The Parish Sacramental Records Microfilm Program ensures that the Archdiocese of Toronto is maintaining a backup copy of our most vital records.
We are often asked why we still use microfilm technology for this program with the plethora of digital solutions available. The answer is simple: digital records are even more fragile than the original handwritten registers. Electronic copies of the records may facilitate the sharing of information for day-to-day administrative purposes, but this is not the best solution for long-term storage. The equipment and programs used to create, view and use digital material change very rapidly and older technologies quickly become obsolete.
Past microfilm updates occurred in 1964, 1969, 1975, and 1983. ARCAT began the Parish Sacramental Records Microfilm Program in 1993.
The premise of the program is that all Baptism, Marriage, Confirmation, First Communion and Death records of each parish in the Archdiocese of Toronto are microfilmed within a 5 year time period called a cycle. For each parish this means that your registers are only requested once every 5 years.
The parishes are only asked for the records created since the last time the registers were microfilmed.
One week per month is scheduled for the execution of this project by the ARCAT staff. This microfilm week is called a run. Four or five parishes are included per run. The parishes are grouped by geographical proximity to accommodate collaboration in getting the registers to the Catholic Pastoral Centre.
Limiting the run to one week ensures that the registers are removed from the parish for only 5 working days.
Parishes scheduled for the upcoming run are given a month's notice via e-mail.
The parishes are responsible for delivering the registers to the Archives Department at the Catholic Pastoral Centre and for picking up the registers when the run is complete. An employee of the microfilm service provider comes to the Catholic Pastoral Centre to pick up the registers for microfilming and they are returned in the same manner. Please be assured that the registers and the information they contain are secure at all times.
The Archives Department keeps a negative original and a positive copy of the microfilm produced by this program.
When this program began the Archives Department took on the canonical responsibility for the regular inspection of the sacramental registers. Parishes are informed if they are using incorrect registers or not conforming to Canon law or Archdiocesan norms.
Canon law also requires the Archbishop to ensure that a duplicate copy of inventories or catalogues of parochial records are kept in the diocesan archive. Microfilming the parish sacramental registers ensures that the Archives maintains a list of the sacramental records of each parish as well as a duplicate copy of the records themselves.
The Archives staff use the microfilm copies to facilitate the search for sacramental records when the individual does not know where their sacrament took place.
The parishes are billed directly by the microfilm service provider.
Overall, this is a minimal expense that is only asked of parishes once every five years.