Archdiocese of Baltimore Archives
This collection documents the founding, growth, and development of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. The records date from the creation of the Archdiocese in 1789. [For more information on the history of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, see Thomas Spalding's
The Premier See: A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1789-1989 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989) or visit the website of the Archdiocese of Baltimore].
The records in this collection are made up of several types and formats including documentary (paper), photographic, microfilm, and audio/visual. There is also a small collection of artifacts and artwork, including paintings and relics. The documentary holdings include records such as correspondence, official and legal documents, registers, publications, sermons, and diaries. The photographic holdings include color and B&W prints, slides, and negatives, as well as albums and scrapbooks.
The audio/visual collection has audiocassettes, 16mm film, and videotapes. The microfilm holdings include parish sacramental records, the Archbishops' papers, and the Archdiocesan newspapers.
The collection is arranged according to the following record series:
Individuals who need assistance in requesting an official copy of a sacramental certificate or a student record should consult the Reference & Research page for information. Individuals interested in the family history resources available in the Archdiocese of Baltimore's collection should consult the Genealogy page.
Collection Access Policy
The following policy has been adopted by the Archdiocese of Baltimore [hereafter Archdiocese] in order to provide researchers with a statement on the procedures regarding access to and use of the Archdiocese’s records that are part of the Associated Archives at St. Mary’s Seminary & University [hereafter Associated Archives]. While the Associated Archives also houses the archival collections of the Associated Sulpicians of the United States and St. Mary’s Seminary & University, this Collection Access Policy applies only to materials that are owned by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Drawing upon the guidelines issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists regarding the use of ecclesiastical archives, the Archdiocese of Baltimore opens their archives to all qualified researchers. In trying to balance the principles of both the right to know and confidentiality, we believe the access policies that have been adopted reflect a sensitivity to both the interests of the researcher and the Archdiocese. Every effort is made to open the records for research as expeditiously as possible, however, the policies of the Archdiocese require that some of their records be closed to researchers for varying lengths of time.
Placing restrictions on the research use of records for specified lengths of time is a standard archival procedure. Restrictions of reasonable length also facilitate research by ensuring the survival and completeness of the historical record.
All records transferred to the Associated Archives are stored under secure conditions and in a controlled environment. Access to the area where the records are stored is restricted to Associated Archives staff members and other authorized personnel. Removal of records from the Associated Archives is prohibited unless authorized by the Director of the Associated Archives [hereafter "Director"].
Authorized personnel from Archdiocesan offices may arrange for the
transfer of records to the Archives or their retrieval at anytime.
Please see the Records Transfer page
for detailed instructions.
Administrative records of the Archdiocese, including but not limited to the papers of the Archbishops and Chancellors, are currently open through 1947.
The Collection Access Policy of the Archdiocese is based on a four-part categorization of records: open, restricted, confidential, or closed.
Publications, photographs, other records created for public dissemination, and records designated as historical in nature are available for researchers to work with without restriction. Records more than 50 years old from the "Restricted" series are treated as open for purposes of access.
Records of the Archbishops and those of Archdiocesan offices deposited in the archives are closed to research use for 50 years beginning on the date on which the Archbishop leaves office.
Records of clergy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore that have been donated to the Archives of the Archdiocese are closed to research use for 50 years after the death of that person, unless otherwise specified.
Researchers may appeal to gain access to restricted records. Access is granted only after the Director has received written notice of permission from the Archbishop or his authorized representative specifying exactly which folders and boxes the user can examine. Records that are closed longer than 50 years are subject to the same policies.
Files containing sensitive records for which access is granted only after the Archbishop or his authorized representative physically reviews the files and provides written permission.
Files of deceased clergy are closed.
The Archdiocese has designated certain information contained in the records of its deceased clergy as “Family History Information.” This includes: 1) full name, 2) date and place of birth and/or baptism; 3) parents’ names; 4) siblings’ names; 5) education; 7) date and place of ordination; 7) clergy assignments; 8) other similar information such as a photograph. Permission of a person authorized by the Archdiocese is required for access to Family History Information within 50 years of a clergy’s death. After 50 years there is no restriction on access to this information.
Categories of Records Closed Longer than 50 Years
According to the policy approved by the Archbishop of Baltimore, access to records of Baptism shall coincide with access to Federal Census records (current year minus 70). Baptismal records 70 years old and less are closed to the public. No restrictions apply to records of First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, Death, Interment or Burial.
When necessary, records older than 50 years old may be closed to research use if they have not been reviewed and processed sufficiently to ensure their preservation and to identify any records that may require closure for longer than the stated duration.
Use of Records in Connection with Cases at Law or Legal Proceedings
Requests for permission to examine any Archdiocesan records in connection with cases at law or legal proceedings of any kind will be referred to the Archdiocese’s legal counsel.
