Research Guide – Catholic History

Catholic Students Mission Crusade (CSMC) Rally, Owensboro Sportscenter, 1959. Collection of Diocese of Owensboro Archives.

About This Guide

This research guide focuses on Catholic history in the United States. It describes resources available in libraries, archives, and online. The guide is not comprehensive, but it is intended to be a useful place to start your research.

General Reference

Catholics in Kentucky

2008 Maryland to Kentucky reunion: a guide to the Kentucky holy land : historical churches, cemeteries, religious institutions, libraries and court houses. 2008. [Ky.?]: Maryland to Kentucky Reunion Comm.

Crews, Clyde F. 1999. An American holy land: a history of the Archdiocese of Louisville. Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications.

Crews, Clyde F. 1986. The faithful image: glimpses of the two hundred year history of Kentucky Catholics in the Archdiocese of Louisville. [Place of publication not identified]: [publisher not identified].

Diocese of Bardstown Bicentennial Committee. 2008. The bicentennial celebration of the Diocese of Bardstown, 1808-2008. Bardstown, Ky.: Standard Communications.

Maryland to Kentucky Reunion Committee. 2008. Putting meat on the bones: a tribute to our Md. to Ky. ancestors. [Ky.?]: Publishers Printing Co.

Mattingly, Mary Ramona. 1974. The Catholic Church on the Kentucky frontier (1785-1812). New York: AMS Pr.

Mudd, Joseph E. 1986. Humble beginnings: a bicentennial history of St. Charles Parish and early Catholicity of Marion-Nelson-Washington counties, 1786-1986. [Louisville, Ky.]: J.E. Mudd.

Pohlkamp, Diomede. 1954. First missionary in Kentucky in 1787: life of Rev. Father Charles Mauric Whelan, O.F.M. Cap. Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky.

Spalding, M. J. 1980. Sketches of the early Catholic missions of Kentucky, 1787 to 1827. [Melber, Kentucky]: [Simons].
Available as free e-book on the Internet Archive.

Webb, Benedict Joseph. 2013. The centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky. Miami: HardPress Pub.
Available as free e-book on the Internet Archive.


History of the Diocese of Owensboro

Catholic Church. 2010. Diocese of Owensboro: a celebration of the Catholic Church in Western Kentucky.

Hayden, Judy. 1987. This far by faith: the story of Catholicity in western Kentucky. [Place of publication not identified]: [publisher not identified]. 

Historical churches of Daviess County, 1776-1976: celebrating 200 years of religious freedom in America. 1976. [Place of publication not identified]: [publisher not identified].

Patterson, Sarah L. 2012. Freely you have received, freely give: 75 years of the diocese of Owensboro Kentucky. Strasbourg: Éd. du Signe.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky. 1995. Paducah, KY: Turner Pub.


Catholics in the United States

Crews, Clyde F. 2004. American and Catholic: a popular history of Catholicism in the United States. Cincinnati, Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press.

Greeley, Andrew M. 2005. The Catholic revolution: new wine, old wineskins, and the Second Vatican Council. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Hitchcock, James. 2012. History of the Catholic Church: from the apostolic age to the third millennium. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press.

Massa, Mark Stephen. 1999. Catholics and American culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame football team. New York, NY: Crossroad Publ. Co.

McCartin, James P. 2010. Prayers of the faithful: the shifting spiritual life of American Catholics. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

McGreevy, John T. 2004. Catholicism and American freedom: a history. New York: W.W. Norton.

McGreevy, John T. 1996. Parish boundaries: the Catholic encounter with race in the twentieth-century urban North. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mckevitt, Gerald. 2010. Brokers of culture: italian jesuits in the american west, 1848-1919. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Morris, Charles R. 1998. American Catholic: the saints and sinners who built America’s most powerful church. New York: Vintage Books.

Oates, Mary J. 1995. The Catholic philanthropic tradition in America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

O’Brien, David J. 1996. Public Catholicism. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

O’Toole, James M. 2004. Habits of devotion Catholic religious practice in twentieth-century America. London: Cornell University Press.

O’Toole, James M. 2009. The faithful: a history of Catholics in America. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.


Scholarly Journals

American Catholic Studies
The journal of the American Catholic Historical Society. It is the oldest, continuously published Catholic scholarly journal in the United States.

Catholic Historical Review
The journal of the American Catholic Historical Association.

