Archives & Research

Archives & Research

Starting August 1, 2013, new policies and procedures have been implemented and approved by the Chancellor Father Francis Puddister.

General Policy

The Archives and Records Office of the Archdiocese of St. John’s exists to collect, preserve and make available records of enduring value which pertain to the experience of the Church in this region. As such, it plays an integral part in the information system of the diocese. Its main function is to serve the administrative needs of the Archbishop and the diocese. However, it also seeks to ensure a documentary heritage and a basis for scholarly research in keeping with the moral and historical precepts of Canon Law and the democratic values and civil law of Canada. Access policies to the Archives are based on the following principles:


1. As authorized by Canon Law, the Archivist serves under the Chancellor as the Archbishop's representative and liaison in the establishment of archival policies.

2. Access policies are developed with sensitivity for the principles of both right to know and confidentiality. This is to ensure compliance with provincial and federal legislation and archival practices to guarantee the existence of materials for future researchers.

3. Access is restricted for a period of time under Canada's Personal Information Protection legislation:


  • Birth registrations are available after 100 years
  • Marriage registrations are available after 75 years

4. Researchers are not permitted to come to the Archives to research for genealogical records without first submitting a baptismal or marriage record request form. Once the form is submitted, one of the Archives staff will do the initial research. If further research is required, records may only be accessed with an Archive staff member present. The reason for this is the protection of other people’s privacy.

5.  Access is restricted under the Canadian Catholic Archivist Protocol. Arch/Bishop’s Records maybe available to the public after a period of seventy (70) years. However, documents considered confidential in nature may remain confidential indefinitely. Prior to seventy (70) years, permission must be sought from the Chancellor in writing.

6. Some collections are permanently restricted. Some materials, however, may be sequestered from common viewing for a certain period of time; these may include, but are not limited to sacramental, Arch/Bishop, and other records. They will be made available in a scheduled manner in keeping with professionally appraised criteria and canonical requirements. Other obligations may arise as a result of contractual stipulations through Deeds of Gifts, wills or sales arrangements.

7. Access to the archives and records is open to all qualified researchers regardless of race or creed. The guiding principle is equal access for anyone with legitimate interests in the documentation.

8. Questions on access policies to individual collections or series may be directed to the archivist or discovered through a written policy such as the Access Agreement, which is available in the Archives and Records Office and on this webpage.

9. Access is granted to researchers through which you must sign an agreement of compliance in which the use of rules of the Archdiocesan Archives and Records, including the acceptance of normal policies and procedures. Researchers with problems or complaints should first voice their concerns to the archivist. Any unresolved difficulties may be brought to the Chancellor or ultimately to the Archbishop.

10. The Archives of the Archdiocese of St. John’s does not hold any Death records.



It is the responsibility of the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. John's under Canon Law (the law of the Church) to maintain a diocesan archives where documents concerning the spiritual and temporal affairs of this diocese are stored. The purpose for maintaining the archives Is to centralize, organize, preserve, protect and make available the records and materials which pertain to the origin, history, spirit, and growth of the Archdiocese. Where applicable, Canon Law shall govern the maintenance, organization and preservation, or use of the Archdiocesan Archives. Where Canon Law does not apply approved policies set out in the Policies and Procedures manual adopted in April 1994 shall govern.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's was erected as a Vicariate Apostolic by Pope Pius VI on December 5,1795. This new Vicariate was placed under the care of Reverend James O'Donel, O.F.M., who was later to become the first Bishop of Newfoundland. In June 1847, St. John's was established as a Diocese. Internal evidence suggests that the Reverend Michael Howley, the first native-born Bishop of the Archdiocese was instrumental in laying the foundation of the Archdiocesan Archives. He was a renowned historian, writer, lecturer, poet and people's advocate who preserved not only his own papers, but the papers and documents of the earlier Catholic Bishops in Newfoundland.

Areas of Specialty

The Archdiocesan Archives is the main repository for the historical and contemporary documents of the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland.

The holdings of the Archdiocesan Archives are divided into the following categories:
* Papers of the Bishops (1784-2001) * Clergy Files * Estates and Wills * Parishes of the Archdiocese
* Vatican Publications * Educational Records and Reports * The Monitor (1934-1996) * Photographs * Parish Baptism, Marriage and Mortuary Records (1763-1850) * Architectural descriptions and blueprints.

Finding Aids/Publications

A guide to the collections of the Archives is available to researchers for examination at the Archives, upon request. Finding aids are available for processed collections.