Biographical Information


Researching Notre Dame Students, Faculty, and Staff

Among the institutional archives of Notre Dame are records of the students who have attended the University, the athletes who have played here, the faculty who taught classes, and the staff who kept the school running.  People whose ancestors attended or worked at Notre Dame often want to know more about what they did when they were here.  The University Archives has at least some record of most of the students and teachers who have been at Notre Dame.  Records for staff are quite fragmentary before the modern period.  Just as with other University records, the level of access allowed to information about students, faculty, and staff depends on the age and character of the information.  In very general terms, researchers are allowed access to all information about an individual that is more than one hundred years old and to all published information less than one hundred years old.


Researching Notre Dame Students

When researching your family’s history at Notre Dame, it is important to understand that the University was not always the standard four-year degree granting institution that it is today.  In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the University ran many programs that catered to younger students.  Your ancestor may have attended Notre Dame as a six or ten year old elementary school student (a “Minim”), as a nine or fourteen year old apprentice in the Manual Labor School, as a twelve or sixteen year old Preparatory School student, or as a seventeen or twenty-three year old college student.  At times, the University also ran educational programs for orphans and for deaf, dumb, and blind children, all in addition to its highest purpose as a University serving undergraduate and graduate students.  These pre-collegiate programs all ceased to exist by 1929, at which time the University turned its attention exclusively to higher education.

If you believe one of your ancestors attended the University of Notre Dame, there are several places online where you can search for the name of your family member, including the index of Notre Dame students (1849-1912), the index of minims (1910-1929), and through searching the online inventories.  These databases indicate where information about your ancestors may be found in University records or manuscript collections.  The Archives reading room also contains an index to the early ledgers in which University officials kept student registrations and accounts.  These ledgers date from the earliest days of the University to about 1910.  Because of their fragility we do not photocopy these ledgers, but can provide information from them.

Other resources may lead you to mentions of your ancestor’s activities at Notre Dame.  The Archives reading room contains publications such as the Scholastic magazine, the Voice and Observer newspaper, the Dome yearbook, the Alumnus and Notre Dame Magazine, and other sources that contain information on students and alumni.  There are online indexes for the Scholastic (for 1978-1993) and Observer (1969-1971 and 1979-2003); in our reading room are card files containing indexes for other years that are not available online. If you believe your relative played varsity sports at Notre Dame, additional information may be available through media guides and athletic programs: please see the Sports Research page for specific information about researching athletes.

If you are looking for academic or personal information about a student who attended after 1905, you must contact the University Registrar.  In accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Archives does not release photocopies of or information from academic transcripts or student files. The Archives can only help you find mentions of post-1905 students in printed and public sources.


Researching Notre Dame Faculty and Staff

Lists of Notre Dame faculty and key administrative personnel are available online for the years 1850 through 1950.  These lists were compiled from the Annual Catalogue / Bulletin of Studies published by the University.  There are a couple years where the Bulletin was never published, and in some cases an individual may have both joined and left the University between printings of the catalogue, so this list may not be absolutely complete. After 1950, the annual lists of faculty and key administrators in the Bulletin are supplemented by student directories and telephone books.  Since 1971, the official comprehensive list of faculty is published in Notre Dame Report.  The student directories, telephone books, and Notre Dame Report are not available online but can be viewed in the Archives reading room.  Comprehensive lists of all University employees have never been published, although in recent years the telephone directories have listed all full-time employees of the University.

The printed sources mentioned under Researching Notre Dame Students (the Scholastic, Dome, Observer, etc.) are also useful for researching faculty and key administrators. Occasionally lower level employees may be mentioned, but this does not happen often. More detailed information about deceased or retired post-1930s faculty and administrators is available in the biographical files complied by the Office of News and Information. Press releases often mention faculty as well.

Access to administrative and personnel files of faculty and staff is governed by the Archives’ Access Policy. While the Archives generally has at least some information about every faculty member and administrator who has worked at the University, records regarding staff employees are sketchy before the 1960s and nonexistent for most decades before the 1930s.


Researching Other Individuals

James Edwards, an early librarian at Notre Dame, referred to his manuscript collections as the “Catholic Archives of America,” a misleading label that was used well into the twentieth century.  While the University Archives does have many valuable collections related to prominent Catholic individuals and organizations, and even some institutional records, the Archives’ collections contain very few genealogical or vital records.

Sacramental records of the Catholic Church (information about baptisms, marriages, burials, etc.) remain, as they should, in the parish that generated them.  If the parish no longer exists, such records may have been sent to another parish or to the diocese to which the parish belonged.  Some records do not survive, since priests and bishops have not always recognized the importance of preserving them. 

Many public libraries acquire the Official Catholic Directory.  This annual volume lists all of the dioceses and parishes in the United States and includes names, addresses, and phone numbers of pastors and diocesan archivists, the geographical extent of dioceses, and the date of their creation.  The date of creation is important because the diocese to which a parish belongs can change over time.  For example, Catholics in Northern Indiana before 1808 would have been served by traveling missionary priests under the authority of the bishop of Baltimore; from 1808 until 1821 they would have belonged to the Diocese of Bardstown; from 1821 until 1834 to Cincinnati; from 1834 to 1857 to Vincennes; and after 1857 to Fort Wayne.  To view an outline tracing the development of Roman Catholic dioceses founded in the United States before the twentieth century, please click here.

A few of the Archives’ Catholic historical collections contain records of direct interest to genealogists. The Parish and Institutional Records Collection consists of copies, transcriptions, microfilm, and some original records of Catholic parishes and institutions mostly from Kentucky but with some from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.   The Archives also has some sacramental records (mainly pre-1803) from the Diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas (which later became the Archdiocese of New Orleans), some genealogical material from the families of Joseph Bertrand, Joseph A. LaFortune, William Tecumseh Sherman, and others (search for “genealog” in the online finding aids).  The Archives’ records from religious orders contain information of relatively little interest to genealogists.


This page was last updated October 7, 2014