For Catholics, baptism is one of the seven sacraments that represent devotion to the Catholic faith and a promise for parents to raise their children in the ways of Catholicism. The Catholic church maintains fairly meticulous records of its parishioners, in the form of sacramental notations and information on baptisms, deaths and marriages. Whether you are researching your family history, want to see your own record or are doing other research, you can get a copy of Catholic baptism records fairly easily if you know what you're looking for. Baptisms generally happen shortly after birth, but that is not always the case.

Collect all the information you can on the person whose Catholic baptism record you want to copy. Most baptismal records contain the following information about the baptized person: full name, date of birth, baptismal date and parents' names (with mother's maiden name). Find as much of this information as you can before you contact a parish or specific church seeking a copy of a record. It also helps if you can find the person's address at time of birth, the name of the priest or any other details to narrow down where the records are stored.

Contact the diocese that the person would have belonged to, unless you know the specific parish or church. Depending on how much time has passed, the diocese may have copies of all the records on microfilm or digital storage for preservation.

Give the diocese record caretaker or archivist all the information you have about the person whose record you are trying to obtain so he can locate the baptism record or tell you what church has it. Some churches have libraries or halls of records where you must look up this information yourself; however, the record caretakers will assist you.

Ask permission to make a photocopy of the Catholic baptismal certificate. You will most likely have to go to the diocese hall of records or the specific church at which the person was baptized to see the original document. The diocese generally only receives and records notices of baptisms, while the parish church keeps the certificate.

Bring a high-quality digital camera to take a picture of the baptismal record in the event that photocopying is not permitted or not an option.

Tip

  • You may not be able to make a copy of very old records unless they are preserved on microfilm; however, this is usually the case with records dating before the 19th century.