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About These Resources
Looking to start your family history research? Here are over 40 resources where you will find records, obituaries, cemetery listings, newspaper articles, and maps to help you trace your Kentucky Catholic ancestors. Also included are resources and advice for identifying family members who served as Catholic nuns and sisters.
Archdiocese of Louisville Archives
1200 South Shelby Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40203-2600
Phone: (502) 636-0296
The Archdiocese of Louisville Archives is the repository for the official and historical records of the Archdiocese of Louisville. The boundaries of the Archdiocese of Louisville include 24 counties in central Kentucky: Adair, Barren, Bullitt, Casey, Clinton, Cumberland, Green, Hardin, Hart, Henry, Jefferson, LaRue, Marion, Meade, Metcalfe, Monroe, Nelson, Oldham, Russell, Shelby, Spencer, Taylor, Trimble, and Washington.
Daviess County Public Library
2020 Frederica Street
Owensboro, KY 42301
Phone: (270) 684-0211
The Kentucky Room of Daviess County Public Library contains special materials on local history, state history, and genealogy. The collection includes over 140 year of local newspapers on microfilm, an obituary index from 1890 to the present, Daviess County marriage records, deeds, and Kentucky Civil War Military records.
Diocese of Covington Archives
1125 Madison Avenue
Covington, Kentucky 41011-3115
Phone: (859) 392-1500
The Diocese of Covington Archives is the repository for the official and historical records of the Diocese of Covington. The boundaries of the Diocese of Covington include the city of Covington and 14 counties in northern Kentucky: Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Gallatin, Carroll, Grant, Owen, Pendleton, Harrison, Bracken, Robertson, Mason, Fleming, and Lewis.
Diocese of Lexington Chancellor’s Office
1310 West Main Street
Lexington, Kentucky 40508
Phone: (859) 253-1993
The boundaries of the Diocese of Lexington include the city of Lexington and 50 counties in southeastern Kentucky: Anderson, Bath, Bell, Bourbon, Boyd, Boyle, Breathitt, Carter, Clark, Clay, Elliott, Estill, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Garrard, Greenup, Harlan, Jackson, Jessamine, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lincoln, Madison, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Mercer, Montgomery, Morgan, Nicholas, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Scott, Wayne, Whitley, Wolfe, Woodford.
The Diocese of Owensboro Archives is the repository for the official and historical records of the Diocese of Owensboro. The boundaries of the Diocese of Owensboro include 32 counties in western Kentucky: Allen, Ballard, Breckinridge, Butler, Caldwell, Calloway, Carlisle, Christian, Crittenden, Daviess, Edmonson, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hancock, Henderson, Hickman, Hopkins, Livingston, Logan, Lyon, McCracken, McLean, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Simpson, Todd, Trigg, Union, Warren, and Webster.
Note: Open by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, please contact the archivist via email or phone at (270) 683-1545 at least one week before your proposed visit.
The Filson Historical Society has an extensive collection of materials on early Kentucky history and genealogy.
Mailing address: P.O. Box 537, Frankfort, KY 40601-0537
The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives is the central repository for Kentucky’s city, county and state government records. Records include wills and deeds, judicial records, census and military records, death certificates for 1911-1960, birth and death city registers for the cities of Covington, Lexington, Louisville, and Newport, and birth and death records for 1852 through 1910.
Kentucky Historical Society
Martin F. Schmidt Research Library
100 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: (502) 564-1792, ext. 4460
The Martin F. Schmidt Research Library offers many resources for genealogists and local historians, including printed biographies and family histories, Bible records, surname collections, cemetery and church records, photographs, maps, city directories, manuscripts, and oral histories. The Kentucky Historical Society also hosts an online database of cemetery records with over 150,000 names transcribed by volunteers from cemeteries across Kentucky.
The Special Collections Department holds collections of materials related to the cultural history of the Jackson Purchase area of southwestern Kentucky and northwestern Tennessee. These collections include regional and county histories, genealogical resources, local church records, regional newspapers, and other published materials.
