Researching Catholic Records in Greater Cleveland

by , under Church Records, Cleveland, Northeast Ohio

I sometimes fall behind in reading material about genealogical research in Northeast Ohio. A case in point: The October 2016 issue of Lakelines, published by the Lake County Genealogical Society, a chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. On page 11, the issue presented the following brief article entitled “Archives of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese”:

The Cleveland Catholic Diocese includes eight counties of northeast Ohio; Ashland, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lorain, Lake, Medina, Summit and Wayne. If you are researching Catholic ancestors who resided in any of these counties, be aware that the diocese maintains an Archive which may be of help. Further information is contained on their webpage

I am not Catholic, but from time to time, people ask me about researching in Catholic records, so I clicked on the link in the above article. I was presented with a concise description of the records that might be available in the Archives. Here are the main points (indented material or material within quotation marks is verbatim):

Access: “Our Diocesan policy is to keep our archive records closed. We can and do research information on a time available basis.” The website cautions that a response may take two or three months.

A request for information involves filling out and submitting a Request Form (telephone requests aren’t accepted). A copy of the form is downloadable from the website. Click on ARCHIVE REQUEST FORM. (Note that the website also offers a Sacramental Record Request Form. Use this form only to request a Sacramental Certificate for when you received one of the following sacraments: Baptism, first communion, confirmation, or marriage.)

The website then proceeds to discuss what may be available:

Parishes have five kinds of Sacramental records:Baptismal (birth), Marriage, Death, First Communion, and Confirmation Records. Baptismal (birth), Marriage, and Death 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 were required to maintain Sacramental Records. The Code specified what kinds of information were to be reported in those Records.

For a baptism –the child’s name, his or her date of birth (though some very early records omit this), his or her date of baptism, the parents’ names (including the mother’s maiden name) and sponsors’ names along with the name of the officiating priest.

Marriage records were to include the complete 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 would add the names of the parents of the bride and groom, perhaps indicate where the bride and groom had been born, or even occasionally note the ages of the bride and groom. This form of record-keeping was not consistent and the information noted did vary by parish and by priest. Even two records recorded at the same time by the same priest could and did have different amounts of information.

Death records are very inconsistent regarding the kind and quality of information because the Code was not specific as to exactly what information was required. Some pastor recorded only the person’s name and date of services. Other pastors recorded additional information. Records from the same time period and sometimes the same church can provide vastly different amounts of information.
The information contained in First Communion, and Confirmation Records is usually limited to name and date the Sacrament was received.

Parishes did not keep anything comparable to a census or detailed registration form on parishioners.

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 that time (and unfortunately some after date) do not have that information.

Location of Sacramental Records:
Sacramental Records ordinarily are maintained by the parish which created them. Like many Dioceses, the Cleveland Diocese has closed some parishes. The records of closed churches were sent to the Archives Office.

The Archives also has microfilmed records from some of our older parishes throughout the Diocese. Unfortunately many early records were not maintained because of the mission status (and extreme shortage of priests) of Northern Ohio. Though Catholics were present in the city since 1812, our earliest Sacramental Records for the city of Cleveland date from the early 1840’s.

Being something of a history buff, I clicked on the home page for the website to find the section entitled:

History of the Diocese
The Diocese of Cleveland was created on April 23, 1847 for 10,000 Catholics. In 1848 the 1st Seminary, St. Francis de Sales Seminary, was opened however the name was eventually changed to St. Mary Seminary.

On November 19, 1848, the first priests for service to the Diocese of Cleveland were ordained.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist was constructed from 1848 until 1852 at the corner of Superior Avenue and Erie Street (now East 9th Street). It was dedicated on November 7, 1852.

The territory of the Diocese would fluctuate with the creation of the Diocese of Toledo (1910) and then again with the creation of the Diocese of Youngstown (1943). Currently the Diocese of Cleveland encompasses 8 counties of northeast Ohio (Ashland, Cuyhoga, Geauga, Lorain, Lake, Medina, Summit and Wayne).

In 1912, the first Catholic Charities office was opened at East 9th and Prospect.

In 1925, a new St. Mary Seminary was dedicated on Ansel Road in Cleveland.

