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Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Episcopal Diocese of Washington Archives

Address: Church House
Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues NW
Washington, DC 20016
Telephone Number: (202) 537-8981
Fax Number: (202) 364-6600
Contact Persons: Richard G.Hewlett, Historiographer

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Tuesday and Thursday 10:00 a.m.--2:30 p.m.
Open to the public: By appointment only
Photocopying:: Yes
Interlibrary loan: No

Personnel files and some recent files are not available to the public.

Reference Policy:
Telephone and mail reference questions are answered from the public, provided that inquiries are precise and can be answered without extensive research.
Borrowing Privileges:
Not a lending institution.
Background Note:
The Episcopal Diocese of Washington was established by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1895 from portions of the Diocese of Maryland. The Diocese includes approximately 95 parishes and missions in the District of Columbia and in Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles, and St. Mary's Counties in Maryland. The offices of the Diocese are maintained in Church House on the Cathedral Close. The Bishop of Washington is the spiritual leader of the diocese and its chief executive officer. The Washington National Cathedral is the seat of the bishop.

Researchers should note that there is no central register of genealogical data in the Episcopal Church. Such records are held by individual parishes. The only such data held by the diocesan archives are those for some twenty closed parishes. Records for parishes existing before 1895 are held by the Diocese of Maryland Archives in Baltimore. Most records of colonial parishes are held by the Hall of Records, the State Archives, in Annapolis.

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Description of Collections

Books and monographs:
This is a library of histories and reference works related to the history of the Cathedral and the Episcopal Church (500 volumes, open to the public) with inclusive dates from 1800 to 1995. The Library contains bound volumes of the Journal of the Diocese of Washington, 1895 to the present; the official proceedings of the annual diocesan convention, including committee reports; financial data; rosters of clergy and lay leaders; and data on parishes and missions. The library also has a set of the bound volumes of the journals of the Diocese of Maryland, 1800-1895, which contain information on the history of parishes that existed before 1895 in what is now the Diocese of Washington. The collection is focused on records of the diocese, but some files contain information related to the Washington National Cathedral (of which the bishop is the chief executive officer).

There is a computer catalog for all volumes in the collection, 1800 to the present.

Periodicals and newspapers:
The Diocese of Washington is a periodical, originally in magazine format, now in newspaper format, usually published nine times each year since 1933. The archives has all volumes. The subjects covered in this journal relate to the parishes and missions of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
The central core of the diocesan archives is the manuscript collection which consists of 30 record groups, 198 record storage boxes, and 3,900 file folders, 1895-1994. The largest record groups include the files of the seven bishops who have successively led the diocese since 1895. The bishops' records contain: correspondence files relating to the parishes and missions of the diocese; diocesan committees and boards; activities of the national Episcopal Church; and management of the diocesan staff; records of the bishops' official acts; and clergy personnel files. Because the bishop is also the chief executive officer of the cathedral, the bishops' files contain some records related to the cathedral and its associated schools. Other record groups contain files of the diocesan convention, the secretary of the convention, and standing committees on missions and Christian social relations.

The archives also holds parish registers and vestry minutes of some 20 closed parishes and missions. Records of active parishes are held by the individual parishes. The diocese has no central register of baptisms, marriages, or burials conducted in the diocese.

A computerized inventory which can be searched by folder title and record date span is available for the entire collection. A new system, which incorporates key word searching, is being installed.

The Archivist is Mrs. Margaret D. Lewis, (202) 537-8981.

4 of the 15 record groups have been microfilmed for security purposes.
Some record groups contain occasional historical maps of parish boundaries.
Paintings, photographs, slides, and prints:
2 record groups contain historical photographs of parishes and missions, clergy and lay leaders.

Subject Headings

Church architecture; Church buildings; Councils and synods; Creighton, William Forman, 1909-1987; Dun, Angus, 1892-1971; Ecumenical movement; Education and religion; Episcopal Church; Episcopal Church--Clergy; Episcopal Church--Diocese of Washington; Freeman, James Edward, 1866-1943; Haines, Ronald H., 1934- ; Harding, Alfred, 1852-1923; Prayer; Preaching; Religion and state; Religious biography; Ritual; Sacraments; Satterlee, Henry Yates, 1843-1908; Sermons; Theological education; Walker, John Thomas, 1925-1989; Women and religion; Worship


Hamer, Philip M., ed. A Guide to Archives and Manuscripts in the United States. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1961.

Inventory of Church Archives in the District of Columbia. District of Columbia Historical Records Survey. Washington, DC: District of Columbia Historical Records Review, 1940.

Inventory of Diocese of Washington Archives. Historical Records Survey, Work Progress Administration. Washington, DC: Works Progress Administration, 1930. (Outdated but contains valuable historical information.)

National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections. The Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The Library of Congress, 1959-1993.

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  June 22, 2017
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