Appeals to gain access to restricted records
Appeals to gain access to restricted records shall be conducted in the following manner: 1) researchers seeking access to restricted records are required to complete a Restricted Records Access Request form; 2) each request will be reviewed by the Director and the Archbishop or his authorized representative;
3) decisions will be based on the merits of each case, weighing the needs of scholarship against the privacy rights of individuals and the legal interests of the Archdiocese; the Director and the Archbishop or his authorized representative must be satisfied that a researcher seeking access to restricted records has demonstrated that the records are required to carry out a legitimate scholarly research project or for other appropriate use; in all cases, the decision of the Director and Archbishop or his authorized representative shall be fair and reasonable, permitting the greatest possible access, given the limitations imposed by legal and ethical considerations;
4) in order to come to such a decision, the Director and the Archbishop or his authorized representative shall meet, review the research proposal of the scholar petitioning for access, examine the materials to which he or she is requesting access and discuss the case; in cases where the materials are voluminous, the Director shall review them and summarize their nature and content for the Archbishop or his authorized representative, presenting individual documents of particular concern; in cases of requests for innocuous materials, a less formal review process may be invoked, consisting of a telephone call by the Director;
5) decisions made by the Director and the Archbishop or his authorized representative shall be final.
Restricted Records Access Request Form
The archdiocese has had sixteen Archbishops over the course of its history. Researchers are currently able to access the papers of the first archbishop, John Carroll (d. 1815), through the tenth archbishop, Michael J. Curley (d. 1947). The papers of Abp. Francis P. Keough (d. 1961), Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan (d. 1984), Abp. William D. Borders (d. 2010), Cardinal William H. Keeler (ret. 2007), and Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien (transferred 2011) are closed.
Please click here to see a more detailed description of the collection.
The artifact collection is limited to a small collection of commemorative items and sacred objects.
The archdiocese has had fifteen auxiliary bishops over the course of its history. Researchers are currently able to access the papers of the first auxiliary bishop, Owen B. Corrigan (d. 1929), through the third auxiliary bishop, Jerome D. Sebastian (d. 1960). The papers of Bp. Thomas Mardaga (d. 1984), Bp. T. Austin Murphy (d. 1991), and Bp. P. Francis Murphy (d. 1999) are closed.
Please click here to see a more detailed description of the collection.
Size: approximately 2000 videotapes and 30-16mm films; date span: c. 1921-present.
The audio/visual collection is made up of a small number of 16 mm films taken at Archdiocesan special events, including the dedication of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. Also included in this collection are approximately 2000 video tapes in Beta and VHS formats of Archdiocesan-sponsored programming, including Reel to Reel Productions and Catholic Review TV, as well as videos taken of Archdiocesan special events, including the installations of Abp. Borders and Abp. Keeler and the 1995 visit of Pope John Paul II.
Records of the Chancellor’s Office. Size: 138 document cases, 41 records storage boxes, and 1 scrapbook; date range: c. 1886-1994. Letters to and from the Chancellors of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1922-1982, 44 document cases and 14 records storage boxes; typed finding aid; available on microfilm. Contains incoming and outgoing correspondence of the Chancellor’s office together with subject files. Correspondence arranged alpha-chron in order of succession, except for the files of Rev. Joseph Nelligan, whose correspondence is arranged into two series: 1) alpha-chron and 2) topically.
Records through 1947 are open to researchers.
Parish Notitiae (Annual Reports) Collection, 1875-1995; 100 records storage boxes; no finding aid available. Arranged alpha-chron by parish. Printed questionnaires concerning parish operations sent in to the Chancery. Contains information on and statistics for parish population, reception of sacraments, finances, and sodalities. Records through 1947 are open to researchers.
Parish Correspondence Files, c. 1898–1989; 42 records storage boxes; no finding aid available. Contains the incoming and outgoing correspondence between the parishes of the archdiocese and the chancery, largely concerning administrative and financial matters. Records through 1947 are open to researchers.
Archbishops’ of Baltimore Papers. The papers of the following Archbishops of Baltimore have been microfilmed: John Carroll, Leonard Neale, Ambrose Maréchal, James Whitfield, Samuel Eccleston, Francis P. Kenrick, Martin J. Spalding, and James R. Bayley. The microfilm is available for researchers to work with at the Associated Archives and the University of Notre Dame.
Catholic Mirror, 1850-1908.This weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese began publication on January 5, 1850 and ended on June 13, 1908. It was also used at various points in its history as the official organ for the Dioceses of Wheeling, Richmond, Wilmington, and the Vicariate Apostolic of North Carolina. [Note: 1902 was not microfilmed; miscellaneous issues missing from other volumes.]
