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4. Records of the Houses, 1730-1967


Scope and Contents

Series 4, the Records of the Houses, documents the development of parish life and the ministry of the Maryland Province among disparate communities in the mid-Atlantic region from the eighteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. The material in this series focuses primarily on Houses and their activities in the Washington, D.C. area, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Additional materials reflect House activity in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and West Virginia. This series also contains some materials from Houses located outside of North America, either with international missions that were technically part of the Maryland Province (as Jamaica), or which were visited by members of the Maryland Province (such as Baghdad).

The materials in this series consist of: annuae litterae and historia domus, which quantified conversions, the administration of sacraments, and parish membership; House diaries, which recorded the daily activities of members; announcement books comprised of weekly announcements made at Mass; and financial records documenting donations made to the missions. In addition, the records of the Jesuit Novitiate in Frederick County, Maryland (Subseries 4.3) include diaries documenting the lives of novices - those undergoing training to become Jesuits - including activities, rules, spiritual writings, and student publications.

Some House records also contain genealogical information. Financial records (including pew rent books, subscription lists, and other donor lists) contain names and other genealogical details, and House diaries and announcement books often note the names of those receiving sacraments. The sacramental registers of White Marsh (Subseries 4.4) and Newtown (Subseries 4.9), which served private chapels through the 1850s, are particularly rich genealogical resources. Among other information, these registers provide documentation of sacraments administered to individuals enslaved by the Province, including some of the 272 individuals sold by the Jesuits in 1838.

Materials on Slavery

Some folders in this series contain references to slavery, slaveholding, and enslaved individuals. Some folders in this series contain documents addressing the Province's 1838 sale of 272 enslaved individuals. Relevant folders are noted in the finding aid.


Series 4 is organized into the following subseries:

  • 4.1 Alexandria, Georgetown, Washington
  • 4.2 Bohemia and St. Joseph’s Church (Eastern Shore, Md.)
  • 4.3 Frederick (Frederick County, Md.)
  • 4.4 White Marsh and Bowie (Eastern Shore, Md.)
  • 4.5 LaPlata (Charles County, Md.)
  • 4.6 St. Thomas Manor (Charles County, Md.)
  • 4.7 Chapitco (St. Mary’s County, Md.)
  • 4.8 Great Mills (St. Mary’s County, Md.)
  • 4.9 Newtown and Leonardtown (St. Mary’s County, Md.)
  • 4.10 St. Inigoes and Ridge (St. Mary’s County, Md.)
  • 4.11 Conewago (Adams County, Penn.)
  • 4.12 Goshenhoppen (Berks County, Penn.)
  • 4.13 Other Houses
  • 4.14 International Houses
  • 4.15 Histories of the Houses


Jesuit members are each assigned a House and, by extension, a community in which they live and work. Each Jesuit House (also called domus, casas, or simply “residence”) requires its members to unite in prayer, follow its rules, and engage in missionary activity centered on neighboring churches, which are commonly referred to as “missions” or “stations.” Because Houses cannot possess fixed income, their activities - unlike the operations of Jesuit colleges or preparatory schools - must be supported by charitable gifts. In addition to Houses for professed members, there are Houses of Probation (Novitiates) for individuals undergoing Jesuit formation. Novitiates provide courses in theology, philosophy and other subjects, as well as intensive pastoral experience in preparation for ordination.

The Province’s Houses in Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore were entrenched in slavery and the slave trade. Since the colonial period, the manor estates of six large plantations served as Jesuit Houses in this region: St. Inigoes (St. Mary’s County, established 1632); St. Thomas Manor (St. Mary’s County, established 1642); Newtown (Charles County, established 1662); Bohemia (Cecil County, established 1704); White Marsh (Prince George’s County, 1741); and St. Joseph’s Church (Talbot County, 1765). The plantations were overseen by Jesuit residents and labored on by enslaved (and later, free) African Americans. The Jesuits evangelized among the enslaved people who worked on their plantations, expecting them to adopt and adhere to the Catholic faith. It was on these plantations that the 272 enslaved individuals sold by the Province in 1838 lived and labored.

