Our Collections

The Archives

We collect records and other materials that reflect the history and administration of the Archdiocese of Seattle from the 1840s to the present day. Some of the broad areas documented include:


  • The pastoral and administrative affairs of past bishops and clergy of the Archdiocese of Seattle.
  • The work of Chancery offices and archdiocesan programs.
  • Our positions on important religious, social and political issues over time.
  • The founding and administration of parishes and schools.
  • The sacramental life of local Catholics.
  • Relationships with other institutions, organizations and lay Catholic groups.
Bishop Shaughnessy in his office at the newly-built chancery, 1939. VR610.1351

Library at St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, WA, 1940s-1950s. VR1060.00904

Research in the Archives

Simple requests for images, sacramental records and academic transcripts can be made by visiting the Request a Record page.

If you have questions about or are interested in researching any aspect of Catholic history in Western Washington, please scroll down to learn more about the materials in the Archives and then contact us.

Please note that our collections are subject to access and use restrictions, which can be found in our Policies for Researchers.

Formats and Languages

Material types include paper and electronic records, digital images and photographic prints, magnetic media, maps and architectural drawings, textiles and a variety of sacred objects. Textual records are written primarily in English but also include French, German, and Latin — especially those from the early days of our history.


The materials in our archives are organized into record groups, which are collections based on provenance (the office or individual who created them) or by function (the activities being documented). See below for more specific descriptions of many of our record groups (RG).

Record Groups

RG 100 Rome (Vatican Curia) (1846-1988)

Records of communication with Vatican offices and agencies.

RG 200 Supradiocesan (1838-1993)

Records documenting the Archdiocese of Seattle’s involvement in councils that gathered to act on matters affecting the Catholic Church in their region. 

This collection may be of interest to those wishing to research the early missions of Oregon and Washington and the creation of dioceses in the Pacific Northwest.

RG 320 Other Dioceses (1836-1900)

Records of exchanges with other dioceses (including the Military Ordinariate), retained during the course of official business. 

RG 410 Governance, Regulations and Discipline (1850-1977)

Consists mainly of the archbishops' or bishops' correspondence regarding observance of ecclesiastical laws, not only by clergy but by laypeople in many aspects of daily life, such as associations with non-Catholic organizations, media consumption, education, marriage and burial. 

RG 415 Officials (1848-1975)

This record group consists of “Officials,” which are decrees made by the bishop or archbishop for the diocese. Also included in this record group are pastoral notifications and directives sent to clergy, and pastoral letters, which are lengthy public statements or reflections on particular topics intended to advise rather than direct. 

Officials about the creation of the Diocese of Nesqually (Mandate of Entry), liturgies, sacraments and Canon Law may be of particular interest to researchers.

RG 420 Bishops' Personnel (1876-2015)

Records documenting the bishops’ ministerial careers. Includes personnel records, calendars, memorabilia, awards, educational information, installation materials, writings and photographs.

RG 440 Liturgy and Sacraments (1891-2012)

Documents in this record group give insight into the evolution of liturgical practices as well as the importance of liturgy in the Church, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. Includes records from the Liturgy Office and liturgical commissions and councils, and contains correspondence, photographs, publications, clippings and memorabilia.

RG 500 Marriage, General (1895-1971) (unprocessed, no access)

These records demonstrate how the Pio-Benedictine Code of canon law applied to marriage prior to Vatican II. The record group contains correspondence between priests advocating for couples attempting to marry and the Ordinary granting faculties for dispensations or discussing canon law. Also includes memoranda, reports, Canon Law Conference minutes, clippings, marriage workshop materials and Canon Law Society of America records.

RG 610 Bishops' Central Files (1846-2010)

Records created and received by the bishops' and archbishops' offices which document their administrative and pastoral activities. Includes Chancery and parish administration records, Vatican correspondence and reports, homilies and speeches, USCCB and WSCC records, project and event materials, photographs, Officials, pastoral letters and pastoral notifications/directives.

RG 625-699 Chancery Departments and Ministries

Records documenting important decisions and activities of Chancery offices and ministries on behalf of the [arch]bishops of Seattle, including Catholic Charities, the Fulcrum Foundation, Catholic Schools, Hispanic Ministries, Catholic Faith Formation, Planning and Research and Property and Construction.

