Friday, October 13, 2006

Genealogy Records / Archdiocese of Detroit Archives

Information about what types of records are held by the Archdiocese of Detroit and how they can be accessed was updated on the AODOnline web site (10/13/06). Here is the information that genealogists will find helpful.

Genealogy Records

Every person has the right to be furnished with an authenticated certificate of their own sacramental record(s). These same records however, are not only of value to those persons actually included in the church registers. They also have tremendous value as "primary source" material for historical, genealogical, sociological and demographic research. Access to sacramental records may be allowed for these reasons, provided that the rules governing access are observed to ensure the legitimate right of privacy of those persons named in the registers.

The passing of time has a critical impact on the sensitivity of most records. As current events will one day become historical events, the need for withholding records from use is gradually reduced and, in some cases, may disappear entirely. For this reason, older records may be more widely available to researchers, while more recent records require more restricted access rules. It is the responsibility of the Archdiocese of Detroit, acting through the pastors of the various parishes, to supervise how these records are used, by whom and for what purposes. The following are brief summations of the current rules governing access for sacramental records within the Detroit Archdiocese.

Sacramental Records Up To & Including Year 1900

The present cutoff date for unrestricted access to sacramental records is the year 1900. The Archdiocese reached a legal agreement with the Burton Historical Collection of the main Detroit Public Library to grant access to sacramental records for all interested genealogists by means of microfilmed versions of the original church registers deposited at the Burton. This was done to relieve parish personnel of the time-consuming responsibility of researching information, to preserve the aged and fragile original records from excessive handling and to ensure that researchers, in a properly supervised environment, will receive equal treatment under the written rules of access. The records of the oldest Catholic parishes that are presently within the six-county jurisdiction of the Archdiocese have been microfilmed and made available for public use.

Since this convenience is available, researchers are NOT permitted to handle the original registers under any circumstances. Pastors are dissuaded from allowing the general public to view the church registers and are asked instead to redirect researchers to the Burton Historical Collection. The microfilmed records at the Burton are exact duplicates of the original registers found at the various parishes. They contain neither more nor less information already found in the originals.

Sacramental Records for 1900 to Present

Such records are not open to examination by the general public. Only authorized Archdiocesan or parish personnel may view them. An individual seeking his or her own sacramental record for either a church or civil purpose may obtain a certificate as needed. Some exceptions may be made however, regarding access to records after 1900.

Sacramental records may be used for statistical, quantitative research for certain scholarly projects. For genealogical research, information after 1900 may be made available to immediate family only. Our definition of "immediate family" is limited to a child seeking his or her own parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., i.e. your own direct linear descent. No "branching out" among other family members is permitted. Only death records after the year 1900 are not subject to any type of restriction.

The Archdiocesan Archives does not maintain the records of any orphanages or similar child care institutions. These are the responsibility of the institution itself, if it still exists, or the religious order that administered the facility in the past. The Archives can provide interested researchers with the address of the religious provincialate or motherhouse where they may write for further information.

In the case of sacramental records that may concern an adoption, the Archives cannot reveal the names of the natural/biological parents. No certificate issued by either the Archives or any individual parish will contain this information. The Archdiocese of Detroit adheres to state guidelines that give priority to the privacy rights of the natural parents. [More]

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