This collection contains more than 3,700 items, ranging in date from 1791 to the present. Researchers interested in the early history of Catholic settlements, the continuity of ethnic parishes, the development of Catholic institutions within a parish, parishioners' participation in local and national lay organizations, or in local or foreign missions, will find this collection useful. The titles are accessed through an online database maintained by the department.
The histories were usually written to commemorate an important anniversary such as the twenty-fifth, fiftieth or one hundredth year since the founding of the parish or the dedication of the church building. Many of them include photographs from the early years of the parish and biographies of the parish's priests. In addition to the printed histories there are newspaper clippings, photographs, postcards, and other ephemeral material which provide additional information about the establishment of the parish, the anniversary celebrations, or the architecture of the parish buildings. Also included in this collection are parish directories for a single year containing photographs of the parishioners and congratulatory notices from local merchants, anniversary programs, booklets, dedication programs, regional or diocesan histories, and jubilee biographies of bishops.
Some of the parish histories include information on the schools, orphanages, seminaries, religious orders, or civic and social groups associated with the parish. Armenian, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovenian, Slovak, Spanish, or Ukrainian speakers sometimes published their parish histories in their native language, with little or no accompanying English text.