Chapel (State Home) Traverse City, Immaculate Conception Parish
Turner, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish AuGres, St. Mark Parish
Wurthsmith Air Force Base, St. Ann Chapel Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

Sacramental records are of a mixed nature: private and public. They are private in that they were created in circumstances presumed to be private and confidential. They are public in that they will stand in civil law as valid and authentic evidence when an appropriate civil record does not exist. They are not public in the sense that they are open to the immediate examination and inspection by anyone for whatever reason.

Every person has the right to be provided with an authentic certificate of their own sacramental records. If a person is seeking his or her own record, a request must be made to the parish in possession of the record. Authorized parish personnel will examine the registers and issue the requested sacramental information, either directly or by mail. Research, whether historical, genealogical, sociological, demographic, etc., is also a valid reason for permitting access to these records, provided that the rules of access protect the legitimate right of privacy of the persons named in the registers. It is the responsibility of the Diocese of Gaylord, acting in and through the priests and pastoral administrators of the various parishes, to supervise how these records are used, by whom and for what purposes.

The passage of time has a critical effect on the sensitivity of all records. As current events become historical events, the need for withholding them from use is reduced and, in some cases, may eventually disappear entirely. For this reason, older records may be more broadly available to researchers, whereas recent records are more restricted from use.

Another effect of time on the sacramental records is the condition of the registers. Frequent use and poor handling of the registers has created broken bindings, loose pages, torn pages, brittle paper and sometimes illegible handwriting. These old registers need to be handled with care.

Since the Archives of the Diocese of Gaylord does contain the sacramental records of the parishes of this diocese on microfilm, access to the records in the parishes is limited and restricted to the parish offices. Those seeking information from the sacramental records will not have unlimited or free access to the records. Access to these records is limited because of the factors indicated above and also for confidentiality. Access to the records is granted by the priest or pastoral administrator only. The priest or pastoral administrator or designee will obtain the information from the records, issue a certificate if desired or provide the information sought.

Parishes should not charge any fees for providing information from sacramental registers, whether in the form of a certificate or otherwise.