England Catholic Historical Societies, Publications, Newspapers (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Non-Anglican Church Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Catholic Societies[edit | edit source]

Catholic Archives Society (CAS)[edit | edit source]

Formed by a group of about 100 archivists responsible for preservation of Catholic diocesan and religious order records in 1980. These archives and archivists are listed in its directory, its journal is Catholic Archives, but the society has no records for consultation by genealogists.

Catholic Family History Society (CFHS)[edit | edit source]

This organization was founded in 1983 and is similar to a county FHS but with special knowledge of Catholic families and Irish families in England, Scotland and Wales. Their journal is the Catholic Ancestor and it is this group which family historians will find useful for advice, and to join for general information. They have an index of 14,000 English nuns and a Lancashire Wills Beneficiaries Index with 23,000 people so far listed.

Catholic Record Society (CRS)[edit | edit source]

‘The Catholic Record Society, which was founded in 1904, is the premier Catholic historical society in the United Kingdom and is devoted to the study of Roman Catholicism in the British Isles from the Reformation period to the present day. The Society does not, however, have genealogical interests and cannot help those researching their family trees’ (CRS website). The CRS has produced a long run of genealogically important, indexed publications all the contents of which are listed on the CRS website:

  • Monograph Series in 5 volumes.
  • Occasional Publications—1767 Return of Papists.
  • Records Series now up to 78 volumes, the early ones called Miscellanea, which include:
  • Transcribed private registers.
  • Lists of Catholic recusants in various counties, for example in the Recusant Rolls and Pipe Rolls.
  • Transcriptions of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Catholic registers up to about 1850.
  • Transcripts of early Lancashire parish registers.
  • Items on the religious orders of Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits.
  • Transcripts of PRO records.
  • Diaries and records of the English Catholic schools, colleges and convents on the continent.
  • Recusant History, their journal with 26 volumes from 1951 (Volumes 1-3 were published as Biographical Studies).

Catholic Publications[edit | edit source]

Catholic Literature[edit | edit source]

The written material on the history of Catholicism in England is huge and is ably summarized in Gandy’s two invaluable volumes (Catholic Family History: A Bibliography of General Sources. Self-published, 1996, Catholic Family History: A Bibliography of Local Sources. Self-published, 1996), with a short list of the more important ones (1998). He is certainly the foremost writer on English Catholic family history today and has published a number of guides to extant records (1994-2) and his short guide to research is authoritative (2001-1). The volumes of the Catholic Record Society are a prime source and there is much biographical material available. Rendal’s 1984 lecture on the CRSto the Society of Genealogists is a useful introduction to many kinds of records published by them, including occupational sources.

Catholic Periodicals[edit | edit source]

The Laity’s Directory (1768-1839) and its successor The Catholic Directory (1838 onwards) lists names and addresses of all parish priests by diocese, together with details of all the diocesan organizations such as archives, schools, societies and religious orders. There is a national section which covers those organizations organized centrally. Old editions can be very useful in tracing such things as local orphanages, movement of priests, and location of churches.

A full set is housed at the Catholic National Library, and the FHL holds the 1880, 1950, 1964, 1973, and 1978 editions, together with its successor, The Catholic Directory of England and Wales from 1986 in FHL book 942 K22c. The obituaries from the Laity’s Directory were reprinted in Volume 12 of the CRS Records Series.

Recusant History has been published since 1951 by the Catholic Record Society; the first three volumes are entitled Bibliographical Studies. A list of all articles published in Catholic Ancestor can be obtained from the secretary of the Catholic FHS which publishes it. Other include The London Recusant, and Catholic Archives from the CAS which describes archival collections useful for Catholic research, mainly ones in England but some also in Ireland.

The earlier Miscellanea publications of the CRS are on several films. As an example of the variety of contents, Vol 17 on FHL film 0599710 contains:

  • Records of the English cannonesses of the Holy Sepulchre at Liége
  • now at New Hall, Essex 1652-1793
  • Registers of the English Benedictine nuns of Pontoise,
  • now at Teignmouth, Devon 1680-1713
  • Official enquiry as to the estate of Robert Charnock of Leyland, Lancashire
  • Catholic registers of Harvington Hall,
  • Chaddesley-Corbett, Worcestershire 1752-1823
  • Catholic registers of Linton upon Ouse, Newton upon Ouse,
  • near York 1771-1840
  • Catholic registers of Kiddington, Oxfordshire 1788-1840
  • Catholic registers of Woolston, Warrington, Lancashire 1771-1834

There have been a number of local Catholic family and local history societies which have published journals that can be found in libraries. Some societies are no longer functioning but back numbers of journals are still be found. Titles to look for include:

  • Essex Recusant
  • Gloucester and Avon Catholic History
  • Kent Recusant
  • London Recusant
  • Midlands Catholic History
  • North West Catholic History
  • Northern Catholic History
  • South West Catholic History
  • Staffordshire Catholic History
  • Worcester Recusant

Full details of a wide range of other Catholic journals and a range of Diocesan magazines can be found in Gandy’s bibliographies on General Sources (1996-2) and Local Sources (1996-3). One portal on the net to access current English and Wales Catholic organizations is on their website .

Catholic Newspapers[edit | edit source]

There have been a number of Catholic newspapers, the three largest ones that still publish are:

  • The Universe from 1860.
  • The Catholic Herald from 1888 with its many local editions.
  • The Tablet from 1840.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Non-Anglican Church Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.