Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Southwark priests (and family history)

About half of the enquiries received by the Archive are from family history researchers. The Archive doesn’t actually hold any parish registers – these are held by local parish churches – so many of these enquiries are sent to the relevant parish (parish contact details can be found: However, for those interested in finding out about a family member who was a priest, or indeed those doing research on priests for other reasons, the Archive can be a great source of information.

Personnel files
Personnel files (in non-archival and archival packaging)

The Archive holds personnel files for all deceased priests. While researchers cannot look through these themselves, the Archivist can use them to find information on the researcher’s behalf. These files, particularly the older ones, are not uniform in character. Some are very large and some very small. However, they can often provide a wealth of information. They can contain correspondence between the priest and Bishop, biographical information, information on the parishes that he served in, an obituary etc.

Information card from a priest's file

Occasionally, no personnel file exists for a particular priest. In these cases, the Archive has other sources of information which can be used:

Southwark Catholic Directory

The Southwark Catholic Directory is published annually (since 1929) and lists all the priests in the Diocese alphabetically and gives their address. The address helps to identify the parish that a priest served in (parishes are also listed alphabetically with a list of their priests). In this way a priest can be traced from ordination to retirement and beyond. 

Alphabetical list of priest from the Southwark Directory

Catholic Directory

The annual Catholic Directory lists all the priests in England and Wales alphabetically with their addresses. It also lists all the parishes in England and Wales and the priests who were serving there. This Directory can be used to find priests who moved from the Diocese or priests from a religious order who served in a Southwark church for a time.

The Southwark Record

The Southwark Record, the Diocese’s monthly newsletter, ran from 1922 to 1968 and published obituaries for deceased priests. It often contained other news about priests such as the celebration of jubilees and some priests contributed articles.

Obituary from the Southwark Record

Parish files

Searching in the parish files of a priest’s parishes (again, the contents of these are not accessible to researchers but the Archivist can search them on a researcher’s behalf) will often uncover further information about a priest and his time at a particular church.

Anyone who is interested in finding out biographical information about a priest should contact the Archive giving as many details are as known about the priest.

Jenny Delves:

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