How to obtain my baptismal certificate?
March 18, 2009 1:46 PM   Subscribe

What's the easiest way to get a copy of my baptismal certificate if I only have a vague idea where I was baptized? This is embarrassing, but in my defense, I don't really remember it all that well.

I'm getting married in four months and need to get a recently-issued copy of my baptismal certificate. I was baptized in or near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, around 23 years ago.

None of my living relatives remember in which parish. They don't even know if it was the Diocese of Pittsburgh or the Diocese of Greensburg. Neither diocese seems to have the records at the diocese level (that's what they tell me when I call, anyway -- wouldn't they keep backups?).

I know it's possible to get a conditional baptism ("I baptize you, if and only if you've never been baptized before") but even in that case, I'd still like to get a copy of my original certificate, just to have.

Do I need to just start contacting all the Catholic churches in the area (100+), or is there a better way to handle this search?

Thanks in advance!
posted by smurdah to Religion & Philosophy (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The best way to resolve questions like this is to start from what you know, or can easily define. Where were your parents living when you were born (the street address and/or neighborhood)? Could there be a church nearby that was easy for them to get to? Did they strike out on their own in married life, or did they stay close to where they'd been when they grew up? Were your parents married in a Catholic Church and how long after they married were you born? It's entirely possible they baptized you at the church where they were married, unless they moved.

Do you recall ever being told who your godparents are? If they are alive, perhaps they can help. Do your living relatives recall who your godparents are, or do they remember where your parents were married or where they lived during the time you were likely baptized?

If no one knows this information, you might pull out your birth certificate (which should have your mother's home address at the time of your birth) or you might go down to the county courthouse and have a look at your parents' marriage certificate to find out where they were married.

Hope this gives you some guidance in your search!
posted by kuppajava at 2:18 PM on March 18, 2009

I don't suppose you have any kind of baby book? That's the place my mom's always stashed these sorts of things over the years. (as in "scrapbook full of baby-y goodness that might have, say, a copy of an invite to your baptism").
posted by at 2:23 PM on March 18, 2009

If you can find pictures of your baptism, perhaps some relative would be reminded of which church (or maybe even someone sympathetic at a diocese office could get a clue from a picture, though the church may have been remodeled in the last 23 years). Otherwise I would call the churches closest to where you lived at the time, where either of your parents grew up, where your parents got married, etc.

Also, I believe that my parents had to show my baptism certificate when I enrolled in CCD in elementary school or at least when I made my communion/confirmation (we had moved after I was baptized, so it was a different church). If you made these later sacraments, perhaps the church that you made them in would have some copies of the paperwork? Or maybe you were baptized in the same parish where you made your communion/confirmation?
posted by Caz721 at 2:32 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are you 100% sure you need the cert? We didn't have one and the priest took us at our word.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:03 PM on March 18, 2009

Response by poster: I found it! Thanks for the help.
posted by smurdah at 8:58 AM on March 19, 2009

Response by poster: bottlebrushtree: My priest's made it clear I didn't need the certificate, but I wanted to put in a good faith effort toward finding it. The priest can always do a conditional baptism (ie, "I baptize you, unless you've been baptized already, in which case I'm just pouring water on your head").
posted by smurdah at 9:00 AM on March 19, 2009

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