QUAERITUR: Legal name changes and baptism certificates

From a reader:

When you get married in the Catholic church, you are required to obtain a baptismal certificate. If you have your name legally changed such that it no longer matches the name on the baptismal certificate, where do you stand. Is there a way to update the baptismal certificate?

Take the civil certificate proving the name change to the church where you were baptized (or the parish, in the case of mergers).  Call the diocese if you are not sure where.  At the parish, they can make a notation in the baptismal record.  They don’t change the record, but the note the fact of a name change.  They can then reiussue a certificate reflecting the change.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. jbas says:

    Yeah, we need one more thing to have to do.

  2. James Joseph says:

    If you do not want to do it… I am sure one can always contact the extensive personal records department based out of Salt Lake City. They are sure to have a copy of your Baptismal Certificate.

  3. Nan says:

    Why can’t you just present your original baptismal certificate and a copy of your name change document? Unless you need to get a baptismal certificate in which case it makes sense to get the cert notated.

  4. Volanges says:

    Nan, when you get married you have to present a very recently issued baptismal certificate – usually one not more than 6 months old. On that certificate would also be noted your confirmation and any marriage you might have contracted in the Church (or outside with a dispensation).

  5. Peggy R says:

    I did make a legal first name change as an adult a couple years before I met my husband. I obtained a letter I think from my childhood parish in another state that affirmed my baptism, first communion and confirmation, under my birth name. I did not inform my childhood parish of the name change, but showed the matrimony parish (as well as the legal authorities as needed) the legal name change. I keep the legal order handy…Now, I did alert the vital stats dept in my birth state and they issued a corrected birth certificate, with the birth name crossed out. I guess to show that there was a change, not to deny the original fact. (I still have not changed my last name to my husband’s after 10+ years now…)

  6. Nan says:

    Volanges, as a practical matter, many receive sacraments in scattered fashion rather than from one parish all the way through. I know someone who went back to the baptismal parish asking for updated baptismal certificate that included first communion and confirmation in order to present it to a hospital chaplain to volunteer there and went through nightmares as the parish said its records were in latin and nobody could read it so they couldn’t help. I was told it took 6 mos to get the parish to actually provide the records.

  7. Volanges says:

    While it’s true that sacraments may be celebrated in different parishes, when it comes to Confirmation and Marriage, the parish where those are celebrated is required to inform the baptismal parish of their occurrence. I have mailed many and received & recorded many in my years as a parish secretary.

    Such is not the case for First Communion which is not canonically required to be recorded – even if many parishes do so and national conferences may require it. We didn’t make a notation of First Communion in the Register of Baptisms (it was never noted in the 50+ years of the parish’s existence) nor did we include it on the Certificate of Baptism.

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