Sunday, February 22, 2009

Church Record Sunday: Catholic Records

Those who have Catholic ancestors are very lucky. The Catholic Church has been keeping records since the Council of Trent (1547) decreed that records be kept on individual members.

What records might exist for an individual member?

First Communion
Vocation Records

Baptismal Records may provide name of the person being baptized, parent’s names (and sometimes mother’s maiden name), sponsor’s names, dates of birth and baptism.

Marriage Records may contain, bride and groom, name, parent’s names, (and sometimes mother’s maiden name), witness’s names, date of marriage, date of birth for bride and groom and church where they were baptized.

Burial Records may contain name of deceased, deceased age, death and burial dates, cause of death and place of burial.

Aside from Catholic Church records, there may be records associated with Catholic institutions like Hospitals, Orphanages, Schools, and Cemeteries. With each of these institutions you may find additional records. For example, school records may also include yearbooks, newspapers, and alumni associations.

Records may be found at a Parish, Diocese, Archdiocese, or Church Archive.

The Parish is where Catholics worship and receive Sacraments. Inquire about records on the Parish level first. Then try archives on the Diocese and/or Archdiocese level.

To find a Parish, Diocese or Archdiocese-

Check City Directories
Check Yellow Pages
Check with Diocese or Archdiocese website

Here are some links to help in your search and understanding of Catholic records:


Catholic Dictionary’s at

Catholic Encyclopedia at

Locating Catholic Church Records in New Mexico at

Catholic Record Society of the diocese of Columbus at

Catholic Archives of Texas at

Local Catholic Church and Family History at

The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at

Catholic, Cyndi’s List at

Women of Vision, Index of Catholic Nuns in Australia at

In Family Search,, to find Catholic Records do a library catalog subject search for “Catholic”.

The Official Catholic Directory at


Humling, V. (1995). U.S. Catholic sources: a diocesan research guide. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry.

Warner, M. D. L. W., Munnick, H. D., Beckham, S. D., & Munnick, A. R. (1972). Catholic Church records of the Pacific Northwest. St. Paul, Or: French Prairie Press.

Catholic Church Records

American Catholic Historical Society at

University of Notre Dame Archives at

Early California Population Project at

California Libraries Catalog at

Online Archive of California at

1 comment:

Eric said...

Often parish records prior to a certain date are transferred to the diocesan archives. For those who don't know what diocese a given place is in, try looking up the diocese by state at -- these listings are all linked to diocesan web sites, which often have information about their archives.