The Cincinnati Archdiocese Archives Are Hiding In Plain Sight

The basement of the Civil War–era building behind St. Louis Church is filled with concrete to support the weight of it all.
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Photograph by Jeremy Kramer


An ordinary pack rat might have a couple decades’-worth of National Geographics. But in Cincinnati, ecclesiastical hoarding includes treasures such as bound copies of The Catholic Telegraph dating back to 1831. The chancery archives of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati ensure that the centuries-old records have a future. Archivist Sarah Patterson handles the collection, which includes bishops’ correspondence, church blueprints, sacramental registers, the records of closed parishes, and more. So much more, in fact, that the basement of the Civil War–era building behind St. Louis Church is filled with concrete to support the weight of it all. The collection encompasses a few material artifacts, including the vestments worn by Bishop Fenwick. But many of the most interesting bits are ordinary correspondence, such as a rural priest’s kvetching letter to his bishop, complaining that parishioners weren’t chopping enough wood for his stove. Marriage and baptism records are especially useful for people researching family history. Genealogists can’t use the archives themselves, but Patterson is happy to dive into the collection for them. It’s a fruitful endeavor for her, too: “That’s how archivists find out what they have,” she says.

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