Archives and Records Management Policies and Resources
Records Retention Schedules
Policies describing the lengths of time various classes of parish records must be kept and what is to be done with them when these periods have expired.
These policies supersede the records retention schedule in Many Gifts, One Spirit.
Policies describing the lengths of time various classes of Archdiocesan school records must be kept and what is to be done with them when these periods have expired.
These policies supersede the records retention schedule in Many Gifts, One Spirit.
General Records Policies and Guidelines
The Records Retention Schedule is a diocesan policy that lists all the records commonly maintained by archdiocesan parishes, schools, or Chancery offices and describes how long they must be kept and what to do with them at the end of that period.
- It applies to records in all formats (paper, photographs, electronic files, etc.) and in all storage locations (including file cabinets, cloud storage, email servers, web applications, and mobile devices).
- The following guidelines are meant to help you understand how to apply retention policies to the records of your office or work area.
1. Orient Yourself
a) First familiarize yourself with how the retention schedule is organized. Records are grouped together by the administrative functions they relate to, not by the type/format of records (i.e., correspondence, reports) or by office or ministry creating them. For example, there are sections of the schedule devoted to financial administration, personnel management, liturgy, etc.
b) Each of these functional areas is broken down into sub-categories to make it easier to find the exact policies that apply to the records you are looking up. From the example below, you can see that records produced through the Financial Administration function are divided into several sub-categories.
c) Policies relating to individual records series are found within these sub-categories.
Example: FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATION
- Budget Development
- Development & Fundraising
2. Match Records to the Appropriate Policy in the Schedule
a) Think about the records you have a question about in terms of the work function they relate to, and then match them to the closest sub-category within that area.
Example: Wondering how long to keep old time sheets? These have to do with paying employees (a financial activity), so you would first refer to the Financial Administration section of the schedule. Drilling down a bit, which sub-category within the Financial section do they specifically pertain to? (ANSWER: Payroll)
b) Once you’ve identified the right section, scroll down to that part of the schedule until you find the correct record category ("series”). Don’t just rely on series titles though. In a lot of cases, you will need to read the series descriptions because often several types of related records have been grouped together into one series.
Example: Continuing from the example above, the types of payroll records are listed under the Payroll series title. Read through them, and you will find the last one is “Timecards.” Eureka!
c) Now refer to the retention period (how long to keep the records) and disposition policy (what to do with the records when they’ve expired) for that particular record series.
3. Understand the retention periods and disposition types
a) Retention periods have 2 parts. Think of them as the “trigger” and the “countdown.”
- The trigger, the first part, tells you when to start counting down to the expiration date. These are usually time-based (end of fiscal year; end of calendar year), but sometimes they’re event-based (sale of building, end of project, etc.).
- The second part of the retention period is the countdown. This just tells you how many years after the trigger you need to keep the records.
- Fiscal year + 6 means retain for 6 years after the fiscal year in which record was created.
- Calendar year + 1 Retain for 1 year after the calendar year in which record was created.
b) Dispositions policies tell you what to do with the records after their retention period has expired. There are 5 disposition types for school records.
- Shred: Records contain private/sensitive information.
- Recycle: Records do not contain private/sensitive information.
Delete: Means just that!
- Archives: Records have long-term value to the Archdiocese and need to be securely stored in your archives, whether physical or electronic.
- Archival Review: Consult someone in Chancery Archives to make a final determination.
There are no retention requirements for the following types of materials. These can be disposed of as soon as they have served their immediate purpose. Shred, recycle, or delete as appropriate.
- Incorrect versions of documents, forms, or reports that had to be recreated to correct errors in typing, data entry, spelling, grammar, or format
Drafts and Working Materials
- Preliminary or incomplete drafts that do not contain significant comments, approvals, or substantial changes that give insight into the development of the final version. Can be disposed of when a subsequent draft or finished records has been developed.
- Extra copies used only for reference or informational distribution
- Electronic documents which are used to produce a hard copy (official) version which is maintained in the hard copy files
- Email CCs (carbon copies) and BCCs (blind carbon copies) where you have been copied for informational purposes only and are not expected to take action yourself
- Publications, promotional material, etc. from external sources once these have served their purpose.
Information or Forms Used to Create or Update another Record
- Will become obsolete once the update or data entry is validated.
- Includes paper forms where the data is entered into an electronic system, spreadsheet, or database.
Informal Communications or Notifications
- Can take many forms (e.g. email messages, chat messages in online collaboration tools, social media postings, facsimile [fax], voice/video message recordings).
- Acknowledgements, form-letter thank you notes
- Announcements of meetings or social events
- Answers to routine requests for information do not require administrative action or policy decisions
- Memos and postings that do not relate to the main purpose or responsibilities of an office
- Personal communications
- Requests to call someone
- Reservations, confirmations, itineraries
When litigation, an audit, or investigation occurs or is reasonably anticipated, a written notice (referred to as a “Litigation Hold Notice” or “Legal Hold”) will be issued to appropriate staff. All records, whether official records, information copies, working documents, or transitory records, potentially relevant to the matter must be retained until the Litigation Hold is terminated. The effect of this notice is to freeze or suspend the destruction or alteration of records, electronically stored information, and other materials identified in the notice.
Records relevant to the matter may not be destroyed – even if the retention period in this retention schedule has expired or expires during the Litigation Hold – until the action is resolved and a notice terminating the Hold has been issued. There are serious legal consequences for individuals that destroy or alter records under a Litigation Hold or know of a pending issue and do not halt destruction.
Guidance for Archdiocesan staff and volunteers on the baseline requirements for scanning paper-based records.
Guía para el personal y voluntarios arquidiocesanos sobre los requisitos básicos para el escaneado de registros en papel.
Sacramental Records Toolkit
Policies governing the recording, maintenance and issuance of sacramental records. This is an extract from Many Gifts, One Spirit , the pastoral policy document of the Archdiocese of Seattle.
Questionnaire for an adult who claims to have been baptized as a child when there are no witnesses capable of giving an affidavit or when the witness testimony is doubtful or incomplete.
Affidavit form for the parent or witness to the Rite of Reception to attest to the fact that the sacrament actually took place. This is used when no record of the sacrament can be found at the parish level.
Policy outlining what materials the Archives will acquire and the conditions which affect their acquisition.