Jesuit Catalogs Database is a research project intended to contribute to enhancing the value of the Jesuit Catalogs as a source and assist scholars in long-term historical, quantitative and qualitative analysis on the Society of Jesus and its social history.


Project Aims

From its inception, one of the defining characteristics of the Society of Jesus within the early-modern landscape of religious orders was its rigorous system of exchanging information between the central authority and its peripheral entities. The rapid expansion and global reach of the Society prompted its leaders to devise strategies for managing this growth effectively.

The Second General Congregation in the sixteenth century set rules (Formula Scribendi) for how and when a provincial superior should fill out the catalogs and send them to the superior general in Rome. The Society of Jesus quickly expanded its membership and the catalogs reflect that growth with precision, tracking those communities operating in various locations over the centuries.

In general, Provincials were required to submit a major catalog (known as the triennales) every three years, along with an annual abbreviated version, the so-called Catalogus brevis. The triennales were comprised of three catalogs.

The first catalog listed Jesuits according to their communities or assignments, detailing essential information such as name, birthplace, age, admission date, health status, educational background, offices within the Society, and the status of their vows.

The second catalog, often referred to as the “secret” catalog, contained evaluations of each Jesuit’s temperament, talents, and future recommended tasks, presented without identifying names and sent separately to Rome.

The third catalog provided general updates on the financial state of the colleges or residences, together with a more comprehensive overview of the human resources.

Short catalogs (Catalogi brevi) served as condensed versions of the triennial reports, primarily summarizing the information from the first catalog. They contained the task each single Jesuit was in charge of in a certain community year by year.

Reflecting their archival mindset, the Jesuits diligently preserved these catalogs until the order’s suppression in 1773. Consequently, the Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (ARSI) now houses one of the most extensive archival collections of personal data from the early modern period. Although some historians, like Mario Scaduto, have utilized these sources to compile selected catalogs of early Jesuits, much of the content from the triennial catalogs remain unexplored.

The practice of filling out catalogs continued after the suppression and was systematically reignited with the restoration of the order in 1814. The database structure we have developed will be able to include all the catalogs that the Society of Jesus has produced over the centuries.


Code Book

  • Jesuit refers to the unique ID of every individual Jesuit mentioned in the catalogs, brothers and novices inclusive
  • Data can be refined by grouping and filtering IDs through the values included in the different fields (ministeria, vows, level of studies, etc.)
  • Studying the movement of individual or groups of Jesuits is possible by adopting the formula in Corsi (2021) and (2022)
  • By grouping them, the database will allow for social network studies on the clusters. It will be possible consider co-habitation between Jesuits as a factor of influence 
  • Catalog number is the ID of the Jesuit inside of a specific community indicated on the source. It is the first value from right on triennal catalogs. The same value is reproduced on the second catalog – the so-called “secret” catalog – of the same community, by omitting the name of the Jesuit
  • The first and the second catalogs were sent separately to Rome, where the General could reconcile the information having the two documents at his disposal
  • Anticipating relational databases on computers by four centuries, Jesuit superiors used this method to communicate an assessment on temperament and aptitude of fathers and brothers to the General
  • The possibility of correlating data from different tables makes it possible to analyze human resources management on the whole Jesuit order, as well as on each single individual Jesuit allowing targeted case studies
  • Catalog number is represented by the value nCatal in the scheme of the database
  • Triennal catalogs consider communities of Jesuits as the common level of description to be submitted to the superior general. Exceptions could be found in missions, especially internal ones
  • In order to better represent the socio-geography of the Society and the dimensional idea of space as it emerges from the catalogs, the editorial board of the project decided to distinguish between ‘Community’, ‘Settlements’ and ