Monday 5 December 2016

NEHGS to digitise RC Archdiocese of Boston records

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has announced a historic collaboration with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts, to create a database of 10 million Catholic records dating from 1789 to 1900.

The collection will include baptisms, marriages and burials, plus first communions, confirmations, sick calls and deaths.

It will be jam-packed with Irish emigrants, as well as a huge number of Italians and Germans who collectively made Boston such a major immigration port during the 19th century.

The Archdiocese of Boston is one of the largest Catholic dioceses in the United States, encompassing more than 130 communities in Massachusetts. According to the 2010 Religion Census, 45% of the state's residents consider themselves Catholic — a statistic that would shock the original, overwhelmingly Protestant, colonists. Catholicism was illegal in Massachusetts until 1780, and violent hostility still reigned in Boston decades later.

The arrival of thousands of Irish Catholics fleeing the Famine horrified the resident population in the 1840s and early 1850s. In 1854, when it was estimated that one in three people living in the city was Irish-born, the Know Nothing party of bigots gained a landslide electoral victory with their slogan 'Americans must rule America' and sought to strip the new arrivals of jobs and workers' and voters' rights. Fortunately, the Know Nothings were roundly defeated two years later.

But back to today's news...

On completion of this significant digitisation project, the resulting NEHGS database on will contain more than 10 million searchable names, making it the largest genealogical collection of American Catholic records online.

The timescale for the digitisation project hasn't been revealed.

UPDATE 9 January 2017: Details will be released tomorrow at 11am EST (4pm Dublin/London) at a press conference which will be streamed live through the NEHGS website at