Adoption and baptismal records

It’s always been my impression that baptismal records are confidential, in fact I found myself reading some into the record in court because the photocopies couldn’t be given to the jury. I was surprised, therefore, when visiting an adoption FB page, to have someone say that Church records are public and she’d been given free rein to search for her adopted son’s information re. his birth parents and had found everything she needed. She was also able to peruse the records for her siblings’ baptismal info, which had been entered wrong.

When I worked at the parish we’d sometimes get reminders from the gov’t reminding us that adoption records were secret and we weren’t to divulge that kind of info without a court order. I know that adoption laws have changed over the years and that they vary by jurisdiction but what’s the scoop on baptismal info?

I know people who have researched family history through Baptismal records and it’s my understanding that they are public record. However, it might be that they are not public record until a certain point. (Like when the individual turns 18 or passes away or something like that.) It could also be different in different places.

I think one would need to check with each jurisdiction.

Baptismal records are not of themselves legal/governmental documents so i don think one could say that they are of themselves public record.

Phemie, I see you are in Canada. It may be differenet in Canada.

I found a document from the USCCB that seems to say that the information on adoptions is confidential.
usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/canon-law/complementary-norms/canon-877-3-recording-the-baptism-of-adopted-children.cfm

I recently sent for my baptismal records and also my husbands. It was done over the phone, at an out of town parish, and no identification was required. Sacramental records are public, at least around here, as far as I know.

I’ve done that too, what I was specifically referring to was being allowed to go through the baptismal register yourself, giving you a good look at any other confidential information contained in there.

In parishes where I worked there were always a notation in the Baptismal Register if the person was adopted. Usually only the adoptive parents were listed in the register but the adoption certificate had to be sent to the diocese for permission to record the baptism. Only the adoptive parents names were put on the certificate of baptism.

Yes, but what if the infant were baptized and then put up for adoption? The baptismal records may be annotated to show the adoptive parents, but surely the birth parent(s) name(s) would not be officially expunged.

From Phemie’s link it looks like that the Church does have canon laws in place to protect privacy right…

Not the government but the Church

If the child is baptized before adoption the notation is supposed to read “Adopted as N. by N. & N. with the date” and I entered the adoption case number.

I only had to make such an entry once, for what I thought was a very sad case. The adoptive mother phoned requesting that her daughter’s baptismal certificate be sent directly to the priest in the parish where the daughter was getting married. I offered to send it to the girl but the mother was adamant, only to the priest. Turns out they had adopted her niece and the girl didn’t know she was adopted. Our register didn’t show an adoption so I told her to fax me the adoption papers and explained that I could then issue a certificate listing her and her husband as the parents. While I knew that was the thing to do I felt terrible for the girl. I know that if that were me I’d feel terribly betrayed if I came to find out.

Phemie, the long and the short of it is that the adoption board is wrong. Sacramental records are confidential.

They cannot be issued to other people. They cannot be viewed by people. Whoever was given access to records was either given access out of ignorance or a seriously grave disregard for the laws of the Church and common sense.

And if anyone called on the phone and got records that did not belong to them personally, then the parish official who distributed the records was in error.

Unfortunately, there are many untrained people on staff in parishes. Ugh. Stuff like this drives me crazy.

I’ve found my grandfather’s and my great uncles’ baptismal information online because the parish’s archives have been put online, but those records are more than 130 years old.

Vital Statistics in the province where I was born and married have an online archive. Births before 1920, marriages & deaths before 1963.

Prior to the Church cracking down on the process, Mormons were granted access sacramental records, at least those of the deceased

The Church does have guidelines regarding old archived records for geaneology use.

My comments are about current records, not those more than 100 years old.

Yes, of, course, that’s what I was trying to point out. Even the province will publish its vital statistics after a certain number of years. My birth parish published the registers from 1858 to 1920 about 15 years ago.

Regarding adoptions, I did find a Canadian Complimentary Norm to Canon 877 that indicates that we are to follow the rules of our province since not all have the same adoption laws. There has been a great relaxation of the rules in our province in recent years but there can still be a request for non-disclosure made by either the birth parents or the adoptee and we are bound to honour those.

I was frankly shocked at how easy it was for me to get my ex-spouse’s baptismal records from a parish when going through the Marriage Tribunal process. I called around until I found the U.S. parish where it was located (I had a pretty short list of where I assumed he was baptized and the approximate time frame) and they sent it right along to me. I suspect my experience is not uncommon.

I was adopted as an infant and couldn’t find my baptismal certificate until I got my adoption record open, learned my birth name, and found it in the records of the diocese. (I did all this in order to begin the annulment petition.) The diocese was unwilling to change the name on the certificate because they didn’t understand the adoption laws and were afraid to do anything.

I was baptized 53 years ago in the St. Vincent Infants’ Home exactly 14 days after my birth. There was a priest, two witnesses and a lay "godmother’ in attendance. I assume the witnesses and godparent were employees of the home or volunteers.

My adoptive parents had me re-baptized at 10 months old in order to have a certificate with their names and my new godparents’ names on it. They said their pastor told them about the confidentiality law mentioned in the original post and recommended a re-baptism. Oddly, there is no official record of that second baptism apart from the certificate which my parents had and lost sometime in their late 80’s.

I am the U.S. adoptive mother of a child that was baptized prior to adoption in Russia through a Catholic Church affiliated with the Russian orphanage. I have a copy of the baptismal certificate. I want to get a new certificate with her adopted name and if possible name godparents. (Currently godparents are 2 nuns from the Russian church). Can you elaborate on the process mentioned in your post? A family member spoke to a parish priest affiliated with our family church and he simply said that nothing could be done. I’m not sure he fully understood the name differences etc. Any help would be appreciated

Your situation is different. The other answer was referring to a child baptized after adoption.

For a child baptized before adoption, a notation can be made in the baptismal record. That would be the record in Russia. Sacramental record dos and don’ts are governed by canon law.

It would be best for you to contact your diocesan vicar general for assistance coordinating with the diocese in Russia and for advice on what can and cannot be done.

Normally what you would have to do is contact the church where your child’s baptism is recorded and have the adoption noted in her baptism record, along with her new name and your names as her parents. Then that parish would issue a new Certificate of Baptism with only her new name and your names.

You can’t change the godparents (actually, per canon law, a child can only have one godmother, not two), they are a fact of history, but nothing stops you from inviting someone to play that role in her life even if they are not officially recorded. She’ll also get to choose a sponsor when she is confirmed.

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