The microfilm is available for researchers to work with at the Associated Archives and the University of Notre Dame.
[NOTE: The Archdiocese did not publish a newspaper between the period of June 14, 1908 – November 25, 1913.]
Baltimore Catholic Review, 1913-1936.This weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Baltimore began publication on November 26, 1913 and ran to the issue of April 10, 1936, when its name was changed to the Catholic Review.
The microfilm is available for researchers to work with at the Associated Archives, the main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and the University of Notre Dame.
Catholic Review, 1936- .This weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese began publication on April 17, 1936. The microfilm is available for researchers to work with at the Associated Archives, the main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and the University of Notre Dame.
Catholic Review (Washington edition), 1944-1951. A Washington edition of the Catholic Review was published for the years 1944-1951 for the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. (est. 1939), which had formerly been part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The microfilm is available for researchers to work with at the Associated Archives.
Sacramental Registers. Efforts to microfilm the sacramental registers of the parishes that comprise the Archdiocese of Baltimore have been undertaken twice in the past fifty years. The first attempt was made in 1954 at the request of the Archbishop Francis P. Keough.* The Maryland State Archives made a second attempt beginning in 1977. A majority of
the parishes participated in the first microfilming project. Less than half participated in the second.
Microfilm copies of the registers microfilmed by the Maryland State Archives are available for researchers to work with at the state archives and the Associated Archives at St. Mary’s Seminary & University. The Maryland Historical Society has the microfilm for the following parishes in its holdings: Baltimore City - Basilica of the Assumption,
St. Peter’s Pro-Cathedral, Holy Cross, Immaculate Conception, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Alphonsus, St. Ann, St. Francis Xavier, St. James the Less, St. John German, St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary Star of the Sea,
St. Michael the Archangel, St. Patrick, St. Peter the Apostle, St. Stanislaus; Outside Baltimore City - Mt. St. Mary’s/St. Mary’s of the Mountain, Emmitsburg, St. Augustine, Elkridge, St. Ignatius, Hickory, St. John the Evangelist, Frederick, St. John the Evangelist, Hydes/Long Green, St. Mary of the Mills, Laurel, St. Michael, Frostburg, St. Mary of the Annunciation, Lonaconing.
The sacramental registers microfilmed by the Archdiocese are available for researchers to work with at the Associated Archives at St. Mary's Seminary & University only.
Click here to see a list of parishes that had their registers microfilmed.
*: The archdiocese made the decision to microfilm the records beginning with the year 1875, regardless of parish establishment date.
New Cathedral Cemetery Records, 1871-1977. The records for New Cathedral Cemetery consist of plot books and daily registers that are arranged chronologically and alphabetically. The microfilm is available for researchers to work with at the Associated Archives and the Maryland Historical Society.
Archdiocese of Baltimore Annual Directory, 1920-1961. The archdiocese began to publish an annual directory in 1920. Information contained in the directory includes a list of Archdiocesan parishes, institutions, and organizations, as well as the names of priests and religious serving in the Archdiocese.
Size: 51 document cases, 5 flat storage boxes, 3 records storage boxes, and 20 registers; date span: c. 1793-present.
The Archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore maintains a Parish History Collection that is made up of published parish histories, subject files regarding the parishes and ethnic groups represented in the archdiocese, as well as miscellaneous parish account books, pew rent books, bulletins, and registers donated to the Archives, including the records for the Basilica of the Assumption's chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and early property deeds for St. Patrick Church, Fells Point.
Archdiocese of Baltimore Collection
Size: 38 document cases, 11 flat storage boxes, 1 records storage box, 49 scrapbooks, and 32 albums; date span: c. 1850-present.
This collection is made up principally of photographs of the Archbishops of Baltimore, including official portraits and photographs taken at official events. There is also a small number of photographs of the Archdiocese’s clergy, institutions, and parishes, as well as of historic events that have taken place in the archdiocese.
The records in this series are in both black and white and color and vary from wallet-sized images to 11 x 14 and larger. In addition to photographs, there are also slides and negatives.
Catholic Review Collection
Size: 38 records storage boxes; date span: c. 1925-1982.
This collection is made up of the photographs maintained by the Catholic Review, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, that relate to the history of the Archdiocese and are organized by subject.
The records in this series are in both black and white and color and vary from wallet-sized images to 8 x 10.
The Archives maintains a reference library for the use of staff and researchers. While the majority of books are related to the history of the archdiocese, including biographies of Archbishops and other prominent individuals, there are a number of works on state and local history and the U.S. Catholic Church in general. The library also has copies of the Archdiocese’s Annual Directory, the Official Catholic Directory, and the Annuario Pontificio. The Archives maintains subscriptions to the following journals: Maryland Historical Magazine and Maryland Genealogical Society.