Raiders of the (Not So Lost) “Ark”ives: Digitizing Religious Archives


Originally published on The Crowley Company blog by Hannah Clawson, Marketing Associate. 

As I was preparing for Crowley’s appearance at this week’s annual American Theological Library Association Conference (ATLA), I realized that everything I know about religious archives comes from Indiana Jones’ movies and Dan Brown novels. It’s not a fact I’m proud of since religious entities have been a prominent market for Crowley (and as the daughter of a pastor and a church secretary, I’m no stranger to the goings on of the church) but my perception of their archives mostly includes Bibles with treasure maps and scrolls with secret codes.

In an effort to bring myself closer to reality, I spoke with Crowley clients FindmypastWashington Hebrew Congregation and The First Church of Christ, Scientist – all of which have recently digitized religion-based collections with Crowley. I wanted to find out more about the materials actually being preserved and how they are later used (secretly hoping to find a treasure map along the way).

Genealogy: Microfilmed Catholic Records Online for the First Time

Findmypast (FMP), a genealogy website headquartered in London and specializing in British and Irish family history, is currently undertaking a project to make records from several U.S. Catholic archdioceses accessible to their subscribers. “Not many records from the Catholic Church are online for genealogical use, yet at periods in history Catholics have made up as much as 25% of the English population. With these records available, they will be able to trace lineage they couldn’t before,” remarked Jim Shaughnessy, content marking manager for FMP.

Documents in this collection, which includes parish registers, baptismal records, clerical correspondence, newsletters and more, will be especially helpful to U.S. residents looking to draw ties to their U.K. heritage. “Many U.S. church records such as marriage or death registries contain information on the person’s birth or baptismal place, often producing strong links to a person’s homeland,” Shaughnessy included.

Access to the records was granted to FMP and they employed Crowley Imaging to digitize microfilmed records from the Archdiocese of Baltimore followed by microfiche records from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Both projects were indexed and scanned by Crowley Mekel MACH10 microfilm and MACH7 microfiche scanners respectively. FMP uploaded the over 1.1 million TIFF images to their online database. The digital copies were sent to the individual archdioceses for their own use along with the return of original materials.

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