Roman Catholic Church in the United States

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History in United States

The first major group of Roman Catholics to live in what is now the United States started a colony in Florida in 1565. Beginning in 1598 Roman Catholics also began to settle areas that are now states along the Mexican border. Other Roman Catholics from England settled in colonial Maryland before 1649. Louisiana was settled by Spanish and French-Canadian Catholics in the 1700's. By 1850 the Catholic Church had the largest church membership in the United States. Much of this growth was due to immigration of Catholics from Ireland and other countries. In the late nineteenth century, millions of Roman Catholic immigrants came from southern and eastern Europe. In addition, most Hispanic immigrants also belonged to the Catholic Church. The largest Catholic groups settled in major cities.

For a more complete history of the Catholic Church in the United States.

Catholic Church Records

Types of Church Records

Where they are Located

Records of most parishes are kept in the individual parishes or in diocese offices. Guides to dioceses and parishes are:

  • Official Catholic Directory. Wilmette, Illinois: P. J. Kennedy and Sons, annual. (Family History Library book 282.025 Of2.)
  • Humling, Virginia. U.S. Catholic Sources: A Diocesan Research Guide. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1995. (Family History Library book 973 K2hu.)

For older North American church records kept by priests of the Order of the Holy Cross contact:

Holy Cross Provincial Archives
P.O. Box 568
South Bend, IN 46556
Telephone: 219-631-5371


Catholic Church Records Online

Early United States French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954: Found in the Drouin Collection on

This database only contains the French Catholic parish records from the United States; in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. The types of records include baptisms, marriages, and burials as well as confirmations, dispensations, censuses, statements of readmission to the church, and so on. They are written mainly in French, as well as English, Latin, and Italian.