In 1962, less than 6 months after his installation as the first Bishop of Baton Rouge, the Most Reverend Robert E. Tracy sought the advice of a group of Louisiana historians and established the Department of History and Archives. Since most of the earliest sacramental registers still resided in the parishes of the new diocese, Bishop Tracy’s first order of business was to call in all records pre-dating 1870 and have them deposited in a centralized climate controlled repository. Staffed by volunteers, the department was charged with the inventory, organization, and preservation of records dating as early as 1707. The Diocese of Baton Rouge has the second largest collection of Catholic Colonial registers in Louisiana.
In 1978, in an effort to generate funds for the restoration of the most fragile items house in the archives, a plan was devised to start publishing the sacramental records. Books were published almost yearly until the completion of the series with Volume 22 in 2007. The proceeds from the sales of the series have restored over 240 parish registers. These books continue to be a wealth of information for genealogists tracing their roots in Southeast Louisiana.
Beginning in 2000, the focus of the Archives Department began to shift from not only the care of the permanent and historic records of the Diocese but also the management of all records created by diocesan offices and institutions.
In 2006, the Department was honored with the receipt of the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Award from the Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists for its efforts to save records damaged by the flood waters caused by Hurricane Katrina. The Department was also recognized in 2015 by the LSU College of Humanities with a Community Partnership award for its work with students at the School of Library and Information Science.
Today, the department’s primary responsibility is to serve the records needs of the Chancery, parishes, schools, and institutions that make up the diocese.