Because of this reliance on enslaved labor - and also because of a relatively low immigration rate to the area from Europe - the ministry of the Maryland Province Houses in Southern Maryland and along the Eastern Shore was distinct. Even after emancipation, the demographics of the region did not change substantially. Congregations included both African American and white parishioners, but they were segregated. During Mass, Black and white parishioners sat in different sections. They formed separate sodalities and went to separate parochial schools. House records include assessments of members’ evangelization efforts, including the receptiveness of men and women, Black and white people, and immigrants to Catholic teachings. The records also document the sodalities that emerged by the mid-nineteenth century, which enabled disparate congregations to develop their own distinct practices within the broader framework provided by the church.

In Central Maryland and Pennsylvania, by contrast, European immigration significantly shaped the ministry of the Province’s Houses at Conewago (Adams County, Pa., established 1741); Goshenhoppen (Berks County, Pa., established 1746); and Frederick (Frederick County, Md., established 1763). The Pennsylvania Houses ministered primarily to German-speaking and rural congregants whose distinct culture and language persisted through the late nineteenth century. The Frederick community served a more diverse population, including German and Irish immigrants (many of whom had helped build the National Road and C and O Canal), enslaved people, and both wealthy planters and tenant farmers.

The missionary activity of the Frederick House was extensive, largely because of the manpower provided by the novices and tertians - Jesuits in training - who attended the Frederick Novitiate. The Jesuits of the Frederick House established St. John’s Literary Association, a boarding school for boys in 1829; worked with the Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of Visitation to offer parochial education to girls; and taught religion at the Maryland Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Montevue Asylum for the poor, homeless, and mentally ill.

From the 1850s through the early twentieth century, the Province reorganized its missions to reflect the greater accessibility and importance of towns, and growing remoteness of plantations. The Province transferred the parishes on the Eastern Shore to the Diocese of Wilmington: St. Joseph’s (earlier, in 1765) and Bohemia in 1898. Three Houses moved out of their plantation manors: Newtown to Leonardtown in 1868; White Marsh to Bowie in 1904; and St. Inigoes to Ridge in 1905. Also in 1905, the Ridge House established St. Peter Claver Church, a separate parish for African American congregants.

The Province also withdrew from its Pennsylvania and Central Maryland Houses. In 1889, Goshenhoppen was transferred to the Philadelphia diocese; in 1901, Conewago became part of the Harrisburg diocese; and in 1903, the Frederick Novitiate moved to St. Andrew-on-the-Hudson in Poughkeepsie, N.Y, while the Archdiocese of Baltimore took over the Frederick missions.

The Jesuits then established new Houses, with the goal of reducing the distances traveled by visiting priests to their stations: Chaptico (St. Mary’s County, in 1914); LaPlata (Charles County, in 1926); and Great Mills (St. Mary’s County, 1927). By 1968, however, the Province closed each of these Houses and transferred their associated parishes to the Archdiocese of Washington. The only exception to these closures is St. Thomas Manor, which remains the only House maintained by the Society of Jesus in Southern Maryland.

In addition to the Maryland Province Houses detailed above, the Records of the Houses Series also includes fragmentary records of Jesuit Houses at Alexandria, Virginia (1834), Washington, D.C. (1848), and St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia (1807). The records of the Georgetown House are part of Georgetown’s University Archives. The principal mission of the Georgetown House, Holy Trinity Church, has deposited its Archives within the Manuscript Division at Georgetown University (two finding aids are available online: Holy Trinity Church Archives 1 and Holy Trinity 2). The Maryland Province retains fragmentary records of houses that became part of New England Province ini 1926 and the New York Province in 1943.

Folder Descriptions

**Please note: the finding aid contains Scope and Contents notes for each folder. This folder-level description has been imported from an older finding aid. Researchers may encounter outdated or potentially offensive terminology and occasional inaccuracies. If you would like to notify Special Collections of any issues that need correcting, please contact us.**

Conditions Governing Access

Most materials dated 1900 and later have not been digitized. Materials dating 1900-1939 are available for research use at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. All materials dated 1940 and later are restricted.


  • 1730-1967


From the Collection: 292 boxes

Language of Materials

From the Collection: Multiple languages