Journal of Global Catholicism
A peer-reviewed scholarly journal dedicated to fostering the understanding of diverse forms of lived Catholicism with attention to their significance for theoretical approaches in anthropology, history, sociology, media studies, psychology, theology, and philosophy.

The Journal of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium
The journal of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS), composed of original articles by its members and select non-members whose scholarship is relevant to the mission of the BCTS.

US Catholic Historian
A scholarly journal devoted to the history of the Catholic Church in the United States of America, published by the Catholic University of America Press.

Catholic Newspapers

Catholic News Archive
A site that provides free, online access to thousands of pages from national and local Catholic newspapers across multiple decades. The Catholic News Archive is a project of the Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA).

Catholic Newspapers Online
A list of online Catholic newspapers compiled by the Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA).

Catholic Newspapers Program (CNP)
The Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA) started the Catholic Newspapers Program in 2011 with the goal of providing access to all existing Catholic newspapers published in North America.

Chronicling America
A site produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) that provides access to information about historic newspapers and digitized newspaper pages. NDNP is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress.

International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON)
An online database of information about significant newspaper collections in print, digital, and micro formats. 

Diocesan Newspapers in Kentucky

Cross Roads
Official newspaper of the Diocese of Lexington, published bi-weekly.

The Messenger
Official newspaper of the Diocese of Covington, published weekly August through May and every other week in the months of June and July.

The Record
Official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville, published weekly.

The Western Kentucky Catholic
Official newspaper of the Diocese of Owensboro, published monthly except for the months of June and July.

Online Resources

American Catholic History Classroom
A resource for educators and researchers from the Catholic University of America featuring a variety of free primary-source materials related to American Catholic experience.

Catholics & Cultures
Catholics & Cultures, an initiative of the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at the College of the Holy Cross, aims to foster comparative study of contemporary Catholic life around the globe and to provide teaching resources about Catholic life in all its richness and particularity. The initiative focuses on “lived Catholicism,” the ways that ordinary Catholics practice their faith in their everyday lives.

Catholic Hierarchy
This site provides current and historical information about the bishops and dioceses of the Catholic Church.

Catholic Portal
The Catholic Research Resources Portal, also known as the “Catholic Portal,” provides global, freely available access to rare, unique and/or uncommon materials in libraries, seminaries, special collections and archives.

Catholic Reference Resources: Updated McCabe
This site aims to update James McCabe’s A Critical Guide to Catholic Reference Books (1989). McCabe provided an introduction to over 900 of the most important reference books related to Catholicism. The books listed in McCabe’s guide cover topics such as genealogy, lives of the saints, theology, liturgy, music, fine arts, political science, and church history.

Catholic Research Resources Alliance
The CRRA is a nonprofit (501c3) membership alliance of institutions collaborating to deliver projects and services in support of its mission “to provide enduring global access to Catholic research resources in the Americas.” Its immediate focus is creating access to those rare, unique, and uncommon research materials which are held by libraries and archives in North America.

Convocate: Bringing Catholic Social Teaching and International Human Rights into Dialogue
This database developed at the University of Notre Dame is a research tool for investigating the connections between international human rights and Catholic social teaching. It searches theological and legal documents simultaneously, returning results in such a way that users are able to compare these bodies of thought side by side.

Digital Catholica Collection
This collection from Villanova University makes available digital content of Catholic materials including books, journals, papers, and manuscripts dealing with the Roman Catholic Church in general, and in particular works created or published in the Americas.

Religion Commons
The Religion Commons is one section of the Digital Commons Network, an open-access repository that brings together free, full-text scholarly articles from hundreds of universities and colleges worldwide. Curated by university librarians and their supporting institutions, the Network includes a growing collection of peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, dissertations, working papers, conference proceedings, and other original scholarly work.

Religious Studies Resource Guide
A comprehensive guide for students and teachers of religious studies. It provides provides over 50 helpful links such as lesson plans, social connections, online classes, informative articles, study guides and much more.

The Archivist’s Nook
This blog of the Catholic University of America Archives features interesting materials from its collections and provides information on the history of the university and the archives.

The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA)
The Association of Religion Data Archives strives to democratize access to the best data on religion. ARDA includes American and international collections and provides features for educators, journalists, religious congregations, and researchers.

