The San Antonio Archdiocesan Catholic Archives was established in 1972 under the direction of Francis J. Furey, then archbishop of the archdiocese of San Antonio. Motivated by the approach of the archdiocesan centennial and the nation's bicentennial, Furey set up five rooms in the Catholic chancery to house and make available the wealth of material available concerning the history of the archdiocese and its antecedents. Facilities include a reading and museum room, a microfilm room, a camera and photo room, a vault, and the archivist's office. Furey appointed Sister Gertrude Cook the first archivist. By 1988 the archives included not only administrative records of the archdiocese and bishops' and archbishops' papers, but material relating to individual parishes and priests. A file is kept on all outstanding Catholic persons in the archdiocese. Genealogists especially value the vital statistics parish records provide. Federal officials have used baptismal and confirmation records to verify Mexican Americans' residency in the United States. The archives also houses records of the activities of religious orders in the archdiocese. A file is also kept on activities of other Christian denominations located in the archdiocese. In 1987 Brother Edward Loch, then archivist, collected an immense amount of material relating to the visit of Pope John Paul II to San Antonio. Included in this collection are about 100 video tapes, 200 different souvenirs or artifacts of the visit, and a vertical file of newspaper articles related to the visit. One item of memorabilia, for instance, is a "popescope," a cardboard periscope designed to enable a parade viewer to see over others' heads.
The eighteenth and early nineteenth century collection includes a group of documents formerly known as the San Fernando Archives, which contains records from 1731 to 1903. These include baptism, marriage, and funeral notations as well as a number of government decrees dating to the colonial period. Other church records from parishes into the 1800s are included. Records of the missions of San Antonio de Valero, San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña, San Juan Capistrano, San Francisco de la Espada, and San Francisco Xavier de Náxara provide information on mission personnel and administration. Historian Herbert E. Bolton declared the value of the mission records "inestimable" because of the information they yield concerning Indians that came to the missions. Records of marriages that took place before arrival at a mission shed light on intergroup relations. The San Fernando Cathedral Parish acquired the mission records after the missions were ordered secularized in 1793. The San Fernando Archives also contain records from the parish and the Segunda Compañía Volante de San Carlos de Parras del Alamo (the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras), a Spanish cavalry unit transferred to the Alamo in 1798. These records provide vital statistics for many early residents of San Antonio. The Libros de Gobierno contain directives the priests and missionaries received from their superiors in Mexico and Spain. Unfortunately, many parish and mission records were destroyed, mostly through flood and fire, before the archives was started. A photo and scrapbook collection on the archdiocese has especially fine coverage of the administration of Robert E. Lucey, archbishop of San Antonio from 1941 to 1969. The photo collection includes many early church buildings. The microfilm collection includes primary sources on church history in Texas and San Antonio dating back to the colonial period. Three newspapers are included: the Southern Messenger, Alamo Messenger, and Today's Catholic. A blueprint collection was begun in the 1940s of all the churches built in the archdiocese to the present. See also CATHOLIC ARCHIVES OF TEXAS.