Parish Sacramental Records

The parishes of the Diocese of Gaylord are relatively new when considered with the total history of the Church community. We are "coming of age," not just because of the passing time of which is not completely of own making, but rather one that has been shaped in history.

More and more we realize that we are a community of people with a past as well as a present and a future. One of the most important sources for understanding this historical identity is the parochial sacramental register, which provides records of Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, marriage and death.

These books are invaluable records of the people who made up a parish and collectively the diocese at a given time. They are of vital interest not only to the Church, but also to countless individuals and even whole communities; their value is acknowledged in both canon and civil law. Parish sacramental records are becoming increasingly important as a source of information for genealogical research.

Parish Sacramental Records Rules of Access

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 parochial 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. In those parishes that are no longer active and have been closed, the records have sometimes been retained in a neighboring parish of the same community or have been transferred to the Archives.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 transitioned since the formation of the diocese in 1971 are:

Transitioned From: Transitioned to:
Our Lady of Lourdes, Turner St. Mark, AuGres (Diocese of Saginaw)
Saint Francis Solanus, Bayshore Saint Francis Xaivier, Petoskey
Immaculate Conception, Peshawbestown Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Peshawbestown
St. Joseph, East Tawas Holy Family, East Tawas
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Tawas City Holy Family, East Tawas
St. Lawrence, Cheboygan St. Mary-St. Charles, Cheboygan
St. Charles Boromeo, Cheboygan St. Mary-St. Charles, Cheboygan
St. Francis of Assissi, Alverno St. Mary-St. Charles, Cheboygan
St. Mary, Cheboygan St. Mary-St. Charles, Cheboygan
St. Bernard, Alpena All Saints, Alpena
St. Mary , Alpena All Saints, Alpena
St. John the Baptist, Alpena All Saints, Alpena
St. Joseph the Worker, Karlin St. Mary, Hannah
St. Francis of Assissi, Glennie St. Pius X, Hale
St. Rita, McBain St. Stephan, Lake City
Guardian Angels, Manistee Divine Mercy, Manistee
St. Joseph, Manistee Divine Mercy, Manistee
St. Mary of Mount Carmel, Manistee Divine Mercy, Manistee
Wirthsmith Air Force Base, St. Ann Chapel Archdiocese for the Military Services
Traverse City State Hospital Chapel Immaculate Conception, Traverse City

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 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.

 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 his 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.

Click to return to: Diocese of Gaylord Archives - Researcher Access Policy