The Cooperative Digital Resources Initiative (CDRI)
The Cooperative Digital Resources Initiative of the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) and the Association of Theological Schools (ATS)​ is a repository of digital resources contributed by member libraries. It includes over 14,000 digital images of woodcuts, photographs, slides, papyri, coins, maps, postcards, manuscripts, lithographs, art and icons.

The Vatican Library
The library of the Holy See, located in Vatican City and established in 1475, is one of the oldest libraries in the world. It contains one of the most important collections of historical texts and serves as a research library for history, law, philosophy, science and theology.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the episcopal conference of the Catholic Church in the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Catholic Archives

Diocesan Archives

Consult the USCCB website for a list of all dioceses in the United States.



Archives of Religious Orders

Consult the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR) website for a list of communities of women religious, and the Religious Brothers Conference (RBC) website for a list of Lay Institutes and Mixed Institutes. Check the individual websites of each community to see whether they have an archives or contact them directly.



Archives of Catholic Colleges and Universities

Note: This list does not include all Catholic colleges and universities in the United States. Consult the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website for a list of Catholic colleges and universities, and then check their individual websites to see whether they have an archives.


Catholic Organizations

Associations, Consortia, and Networks

American Theological Library Association (ATLA)
The American Theological Library Association (ATLA) is a professional association providing support of theological and religious studies libraries and librarians. ATLA produces a prestigious line of electronic resources to support the scholarly study of religion and theology.

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.

Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists (ACDA)
The Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists serves the specific needs of the Roman Catholic diocesan archivist. It is committed to the active promotion of professionalism in the management of diocesan archives in North America as reflected in its work to establish an archival program in every diocese and to assist bishops and chancellors in the development of such programs.

Catholic Archives Society
The Catholic Archives Society is a voluntary organization founded in 1979 to promote the care of the archives of the Roman Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

Catholic Library Association (CLA)
Established in 1921, the Catholic Library Association is an international membership organization, providing its members professional development through educational and networking experiences, publications, scholarships, and other services. The Catholic Library Association coordinates the exchange of ideas, provides a source of inspirational support and guidance in ethical issues related to librarianship, and offers fellowship for those who seek, serve, preserve, and share the word in all its forms.

Catholic Peacebuilding Network (CPN)
The Catholic Peacebuilding Network (CPN) is a voluntary network of practitioners and academics, clergy and laity, which seeks to enhance the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding in areas torn by conflict. It is comprised of 23 affiliated organizations, but also works with many other individual and institutional partners worldwide.

Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism
The Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism brings together scholars from history, theology, women’€™s studies, sociology, religious studies, American studies, and English to interpret the American Catholic experience.

Society of American Archivists (SAA)
Founded in 1936, the Society of American Archivists is North America’s oldest and largest national professional association dedicated to the needs and interests of archives and archivists. SAA represents more than 6,200 professional archivists employed by governments, universities, businesses, libraries, and historical organizations.

  • Archivists of Religious Collections Section
    The Archivists of Religious Collections Section is a group of professional archivists who work for national, international, and local Church organizations, religious societies and orders, and theological schools. ARCS members document the many sides of the faith experience. ARCS members represent large and small repositories and a cross-section of the diverse North American community of practice.
  • Lone Arrangers Section
    The mission of the Lone Arrangers Section is to provide education, stimulate communication, and encourage support between archivists working in “lone arranger” settings. The term “lone arranger” includes those working alone or in very small staff situations.

Scholarly Organizations

American Catholic Historical Association
Founded by the distinguished church historian Peter Guilday in 1919, the American Catholic Historical Association is a conference of scholars, archivists, and teachers of Catholic studies.

American Catholic Historical Society
Founded in 1884, the American Catholic Historic Society’s goal has been to collect, research and maintain a history of Catholic contributions to our culture.

Conference on the History of Women Religious (CHWR)
The Conference on the History of Women Religious was established in 1988 both to assist historians in discovering and preserving the historical record of vowed women from the middle ages to the present, and to integrate their stories into the larger narratives of their times and places. It is a group of approximately 400 scholars and archivists from the fields of history, religious studies, women’s studies, and sociology. The majority of members reside in the United States, but international membership includes scholars from Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, France, Japan, and China.

The Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS)
The Black Catholic Theological Symposium was initiated in 1978 by Rev. Thaddeus Posey, O.F.M. and sponsored by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus as an occasional conference. It is now a national Roman Catholic interdisciplinary theological society which meets annually.