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Catholic Ancestors

Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society has for many years been active in association with the Salford Diocesan Archive and the Catholic Family History Society in the transcription of the baptism, marriage and burial registers of churches in the Salford Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford, particularly those for churches in Manchester and Salford. This work continues, but to our great regret, the Catholic Family History Society found it necessary to cease its activities and dissolve at the end of 2023.

During its many years, the Catholic FHS built up a considerable body of research material relevant not just to the Salford diocese but to many other areas of England. The loss of this material would have been a significant loss to family historians throughout the world. We are pleased to report that during the dissolution of the society, agreement was reached for the intellectual assets of the Catholic FHS to be transferred to Manchester and Lancashire FHS. Material which was previously available to the public will remain so and material which was available to members of the Catholic FHS will become available to MLFHS members.

Catholicism in England

Following Henry VIII's denial of Papal authority in 1536,  Catholics faced nearly three centuries of persecution until the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 enabled Catholics to worship openly

Catholic Ancestors

While Catholics will appear alongside Anglicans and other denominations in many basic record sources, There are many records which are specific to Catholics. Learn more about what is available.

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Members Only!

Some of our reference material, including material for other counties of England are only available to MLFHS members. Here you can see a list of our member-only holdings.

Catholic Records Index

This index contains over 1 million names of children, parents, godparents, brides, grooms and deceased persons in the registers of over 45 Catholic churches in the Salford Catholic diocese.

Margaret Higgins Database

This free database contains over a quarter of a million references to Catholics throughout the UK from the 17th to the 20th century taken from a wide variety of sources including lists of recusants and other records.


One of the slight difficulties when researching Catholic ancestors is that the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials are usually written in Latin. Here is a useful guide to the Latin you will need to know.


We offer a large number of transcribed Catholic Registers and other material related to researching catholic ancestors in our online bookshop. These include both downloadable indexes and publications on CDROM.

Catholic Ancestor

Catholic Ancestor was the Catholic FHS magazine and contained numerous valuable articles. You can download scanned copies of many issues from the GenFair online shop. Click to see an index to articles..

Other Organisations

There are several organisations which can be of help when researching Catholic ancestors in England. Some are national and others have a focus on research in an individual county.

New Publication: Benedictine Schools for Girls Register

Originally published as a book, but now out of print, we have now re-issued this valuable publication from the Catholic Family History Society as a downloadable PDF file containing scans of the original typescript.

The document contains lists of pupils for the following colleges and periods: Ghent, 1624-1794, Preston, 1795-1811, Caverswall, 1811-1853. and Oulton, 1853-1969. They are presented as a PDF file and include alphabetical and numeric indexes. Text is partially searchable (uses Optical Character Recognition)

Most of the Ghent records were lost because of the hurried nature of the Benedrctines “flight' trom their home there. This means only a few names survive from those early days However, many at these names represent notable recusant families The registers for the other three periods are essentially complete. The original form of the registers was entry number, name, dates of birth and death (many not given), dates of entering and leaving, and parents. Over the years, further biographical details have been added including dates of confirmation, enrolment as E de M (Enfants de Marie; Children of Mary), marriage, profession as nuns and other professional attainments. In addition, relationships to other students. across the history at the colleges. have been painstakingly researched and added.

New Publication: A History of St Bede's College, Manchester: Volumes 1 and 2 - 1876 to 1950
Hardcover – 9 April 2024 by  Lawrence R. Gregory  (Author)  

In 1876, Bishop Herbert Vaughan launched a unique educational experiment in Manchester; setting up a Catholic secondary school, which rather than teaching the classics, focused instead upon providing a commercial business education. Over the following years the professors at the College were kept busy with amongst other things, faux openings, an abortive German experiment, an escaped alligator, and a visiting Cardinal from Rome. The experiment was abandoned after sixteen years and was replaced with a traditional classical college.

This combined edition brings together the story of Catholic education in the region from the 1840s, incorporating a revised edition of Volume One, first published in 2014, which chronicles the brief history of the Commercial College, and now for the first time, the recently completed Volume Two, continuing the story up the introduction of the Direct Grant system in the late 1940s.