The Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

Archives and Records Center

The Archdiocese of Chicago’s Archives & Records Center welcomes genealogical researchers. Recently, the “roots phenomenon” has led more people than ever before to search for their family history and genealogy. The Archdiocesan Archives hold an abundance of genealogical materials. Please note that all requests for genealogical research can take 4 to 6 weeks for processing.

Genealogical certificates or information produced from sacramental registers are confined to records prior to January 1, 1926.  Any researcher can request a sacramental record prior to this date.  After that date, these records are only available to the person in the record or, if that person is deceased, his/her immediate next-of-kin.  To obtain the deceased family member's sacramental certificate, the requester must provide the Archives and Records Center with proof of that person's death (an original copy of the death certificate or a notarized photocopy) and proof of relation to the deceased person (an original birth or marriage certificate or a notarized photocopy). 

Records from schools or orphanages are restricted.  These records are only available to the person named in the record or, if that person is deceased, his/her immediate next-of-kin.  A complete and detailed genealogy policy can be found here.  Record requests forms can be found here.

Genealogists may find the following archival collections helpful:

Microfilmed Sacramental Records (1833-1915)

The oldest sacramental registers of all parishes are available on microfilm.  These rolls of microfilm are arranged by parish, sacrament type, and year.  An archivist is available to assist researchers in locating possible parishes to look through, if the researcher does not know the parish where the sacrament took place.  The images for these registers can also be located online through  Click here for a list of parishes with registers available for browsing online.

School & Orphanage Records

Access to these records is restricted except to the person named in the record, but researchers can view yearbooks, class composite photographs, and alumni lists of closed schools, if they are available.  Directory information can also be given to any genealogist, even past the 1925 cut-off date.  Name and address, telephone number, birthday, birthplace, major field of study, school activities, dates of attendance, awards received, previous schools attended, student photograph, and the student's parish (all taken from the student's school record) can be obtained via these requests. Current information is not available from the Archives. There is a $20.00 fee per name for directory information.

Priests' Biographical Records

Access to original deceased priests' personnel files is restricted. Generally, only biographical information from these files may be released to researchers.  Archdiocesan newspapers are available on microfilm and may provide a fuller depiction of a priest in his obituary.  All newspapers are unrestricted.  The Archives also has a set of the Official Catholic Directories that list names and appointments of all diocesan and religious priests in the United States and Canada, from the late 19th century to the present.  

Parish Records

This collection contains commemorative books commissioned by parishes (open and closed) in commemoration of significant events in a parish’s history (building dedications, anniversaries, etc.). They range from pictures and advertisements to detailed histories of the parishes. Some books mention early and/or important parishioners in the parish's history.  The Archives also has the bulletins of some closed parishes.  Bulletins can provide information about parish staff, parishioner anniversaries, or other special events celebrated in the parish.

Madaj Collection

These documents and letters are among the oldest in the Archdiocese.  They have been indexed in a card catalog system by author, recipient, and subject matter.  Documents about the founding of parishes and early parishioners, as well as early correspondence between Archbishop Quigley and his priests, may be found among the other papers in this collection.



Sacramental Records



Archdiocesan parishes record all celebrations of baptism, holy communion, confirmation, marriage, and funeral rites in their sacramental registers. The Archives only holds the sacramental records of closed parishes (a list is available upon request).  Open parishes maintain their own registers.  Availability of sacramental certificates is limited to the participant in the sacrament.  Only the participant in the sacrament can request his/her own record. 






St. John Evangelist First Communion





Student Records



Archdiocesan schools, like parishes, maintain their own student records.  The records for approximately 300 closed Catholic schools are located at the Archives (a list of closed schools is available upon request).  Grammar school records may include grades, attendance sheets, test scores, and health records.  High school records are generally limited to transcripts.  Only the student in the records can request a copy of his/her transcript or student file. 



Orphanage Records 


Chicago was once home to several orphanages and houses for troubled youth.  The Archives and Records Center houses client files for Angel Guardian Orphanage, St. Hedwig, and St. Joseph Home for the Friendless/St. Joseph Carondelet, as well as admittance registers for St. Mary and St. Joseph Orphanages, St. Mary's Training School, and House of the Good Shepherd.  Client files may include sacramental certificates, grades, health records, and visitor information.  A person can only request his/her own orphanage file.  


 St. Joseph's Home for the Friendless, 1939





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