Parish registers are one type of parish record that should be deposited in the Diocesan Archives. Parish registers include all baptism, confirmation, marriage, burial registers, as well as service registers (vestry books). Besides providing statistical information, registers contain information that people may need in the future to prove when they were born, baptized, confirmed or married, or to trace their family history. Information from vestry books is used to compile annual statistics that are sent to the synod office. For this reason, registers must be accurate and as complete as possible. Here are some guidelines to remember when completing parish registers:
- Registers should be filled in and signed by the officiant, at the time of, or as soon as possible after, the pastoral act. This ensures that information is not lost.
- All parts of each entry shall be filled in completely.
- Entries should be accurate, using names as registered with Provincial Vital Statistics (birth certificate names), NOT nicknames.
- Entries should be made in chronological order.
- All entries should be printed legibly, including the names of signatories.
- If a mistake is made at the time of completing an entry, the correction must be initialed by the officiant.
- No page or entry should be removed from a register. Voided entries should be clearly noted and initialed.
- Marginal comments are not recommended.
- No change to dates or names can be made in any entry. If an error is later discovered, a certified statement of correction (with supporting documents, if necessary) may be appended to the register at a later date (see Policy on Amendments to Baptismal Records and Issuance of Amended Baptismal Certificates).
- Access to parish registers should be allowed only according to established diocesan policy (see the Access Policy and Guidelines to assist parishes in responding to requests for parish records).
- All active registers are to be kept in a secure location, under the care of the incumbent.
What to do with completed registers
Baptisms, marriages and burials are public acts. Parishes and dioceses hold the records of the acts in trust for the participants and for the whole church and are thereby responsible for maintaining the integrity of the records. Completed registers should be deposited in the Diocesan Archives (see Parish Records Retention Guidelines). The archives will provide a safe, secure repository for completed registers and will store them according to accepted archival principles.
Where a parish retains completed registers, the churchwardens must provide assurance to the Diocese that the records are safely and securely stored and that access is provided to qualified researchers. See the Access Policy and Guidelines to assist parishes in responding to requests for parish records for advice on access to registers held at the parish.
Offers by third parties, such as genealogical societies, to do free microfilming in exchange for total access to the records should not be accepted. Any microfilms, or other forms of preservation copies, are subject to the same access considerations, and are not to be sold or distributed, by interlibrary loan or any other form of lending.