The National Archives at Atlanta holds records from over 100 federal agencies and courts in Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Records include microfilms for censuses, diplomatic missions, military service records, bounty-land applications, passenger arrival lists, naturalizations, American Indians, and African Americans.
The Durrett Collection consists of historical materials on the settlement of Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley.
The Special Collections Research Center contains rare books, archival and manuscript collections, Appalachian collections, newspapers, church records, genealogical collections, county and local histories, the Draper manuscripts, county, state, and federal records, and other materials related to Kentucky history.
The Mount Saint Joseph Archives is the repository for the permanent historical records of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph (Maple Mount, Kentucky), the Ursuline Sisters of Belleville (Belleville, Illinois), and the Ursuline Sisters of Paola (Paola, Kansas).
Note: Open by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, please contact Heidi Taylor-Caudill via email or phone at (270) 229-4103 at least one week before your proposed visit.
Mailing address: WKU Libraries Special Collections, Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Boulevard, #11092, Bowling Green, KY 42101
The Kentucky Library Research Collections houses extensive collections of genealogical records, church histories, court records, funeral records, deeds, wills, oral histories, and biographical files related to south central Kentucky and early settlers in the area.
Wisconsin Historical Society
816 State Street
Madison, WI 53706
The Draper Manuscript Collection consists of 491 volumes of records collected by Lyman Copeland Draper on the history of the trans-Allegheny West, a region that includes portions of the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, all of the Ohio River Valley, and the Mississippi Valley. Most of the materials in the collection cover the time period of the 1740s through the 1810s.
Kentucky Bible Archives
Browse transcriptions of Kentucky family bibles by county.
Kentucky Bibles from KYGenWeb
Browse transcriptions of Kentucky family bibles by family name.
Kentucky Bible Records from Kentucky Genealogy
Browse transcriptions of Kentucky family bibles by county and family name.
Diocese of Owensboro Catholic Cemeteries Map
Browse an interactive map with locations for many of the diocesan, parish, religious community and historical Catholic family cemeteries in the Diocese of Owensboro, as well as locations of communities associated with cemeteries and parishes.
Find A Grave
Search an online database of more than 60 million grave records from around the world.
Search and browse cemetery burial records from thousands of cemeteries across the world.
Kentucky Cemetery Records at Interment.net
Search and browse Kentucky cemetery burial records by county.
Kentucky Cemeteries from Kentucky Genealogy
Browse Kentucky cemetery records by county and cemetery name.
Kentucky Cemeteries: The Tombstone Transcription Project
Search and browse Kentucky tombstone transcriptions by county.
Kentucky Historical Society Cemetery Search
Search a database of Kentucky cemetery records.
Names in Stone
Search and browse a database of cemetery records from around the world, including interactive maps of grave locations and grave groupings.
This site is devoted to African American genealogy, including researching African ancestry in the Americas and general genealogical research and resources.
A subscription-based service that searches billions of genealogy records, including Census, SSDI and military records. Many public libraries have a subscription to the site and offer patrons free access through public computers at the library. Check with your local public library.
The website for the National Archives and Records Administration includes military records, naturalization records, land records, census records, and immigration records.
This site provides a free online searchable database of millions of genealogical records, including births, baptism and death records.
A subscription-based service that searches 2 billion historical records from around the world, including US censuses from as far back as 1790, the largest collection of Irish records anywhere online, US military records from the Revolutionary War up to World War II, and millions of newspaper pages from 1710 onward.
This site provides resources and information on genealogy research.
Genealogy Buff Obituary Files
This site provides resources and information on Kentucky genealogy data, including obituaries, death notices, and marriage licenses.
An online collection of genealogical sources including local and family histories, research guides, interactive census maps, census records, books, periodicals, Revolutionary War service records, and Freedman’s Bank depositor records. This is another service that many public libraries offer and it is usually accessible to patrons from home via the library’s web site. Check with your local public library.
This site serves as a resource for locating online Kentucky genealogical and historical information including bible records, cemetery records, court records, maps, obituaries, and wills.
This site serves as a resource for locating online Kentucky genealogical and historical information including maps, obituaries, Kentucky bibles, vital records, Kentucky school photos and yearbooks, and military records.
