Information for Genealogists
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General Information on Searching for Your Catholic Ancestors
Parish sacramental records can be a valuable source of information to genealogists. This site explains the type of sacramental records that are maintained by the Archives, the information to be found in those records, the rules for their use and the research fees charged by the Archives. Please be sure to read this information carefully.
The Archives contains all sacramental records older than 70 years beginning in 1808 for parishes in the following counties of Pennsylvania: Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Lawrence and Washington. Researchers seeking information in those counties prior to 1808 should contact:
Diocese of Greensburg
723 E. Pittsburgh Street
Greensburg, PA 15601
Tel: (412) 837-0901
Fax: (412) 837-0857
In addition to genealogical research, the Archives and Records Center has many resources on the history of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Those researchers interested in historical facts can find much information from photographs to official documents.
Finally, anyone can obtain a copy of their own sacramental records free of charge.
For more information on historical research or sacramental records, please call us at (412) 456-3158 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research fees are charged on an hourly rate. The charge is $15.00 per hour. Any individual seeking information on more than one person or family does not have to send $15.00 for each person or family.
The hourly fee will cover research on any number of ancestors an individual wishes to research. The Archives charges by time spent, not by individuals researched.
A check or money order for $15.00 made payable to "Diocese of Pittsburgh" must accompany the research request. Do not send more than $15.00 with the initial request. Even if an individual wishes us to research for more than one hour, only $15.00 should be sent with the request. If we spend more than an hour researching, we will bill the researcher for the additional fees. Any amount sent in excess of $15.00 will be considered a donation to the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Only sacramental records older than 70 years are open for genealogical research, except for death records. Information in death records can be released without restriction.
Records between 70 and 100 years old are open for research only if the researcher provides documentary proof that the person(s) named in the record has died. A copy of an obituary or death certificate is considered adequate proof. Proof of death is not needed for records over 100 years old, nor for death records whatever the age. Orphanage records are subject to the same rules and restrictions as sacramental records. Any record, sacramental or orphanage, relating to an adoption is subject to the privacy rules of Pennsylvania state law 23 Pa.C.S. 2905.
The actual search can only be done by Archives staff due to privacy considerations. All research requests must be in writing and must include a $15.00 deposit. Research requests forms are available from the Archives and can be obtained by calling between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. eastern time Monday through Friday.
All requests must include information about the individual being researched, approximate dates to search, the area where the individual lived, the information requested and a check or money order for $15.00. The request should also specify the maximum number of hours we should search. Otherwise, we will assume that we are only authorized to search for one hour and will break off research after that time.
The Archives cannot provide copies of original marriage or baptism certificates because we do not have the originals. When a baptism or marriage occurred, the priest prepared a certificate and entered the information about the birth or marriage into a book. The certificate was then given to the married couple or the parents of the baptized child. The parish retained the book, which we use to do our research. When we respond to a research request, we provide all of the information contained in the register.
Almost all of the entries are in Latin. Our response includes the information as is written in the register. Spelling is given as it was recorded in the register.
At its peak, the Diocese of Pittsburgh had 321 parishes. Researchers must know the parish their ancestor attended or the geographical area in which they lived for us to find any information. In the case of the City of Pittsburgh, a researcher at least should know the section of the city (i.e. Lawrenceville, etc.) where their ancestor lived. Outside the city, the researcher should know the name of the community or town.
The Archives maintains five types of sacramental records: baptismal, First Communion, Confirmation, marriage and death registers.
The information contained in these registers varies from parish to parish. Before 1917, the Church did not have exact requirements as to how the records were to be completed. Some registers have very complete information about the individuals listed. Others, however, have only the bare minimum of information needed to record the event. The information that follows summarizes what may be in a specific record. We cannot guarantee that it will be in the record.
At a minimum, the baptismal register will contain the child's name, date of baptism, the father's first and last name, the mother's first name and the name of the godparents. Most entries will also include the date of birth. Other information that may be included are the mother's maiden name, the city (if outside Pittsburgh) or the neighborhood (if inside Pittsburgh) where the child was born, and the country and, in some instances, the town of origin of one or both parents.
First Communion and Confirmation Register
These registers are of minimal value to researchers and usually the information gained from searching them is not worth the cost of the search. Most registers only consist of the date of First Communion or Confirmation and a list of the children who were Confirmed or celebrated their First Communion.
At a minimum, the marriage register will include the marriage date, the couple's names and the names of the witnesses. Other information that may exist includes the couple's age, the town or country of their birth, the names of their parents and the town or country of origin of the parents.
The only information in all death registers is the name of the deceased and the date of burial. Other information that may be in the register is the deceased's date of death, age, place of birth, residence (usually a town or City of Pittsburgh neighborhood, but can occasionally be a street address), cause of death and the cemetery where the deceased was buried. If the deceased was a child, the entry may also include the name of the child's father.
We have orphanage records from St. Paul's Orphanage, St. Joseph's Orphanage, and Holy Family Institute. Information in these records consists of the child's name, date of admission, and date of departure. Other information that may be included are father's and mother's first and last names; correspondence; grades; medical records; whether Baptism, First Communion, or Confirmation were administered and when and where; and reason for placement.
Please make sure that you have read the rules, fees and available information pages before filling out a request. Because a fee must accompany the initial request, research cannot be requested via the Internet. Please print the REQUEST FOR RESEARCH FORM and send it with a check or money order for $15.00 to:
Archives and Records Center
Diocese of Pittsburgh
1010 McNeilly Rd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
In the past, we have had individuals ask for copies of the records we find for them. Because of the fragile condition of most of our volumes, we have refused to make photocopies of the entries. In the last few years we have begun to microfilm our sacramental records for security purposes. In February of 2014, the Archives & Records Center purchased a new microfilm reader/scanner/printer. This new machine gives us the capability to offer copies of the microfilm image of our register entries for $5.00 a copy.
If you are interested in having a copy of a register entry, please follow the following procedures:
1) Fill out and send in a research request form with a check for $15 as usual.
2) Once you get the results of our research, review them and determine if you want copies of any information we found.
3) Contact the Archives via email with a list of items you want copied. Be sure to include the type of record (baptism, marriage, etc.), the parish and the date(s). With this information we can determine if the record has been filmed or not. We will then notify you whether or not the volume has been filmed.
4) If the volume has been filmed, then send us a copy of the letter we sent you with the results of our research. Indicate which items you want copied and whether you want it as a paper hard copy or an electronic pdf file sent by email. Include a check for the total amount due ($5.00 per item).
Important Note: Do not skip step #3. Not all of our records have been filmed yet, so make sure we can provide you with a copy before you send in your order.
Also note that we cannot guarantee the quality of the image you will receive. If the writing on the original document was badly faded, the microfilm print out may be difficult to read. We will make every effort to provide you with the clearest copy possible, but much depends on the quality of the original image.