RG 700 Parishes (1838-2015)

This record group is a major resource for documents about the founding and construction of parishes and parish buildings, as well as missions, stations and chapels. Contains records relating to the administrative, pastoral and cultural life of church communities throughout the Archdiocese of Seattle, including decrees, correspondence, complaints, property and construction records, statistics, studies, reports (including parish annual reports), clippings, photographs and memorabilia. 

RG 700 St. James Cathedral Music Office (1931-2015, bulk 1981-2014)

Records created or acquired by the St. James Cathedral Music Office during the directorship of Dr. James Savage, which document the planning and execution of performances, events, liturgies, and pilgrimages.  Also included are collected resources pertaining to the history of the music program at St. James Cathedral.  

Of particular interest may be records relating to the production of Great Music for Great Cathedrals, annual music books, and restoration of the Hutchings-Votey organ.

RG 811-885 Clergy (no access)

Records documenting the formation and ministries of priests and deacons in the Archdiocese of Seattle.

RG 900 Religious Orders (1852-2008)

Records relating to religious orders (i.e. Dominicans, Franciscans, etc.) who have lived and/or operated within our diocese.​ 

Of particular interest may be records related to Saint Frances X. Cabrini, Mother Joseph, O’Dea High School, St. Martin’s Abbey, St. Martin’s College and St. James College.  

RG 1000 Institutions, General (1913-1993)

Records of various religious institutions supported by the Archdiocese of Seattle, and various public institutions and movements with which the Archdiocese was involved. Includes clippings, correspondence, financial and legal documents, reports, minutes and memorabilia.

Some institutions included are:

  • Catholic Information Center
  • Chief Seattle Club
  • The Bishop Lewis House
  • Firland Sanatorium
  • Interfaith Advising Committee
  • The Josephinum Hotel
  • Mt. St. Vincent
  • National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
  • The Palisades Retreat Center
  • St. Luke Infirmary
  • St. Peter Claver Interracial Center
  • St. Teresa Residence
  • St. Vincent de Paul Salvage Bureau
  • Visitation Retreat Center

RG 1020 Hospitals (1897-1978)

Records related to hospitals located within the Archdiocese of Seattle. These include state hospitals, Catholic hospitals, schools of nursing affiliated with hospitals and proposals for founding new hospitals. 

RG 1030 Orphanages and Boarding Schools (1860-1979)

Records about orphanages and boarding schools located within the Archdiocese of Seattle that were owned and operated by religious orders. These records relate to general administrative matters and do not include any files on individual students or children.

For help with locating religious groups that may have student records, please contact an archivist.

RG 1030 Correctional Facilities (1913-1976)

Administrative records concerning the provision of spiritual care to the incarcerated. Information on individual inmates is not included in this collection.

RG 1040 Schools, High Schools and Academies (1856-2007)

Records concerning the establishment and administration of Catholic schools run by the Archdiocese of Seattle or operating within our boundaries.

RG 1050 Colleges and Universities (1849-1997)

This record group contains records about colleges and universities located within the archdiocese’s borders: state schools, Christian-affiliated schools and Catholic schools. Also included are some Catholic institutions located outside of the archdiocese’s borders: the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.; North American College, Rome; and American College, Louvain.

RG 1060 Sulpician Seminaries (1856-1994, bulk 1930-1977)

Records from the establishment and administration of St. Edward and St. Thomas seminaries in Kenmore. Included are administrative records, records of the Board of Bishops, faculty and student records, curricula, newsletters, yearbooks, memorabilia and an extensive photograph collection.

RG 1100 Organizations (1859-2015)

Records of our relationships with various Catholic and secular organizations, groups and movements that have no direct association with the Archdiocese of Seattle but have existed within it or interacted with it. The records consist mainly of correspondence, publications and memorabilia.

RG 1200 Apologetics (1859, 1896, 1907-1978)

Correspondence and research materials which were used to help the bishops develop and articulate concrete official positions on particular “hot-button” issues.

Topics include abortion, civil rights, ecumenism, Japanese internment, morality, 20th century wars, nuclear disarmament, social justice activities and many other subjects.

Peter Chirico, S.S., Papers (1947-2003)

Collection contains lectures, writings and research materials created between 1947 and 2003 by Peter Chirico, S.S., in his roles as a Sulpician priest, seminary and university lecturer, and theologian for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Guide to the Peter Chirico, S.S. Papers

Have questions?

Please contact us at archives@seattlearch.org

or call (206) 382-4352