A free, volunteer-based project sponsored by Ancestry.com that includes local history, family trees, surname lists, gravestones and old church records.
The USGenWeb Project
This volunteer-run site provides free online genealogy information for every U.S. state and county.
Kentucky Land Office
This site features searchable databases and resources for researching Kentucky land acquisitions and information about Kentucky’s cities and counties.
Maps of Kentucky
Search and browse historic Kentucky maps. Also includes links to map collections and other resources.
Search and browse United States military records.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Kentucky Newspapers
Search digitized Kentucky newspaper pages from 1847-1922.
Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics
Order Kentucky vital records including birth, marriage, divorce, and death records.
Online Kentucky Death Records and Indexes
Browse a list of online resources on Kentucky death indexes, obituaries, and cemeteries.
University of Kentucky Marriage Index for 1973-1993
Search indexes to selected Kentucky vital records.
University of Kentucky Death Index for 1911-1986
Search indexes to selected Kentucky vital records.
University of Kentucky Death Index for 1987-1992
Search indexes to selected Kentucky vital records.
University of Kentucky Divorce Index for 1973-1993
Search indexes to selected Kentucky vital records.
Archives of Women Religious
One of the best sources of information on ancestors who served as Catholic nuns or sisters are the archives of her congregation. Typically the archives of women religious keep information on deceased members, such as baptismal and confirmation certificates, biographical information, photographs, correspondence and other writings, and mission lists.
Archivists for Congregations of Women Religious (ACWR)
Archivists for Congregations of Women Religious (ACWR) assists lay and religious archivists in the management, interpretation, and preservation of the historical record of Catholic sisters and nuns in the United States and worldwide. One resource on the ACWR website is “Women Religious History Sources: A Digital Guide to Repositories in North America,” which provides a comprehensive list of women religious archives with contact information and summaries of collection holdings. This document can be found at https://archivistsacwr.org/women-religious-resource/.
The Official Catholic Directory was first published by P. J. Kenedy & Sons in 1817. It is an authoritative Catholic research resource, offering details about dioceses, parishes, missions, schools, and religious communities. Libraries and archives across the United States have started digitizing older editions of the Official Catholic Directory, making them available on HathiTrust Digital Library at https://www.hathitrust.org/.
Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA)
The Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA) provides enduring global access to Catholic research resources in the Americas, beginning with access to rare, unique, and uncommon research materials. Through the Catholic Research Resources Portal (also known as the “Catholic Portal”), the CRRA provides global, freely available access to materials in libraries, seminaries, special collections, and archives. The CRRA also manages the Catholic Newspapers Program, which aims to provide access to North American Catholic newspapers for research use.
If you know your ancestor’s religious name, you may be able to find her in census records. These records can enable you to discover what city or town she was working in at the time of the census. From this information, you can use Catholic directories to track down her congregation. Something to note is that census takers sometimes wrote “Sister” as the first name, so it is a good idea to include this word in your search.
Search family records – obituaries, letters, wills – for clues such as your ancestor’s religious name and where/when she may have lived at a particular point in time. With information such as a year and location, you can use Catholic directories to determine which congregation was working in a particular city or town during that time.
If you have information about your ancestor’s death or her place of burial, you can use websites like Find A Grave to track down her tombstone. Tombstones often provide the initials of her congregation, which you can then use to locate the correct congregation to contact for more information.
If you know your ancestor’s religious name and her congregation, try to find information about her using Boolean search techniques on Google or another search engine. A Boolean search involves combining keywords with operators such as AND, NOT, and OR to produce more relevant results. For example, in tracking down information on Sister Jerome Cooper, an Ursuline Sister who served at Saint James Parish in Louisville, Kentucky, you could use these phrases:
“Sister Jerome Cooper”
“Sister Jerome Cooper AND Louisville OR Kentucky”
“Jerome Cooper AND St. James AND Louisville”
“Jerome Cooper AND Ursuline Sisters”
Old parish histories (before the 1960s) often list men and women religious who came from the parish. These lists usually include the person’s religious name and congregation.