From 1946 until 1948 the cathedral along with adjacent diocesan buildings were rebuilt and remodeled. The new cathedral was consecrated on September 4, 1948. In 1977 the sanctuary of the cathedral was renovated to bring it up-to-date with the liturgical changes from the Second Vatican Council.

Another source of information about Catholic ancestors is the Cleveland Catholic Cemetery Association database of burials. Go to and click on “Burial Search.” To search the database for names and burial locations, you need to create an account. Once you create the account and log in, you will find that conducting the search is easy. If you find an entry for your person of interest, it should contain that full name, address, date of death and date of burial, age, and cemetery with the grave location.

The online search is currently available for the following cemeteries:

• All Saints, Northfield
• All Souls, Chardon
• Assumption of Mary, Brook Park
• Calvary, Cleveland
• Calvary, Lorain
• Holy Cross, Akron
• Holy Cross, Brook Park
• Resurrection, Valley City
• St. Joseph, Avon
• St. Mary, Cleveland
• St. Mary, Cuyahoga Heights
• St. Mary, Elyria
• St. Mary of the Falls
• Elmhurst Park, Avon
• Holy Trinity Avon

Work is ongoing at the following cemeteries:

• St. Joseph, Cleveland
• St. John, Cleveland
• St. Paul, Euclid

  1. Ann Faber (daughter of Eleanor)

    I AM scrapbooking a sort of “history” of my mother’s side of the family which is all in the Cleveland area. Although she was born in 1919 and attended Holy Cross School and she was married in Holy Cross (1944) which I totally found by accident and took a wild guess. The lady at Holy Cross provided the information and a copy of the marriage record. My grandparents are difficult – can find no marriage record altho I have a very beautiful “studio” photo of, I am assuming their wedding day. All I can narrow it down to is 1918. My grandmother was born in 1900, grandfather in1898 – both born in Cleveland. They lived in the Cleveland area all of their lives. I can find no birth, christening records, first communion, etc. on my grandparents, mother and her 6 brothers and sisters. Looking through all old photo albums of my mothers – and one was destroyed in a fire so am not certain what was in that album. I have death information on some of these people as that is on family search but would have to get the death cert. from Ohio The only one I was able to get on my own thru Family Search was on my grandfather and he died on 10/05/1950. I know parishes have closed over the years but am told information went to the Archives for the Diocese. I wrote a letter (I do not know how to “download or upload” stuff on a computer) on Jan.9th. 2019 searching for some kind of marriage information on Helen Gertrude Wailonis and Frank Joseph Carr OR Czarnetzki. Helen was born 7/4/1900 and Frank 7/27/1898. I do not know where this goes after I try and send it but will hope for the best. Eleanor Mary was born 11/23/1919; Joseph Frank 4/7/19212, Agnes M. Carr 4/30/1922, Dorothy H. 7/24/1923, Frank Joseph Jr. 1924 or 1925 , Coletta A. 3/13/1926, and Daniel Mathew 8/16/1928. I live in the upper third of Michigan and after my mother passed in 1971 there was a family dispute of some sort – anyone left that has not passed on they will not talk to me or respond to my correspondence. One sister in law is alive and doing well and a ton of cousins, etc.

    Any information you can provide me will help with my scrapbooking effort for my granddaughters. Am at a deadlock with all the above. My brother was born in 1946 in Ohio as my folks were married during WW II and my mother stayed with her family when my father was gone. His information I received thru my parish where I grew up in Michigan as they needed his birth and christening information for their records. Holy Name also provided that to them.

    • whuskonen

      Sorry but I have no further suggestions for you. Perhaps a reader will come up with something.

    • Caroline

      Ann, the 1900 Census has this family — would this be your Frank?
      Michael Czarnetzki 38
      Matilda Czarnetzki 32
      John Czarnetzki 8
      Clara Czarnetzki 6
      Leo Czarnetzki 4
      Frank Czarnetzki 1

      There should be more information for you online — it’s a question of finding it but your search will be complicated by name misspellings and name changes. (The old records weren’t fussy about getting these things absolutely correct.) I have family from that era who were born and raised in Cleveland, so I’m familiar with a lot of the record sources and may be able to give you some help. If you wish, respond with your email, so we can communicate directly. If you do give your email, use “dot” for the period, like this: msmith@aol dot com.


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