Sacramental Record Information
Parishes have five kinds of sacramental records: baptismal (birth), marriage, death, first Communion and confirmation records. Baptismal (birth), marriage and death records contain information that can vary from record to record and church to church. By the Code of Canon Law (Church law which governs the administration of our parishes), pastors are required to maintain sacramental records. The code specifies that the following is to be reported in these records:
Baptism records should include the child's name, date of birth (though some very early records omit this), date of baptism, the parents' names (including the mother's maiden name) and sponsors' names along with the name of the officiating clergy.
Marriage records should include the names of the bride and groom, the date of the wedding, and the names of the witnesses along with the officiating clergy. On marriage records some pastors add the names of the parents of the bride and groom and perhaps indicate where the bride and groom were born or the ages of the bride and groom. This form of record-keeping has not been consistent and the information contained in the records varies by parish and by priest.
After 1908 a change in canon law mandated that the church and date of baptism be included on any Catholic marriage record for the Catholic bride or groom. Records created before 1908 (and unfortunately some after that date) do not have this information.
Death records are very inconsistent regarding the kind and quality of information because the code is not specific as to what information is to be recorded. Some pastors record only the person's name and the date of the funeral service. Other pastors record additional information. Records from the same time period and sometimes the same church can provide vastly different amounts of information.
First Communion, Confirmation Records
First Communion and confirmation records are usually limited to name and date the sacrament was received.
Location of Sacramental Records
Sacramental records ordinarily are maintained by the parish that created them. Like many dioceses, the Diocese of Little Rock has closed some parishes. Parishes closed prior to 1975 had their records sent to a nearby parish. The records of churches closed after 1975 were sent to the diocesan Archives Office. The archives also contain microfilmed records from some of our older parishes. Unfortunately many early records were not maintained because of the mission status (and extreme shortage of priests).
Access to Sacramental Records
Diocese of Little Rock records are closed to the public, but we are happy to research information on a time available basis. Please be patient with us. Sometimes a response may take two or three months depending on what other projects the office is working on. We do send requests to parishes that hold records, but we cannot insist that parishes research the information. Parishes are not required to keep anything comparable to a census or detailed registration form on parishioners.