Accessing Archival Records

Sacramental Records

Types of Sacramental Records
Sacramental records are required by canon law to be kept according to a formula which varies with the kind of record. Listed below is information contained in the records of four sacraments (baptism, marriage, first communion, confirmation) and death records which are kept.

Information Contained in Sacramental Records

  • Baptisms – date and place of birth and baptism, name of child, names of parents, names of sponsors or godparents, name of officiating priest, and sometimes the parents place of residence;
  • Marriages – date, names of parties being married, names of official witnesses, name of officiating priest; First Communions-date, names of children only, name of officiating priest;
  • Confirmations – date, names of children only, name of officiating bishop/priest; and
  • Deaths – name of deceased, date of death and burial, name of officiating priest.

Policy on Sacramental Records
Sacramental records are of a mixed nature in that they are both private and public. They are private because they are intended to document an individual’s status within the Church. They were originally created in circumstances presumed to be confidential. Sacramental records are also public because they will stand in civil law as valid and authentic evidence when an appropriate civil record does not exist. It is important to understand that although these records are public in that they stand in civil law; they are not public in the sense that they are open to immediate examination and inspection by anyone for whatever reason. For example, civil records of birth are public records restricted from use for long periods of time.

It is the same with the sacramental records of the Church. Restrictions on access may therefore be legitimately imposed without violating the essential private and public nature of the records.

Access to Records
Our records are not open to general research, because they are records of a private institution. Further local restrictions may be applicable. Sacramental records may be released upon request by the individual whose name appears on the record, or with written consent of the named individual. Each parish maintains its record books from its beginnings through the present; the Diocesan Archives has microfilmed these records up through 2000 for safety and research reasons.

To request information from your own sacramental records, or the records of someone else with their permission, fill out the Diocese of Helena Archives Sacramental Record Request Form. The individual may also contact the parish directly for records.

View Index of Parishes and Missions with the Listings of Sacraments the Archives Has on Microfilm.

School Records
The Diocesan Archives has microfilmed the permanent records for Holy Rosary High School in Bozeman; Cathedral High School, St. Vincent’s Academy and grade schools in Helena and East Helena; the Butte Catholic grade and junior high schools and the Anaconda Catholic grade and high schools. Access to these records is restricted. Researchers are not entitled to the complete school record. Under provisions of federal law and Diocesan policy, they are only allowed “Directory Information”. This includes: name and address, telephone number, birthday, birthplace, major field of study, participation in school activities, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, awards received, previous schools attended, the student’s photograph, and the parish in which the student resided. This information is taken from the student’s record at the time the student attended the school. Current information is not available from the Archives under any circumstances and the Archives cannot issue a student transcript. There is a donation fee per name for this service.

Orphanage Records

Access to the Orphanage Records (St. Joseph’s Home, Helena, MT, 1893-1965) is restricted. Only the person whose name appears on the record can request and receive information from their record with proper identification.

Genealogical Research

Persons requesting records for genealogical purposes must be:

  • A. The person named in the record (if over age 18)
  • B. A parent or legal guardian of the person named in the record (if the person is under age 18)
  • Other parties as designated in writing by the person (A) or (B).
  • If person (A) is deceased, their children or heirs may have access to the records after supplying the Archives with notarized proof that they are next of kin.

Fees

Archive Services ask for a donation to cover the costs of research and processing of queries. The research rate in the Helena area is between $15 and $25 per hour.

Please make checks payable to the Diocese of Helena and send donations to:

Dolores Brinkel, SCL
Archivist
P.O. Box 1729
Helena, MT 59624-1729