Archives

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Sacramental Records – Overview

Access

In following with the most recent United States Census release, sacramental records are currently available for the year 1940 and prior.  

Records 1941 – present are, in most instances, available at the parish where the sacrament was administered.  If the parish is now closed, please contact the archive staff.

What are Sacramental Records?

Sacramental records describe each instance in which an individual receives a sacrament – Baptism, Penance, Eucharist/First Holy Communion, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick and Dying.  Baptism and Marriage records are the most common in the archdiocesan archive; there are no penance records.

Sacramental records are generally entered by the parish priest at the time the sacrament is administered.  The records are kept in special volumes designated for this particular purpose and are therefore distinct from all other parish records.  

Organization

The records are arranged first by location, then by parish name, record type (baptism, marriages, etc.), and date. 

Record Types

Baptisms: Records include name, date of baptism, date of birth, parents (sometimes includes mother’s maiden name), sponsors/God-parents, and the signature of the officiating priest.  Entries are organized chronologically by date of baptism.

Marriages: Records include names of the bride and groom, date of marriage, names of two official witnesses, and the signature of the officiating priest.  Records are organized chronologically by date of marriage.

In rare instances, records may include age, occupation, parents, and residential addresses of bride and groom.  In extremely rare instances, the place of birth and baptismal information of the bride and groom.

Eucharist/First Communion: Records include the name, date, and officiating priest.  In rare instances, parents and baptismal information are also included.

Eucharist is usually received around seven years of age, often as part of a group or class.

Confirmations: Records include name, date, location, and presiding bishop.  

Confirmation is usually received around thirteen years of age, often as part of a group or class.  It can only be administered by a bishop, and therefore can sometimes be found in episcopal registers (registers of the bishops’ activities).  Confirmations recorded in episcopal registers include the officiating bishop, location, date, and total number confirmed; no individual recipients are listed.

Ordinations: Records include name, date, rank to which the person is being ordained, and presiding bishop.

As they can only be administered by a bishop, ordinations are recorded in the episcopal registers rather than at parish level.

Sick Calls: Records include the name and date of the visit.  Frequently include the address, notation of the condition or cause of death, and ministrations administered.

Deaths/Burials: Records include name of deceased, date of death/burial, age, signature of the officiating priest, and often note whether penance or communion was received before death.  

Death/burial records are rarely kept with parish sacramental records, and more frequently appear as part of cemetery records.

Suggested Citation

Parish, Location. Record type, date range of volumes, page number. [Archive, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston].

Example: Saint Mary, Boston (Charlestown).  Baptisms, 1829-1855, page 22.  [Archive, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston].