PAHRC holds baptismal and marriage records before the year 1920 for parishes presently within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which includes the city of Philadelphia, and the surrounding counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware & Montgomery. Sacramental records are arranged by individual parish, so it is first necessary to establish the family’s correct parish, either from a street address or section of the city where the family lived. Records after 1920 should be obtained from the individual parish.

Since the city of Philadelphia did not record vital statistics until 1860, in many cases the local church is the only source of information for records of births and marriages.

Baptismal records include the following information: child’s name, birth date, baptismal date, names of parents, sponsors, and priest performing the baptism. In some cases, the parents’ place of origin may also be listed, but this is more common in records for the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century. A notation of the person’s marriage may also be contained in the baptismal register, but again, this is not the norm in early records.

Marriage records include the following information: names of the contracting parties, witnesses and the presiding priest, and the date of marriage. In some cases, names of the parents may be listed, or the ages of the contracting parties, or the place of origin or baptism, but there is no guarantee. Where they exist, the place names of origins tend to be vague; for example, “Hibernia” is often listed for a native of Ireland. It is rare for records to name specific parishes or towns. German national parishes tended to be more specific about place of origin, and the German records typically provide more detail.

Sacramental registers from some of the oldest parishes have been published in the journal of the Records of the American Catholic Historical Society. These include:

Old St. Joseph: Baptisms 1758-1810, except 1787-1790; Marriages 1758-1836, except 1787-1799

St. Augustine: Baptisms 1801-1810; Marriages 1801-1830

Holy Trinity: Baptisms 1790-1806; Marriages 1796-1806

Please refer to the Index of the Records of the ACHS Volumes 1-31 (1886-1920) for correct volume and page numbers. This periodical may be found at: PAHRC, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, as well as many Catholic university libraries. In addition, the pre-1800 records of Old St. Joseph have been published in alphabetical form in Catholic Trails West Volume I by Edmund Adams and Barbara Brady O’Keefe, Genealogical Publishing Company; Baltimore, 1988.


The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’ s website provides information on Diocesan parishes, including  foundation and closing dates, parish boundaries, and census records. Also noted is where the spiritual records are kept for those parishes that have closed. Please note: records for parishes that were once part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are now held by their respective dioceses.

Click here to see maps that denote the boundaries of parishes in Philadelphia County as well as a few suburban parishes.


PAHRC does not have records for any orphanages for girls. We do have admission records for boys’ orphanages, including St. John’s Orphan Asylum, St. Joseph’s House for Homeless Boys, and St. Francis’ Industrial School in Eddington. Researchers interested in orphanage records for genealogical purposes should fill out a baptismal request form, indicating an approximate date for the child’s admission. There is a $25.00 charge for these requests.

Researchers looking for their own orphanage record should contact PAHRC by phone or email for further instructions.

We have the following records for Boys’ orphanages and industrial schools.

St. John’s Orphan Asylum (Philadelphia)

Admission books for Dec. 1845 through May 1970. The admission books through the end of 1869 contain almost no useful information for genealogists. From 1870 through May 1970, the admission books contain the following information:

Name, age and date of admission
Place and date of birth and Baptism
Parents’ name, birthplace and date of death
Terms of admissions and remarks
Date of discharge and how disposed of (where the child was sent to live)

*Note that some of this information may be omitted from individual entries.

St. Francis Industrial School/St. Francis Vocational School (Eddington)

Admission books for July 17, 1888-June 15, 1970 containing the following information:

Name, age and date of admission
Date and place of birth, Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation
Parents’ name and birthplace
When and how discharged

*Note that some of this information may be omitted from individual entries.

St. Joseph’s House for Homeless Industrious Boys (Philadelphia)

Boys’ Information Journals from July 26, 1904-April 22, 1940 containing the following information:

Name, date of admission, place and date of birth, Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation
Parents’ name and nationality, address if living and sometimes occupation
When discharged
Other relatives

*Note that some of this information may be missing from individual entries.