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Questions and answers related to sacramental records and genealogical searches.

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  How do I locate my baptismal or sacramental records?

The church of baptism becomes the official site for recording sacraments, even if they are celebrated in another parish. The first step in obtaining a baptismal certificate is to contact the church of baptism. If you know the name of the parish go to our alphabetical listing of parishes to get their contact information. The record of other sacraments received may be obtained from the parish in which it was granted. If the parish in question is closed, consult the list of closed and merged parishes for the location of those records. In the event that a sacramental record is located at the Archives, please complete this electronic form to request a copy of that document. For additional questions contact the Archives.

  Why can't I access sacramental or genealogy records online?

We do not have any records available online.  In order to research genealogical records you must submit your request to the archives in writing and we will do the research for you.  More information can be found here.

  What are your hours?

The archives are open by appointment only, so please contact an archivist to set up an appointment.  Contact information can be found to the left of the screen.

  Where can I obtain my school transcripts?

If the school is open please contact the school directly. A current list of schools can be found here.  Transcripts are only open to the student and the student must provide proof of identity. Genealogists do not have access to school transcripts.

  How can I find historical information about a parish?

The archive has limited historical records on each open parish in the Archdiocese.  If the parish is still open it is best to contact that parish directly as every parish maintains their own parish archive.  In some cases, if a parish has merged or closed the historical records went to the archives, in other cases the records went to the new parish.  Contact the archives for more information.

  What records are available at the archives?

The holdings of the Archives include, but are not limited to:

    Administrative records of various Archdiocesan offices
    Records of closed parishes
    Pre-1921 sacramental records
    The archival records of various Catholic individuals and organizations within the Archdiocese
    Parish histories
    St. Francis Seminary Records

If you are interested in research involving any of these records please contact the archives to set up an appointment or email your question to us using the request form.

  How do I obtain a copy of a photograph from the Archives collection?

The Archives has many valuable historical photographs. If you would like to have a photograph reproduced, you will first need to get the permission of the Archivist.  Photographs will only be reproduced in accordance with US Copyright Laws for a fee of $5.00 per scanned image.

Obtaining a photographic reproduction from us does not constitute permission to publish that photograph. If you would like to publish or display a photograph please consult the Archivist. If you have any other questions, please use our general information request form.

  Can I donate an old book, bible or religious artifact to the archives?

The mission of the archives is to collect, preserve, organize and make available for research the permanently valuable records and artifacts of this archdiocese that reflect the work of the Church, its people and institutions.  Therefore we only accept records and artifiacts that relate directly to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

While historically interesting, old bibles, religious tracts, rosaries, crosses, old books and related materials generally do not document the history of Catholicism within the current boundaries of this Archdiocese and therefore we are not the most appropriate repository for such items.

Institutions such as World Mission Ministries may be interested in aquiring materials that can be reused, depending on the condition of the item.  If you believe an item has been blessed but can no longer be used, it is generally best to burn or bury that item.

  Whose relic is in my parish's altar stone?

We don't know.  That information is not supplied to the Archdiocese so we simply don't have any records of altar stones.

  Does the Archives recommend rebinding old sacramental registers?

Generally, no. Several parishes have had their books repaired by a book binder, but we’ve found it usually does more harm than good.  When the binding is resewn it becomes very hard to read or annotate the information in the crease of the book.  Instead the best thing you can do is take very good care of the books so you don’t have to make repairs.  This includes:

Store the books horizontal.  Our webpage: https://www.archmil.org/offices/archives.htm has a photo of our sacramental storage book area.  It is difficult to tell from the photo, but we store the books we use frequently only 2-3 books high.  Only those books that we access infrequently, such as death registers, are stored higher.  Storing horizontal rather than the traditional vertical puts less stress on the bindings, which is usually the part of the book that deteriorates first.

Access the books only when you need to.  Records that are open to genealogists (pre-1920) are on microfilm at the Archdiocesan Archives so direct people to our website: https://www.archmil.org/offices/archives/GenealogicalResourcesandInform1.htm.  Keep an accurate index of the book outside of the book so when a certificate needs to be made you know exactly which page you need to turn to and you avoid continuously flipping through the pages.  Books older than 100 years can be transferred to the archives.

Don’t place extraneous materials in the book.  Once you enter a notification of marriage, confirmation, etc. into the register you can discard the notification.  We’ve encountered many situations when parishes stick notifications, post-its and other papers into the registers.  This can cause major damage to the binding.

Do not use adhesives, rubber bands, metal paperclips, "permanent" markers, highlighers, etc.  A black ballpoint pen is the only thing that should be used to write in the register.  All other items can corrode and break down the registers.  ape, in particular, causes immense damage once it begins to decay.  Over time rubber bands will begin to stain the registers and depending on the temperature/humidity they will become brittle and begin to either break or stick permanently to the register again causing staining. Cotton string or twine can be used instead to hold registers together.  Metal paperclips will also corrode and leave rust stains in their wake.  Permanent markers and highlighters tend to bleed through the pages, in some cases rendering them unreadable.

  Should the parish maintain permanent records electronically?

Permanent records, such as meeting minutes, have a permanent retention because they are a fantastic source of information about what is happening at your parish and have a great deal of historical information.  They are also important for administrative purposes, because if you ever need to go back and figure out why a particular decision was made, meeting minutes can provide that information.  If you want a record of what happened at your parish in 2018, then you need to save it in a way that it can be accessed 10, 20, or 100 years from now.

The problem with maintaining permanent records in electronic format is that technology changes rapidly.  Remember the days of floppy disks?  If your 1995 counterpart typed meeting minutes in Word Perfect and stored them on a floppy disk would you be able to retrieve it today?  Probably not.  If you store information on a hard drive, in the cloud, or on a website, could you access that information 10, 20 or 100 years from now?  The way to look at it is that electronic records are perfect for accessing and disseminating information today, but paper is what you want to use to save information for the future.  Today it seems insane to say that you should be printing anything, but at the end of the day it’s actually the easiest and cheapest way to store permanent information.

Shelly Taylor, MA, MLIS
Director of Archives and Records Management
Contact for General Reference Questions

Amy Lisinski, MLIS
Associate Director of Archives and Records Management
Contact for Sacramental and Genealogy Questions

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The Archdiocese of Milwaukee

3501 South Lake Drive
St. Francis, WI 53235

Phone:  (414) 769-3300
Toll-Free: (800) 769-9373
Fax:  (414)  769-3408