Catholic Parish History Collection

During the past several decades, interest in parish histories has grown considerably in America. Throughout the United States, pastors and parishioners have become more keenly aware of the need to preserve the history of their parishes in written form. Consequently, the publication of parish histories has flourished.

Saint Mary’s Church Diamond Jubilee Parish History of Annapolis, Maryland, 1928

The Parish History Collection represents a specialized resource in the holdings of the Archives of the University of Notre Dame.  The core collection was originally formed through the dedicated and persistent efforts of Francis P. Clark (1936-1979).  The collection includes occasional items which are not strictly parish histories, as, for example, histories of schools, religious congregations, and some diocesan histories. It should be noted that the University Archives holds works on priests, religious orders, lay organizations, dioceses, and schools often affiliated with the parishes as separately organized subject collections.  It should also be noted that the University Archives generally does not have the actual parish records and that the parish histories seldom contain much information about individual parishioners.

The parish history collection in the Archives contains information on more than 2000 parishes throughout the United States. The major portion of the Archives collection documents parishes in the Midwest and the Ohio River Valley. The microfilm segment of the Archives collection sometimes duplicates printed items.

Parish History of St. Francis Seraph in Cincinnati, Ohio, 1884 (in German)

The Theodore M. Hesburgh Library, a separate entity from the University Archives, also holds a number of parish histories in their Catholic Americana Parish History Collection.  The Library collection contains printed parish histories, and some newspaper accounts, of more than 1300 Catholic parishes throughout the United States and other countries.  The Library collection continues to expand through solicitation, purchase, and gifts received.

Both collections contain books, pamphlets, newspapers clippings, and ephemeral materials which frequently describe the history of the parish from its inception to the date of publication of the work. Frequently parish histories celebrate the anniversary of the founding of a parish or the dedication of a church. Also included are jubilee celebrations, financial statements, invitations, general histories, directories, bulletins, and some photographs, which are mainly from the Indiana and Kentucky region. Most items in the collection reflect activities of parishes beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Rarely do items pertain to parishes prior to 1800.

Cover of the Souvenir of the Centennial Celebration of St. Patrick’s (Old Cathedral),
New York, New York, April 23, 1909

Parish histories also are found in other collections in the University Archives, including the following collections: