Mosaic of Saint Helen at the church façade

New Digital Archive Highlights Parish Histories

Posted : Aug-03-2022

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The Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto has launched a new digital collection’s portal, ARCAT Online. Frances O’Regan, Director of Archives, provides an overview below.

1. What is ARCAT Online?

ARCAT Online is a digital collection portal that provides access to our pre-1910 historical parish registers. It will also showcase some of the unique artifacts and other materials in ARCAT's collections. The registers you will find here include records from parishes within the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Toronto: the City of Toronto; the regional municipalities of Peel, York and Durham; and Simcoe County. The burial registers for St. Paul’s Basilica, as well as St. Michael’s cemetery up to 1910, can also be found on the site.

2. Why did you want to create this digital archive?

A core function of ARCAT’s mandate is to promote the rich history of the Archdiocese of Toronto and its faith community. To this end, one of our strategic goals has been to facilitate more equitable access to ARCAT’s collections by creating a digital collection portal which would allow us to disseminate, where appropriate, digitized materials online.

Another key consideration in making resources, such as the historical parish registers and other materials accessible, is that it will allow researchers, particularly family historians, to undertake self-directed searches for records that were previously only available in physical format in the Archives via microfilm. ARCAT Online also offers the option to download PDF copies of individual pages, if an individual so chooses.

3. What kind of information can be found in parish registers? 

Parish registers include records of baptisms, confirmations and marriages, listed chronologically in a book. Though today’s records typically share a common format, 19th century records – such as those found on ARCAT Online – may have slight differences in the types of information recorded. For example, some marriage records list age rather than date of birth. The records are handwritten and can sometimes be difficult to read (especially older records).

4. Are all parishes currently listed? 

No, only the parishes for which we had microfilmed copies of records that date before 1910 are listed. We were able to have those digitized. Those parishes that came into existence after 1910 are not on the site, due to privacy considerations.

It is important to remember that record keeping practices were not consistent throughout the archdiocese. Also, it is possible that, for whatever reason, not all parish records have been microfilmed, therefore, there may be gaps in the records available.

You can check out ARCAT Online at as well as on our Historical Parish Registers Page on the Archdiocesan website.

To use the archive:

·      Select a parish from the list (there is more than one page of parish listings)
·      You will be brought to a new page with a header at the top of the page (i.e. 1858-1894 Baptisms, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto)
·      Under that header there will be a dropdown menu that reads “Select Page.” Click on one of the page numbers and start scrolling through the records