Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center

Philadelphia was one of the many northeastern cities that saw heavy Irish immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries. That automatically makes the Catholic Church records of the area a valuable genealogical resource. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia covers the city and county of Philadelphia, along with Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. It was founded in 1808 from the Archdiocese of Baltimore and originally encompassed all of Pennsylvania, Delaware and some of New Jersey.

The main place of research is the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center (PAHRC) in Wynnewood, PA. At the center there are many sources of interest to genealogists: parish histories; Catholic newspapers; manuscripts; and periodicals are just some of the resources.

Most importantly, though, are the baptismal and marriage registers, along with records for three orphanages (St. John’s Orphan Asylum, St. Joseph’s House for Homeless Boys, and St. Francis’ Industrial School in Eddington). An important year of reference for research in the registers is 1920. After this year, the records are at the individual parishes and for inquiries before this year you need to contact the center (they don't seem to reference the year 1920 itself, but it is presumed they are at the center too).

While the PAHRC is open to research by appointment you can't conduct research in the parish registers yourself. This is done by the staff and there is an hourly research fee. Lastly, the archdiocesan has a section on its website that lists all of its parishes.


  1. On the other side of Pennsylvania the Diocese of Pittsburgh also has an archives. There were many Irish Catholics living there and also many Irish Parishes. A lot of information such as Baptisms and marriages give a lot of information. You have to know what section of town in which your ancestor lived because the records are not digitized.

    I found a lot on my family Irish as well as German. The fees they collect go toward the preservation, rebinding and microfilming of these precious records.

  2. Claudia,

    Many thanks for your comment and for telling us about other Catholic records in PA.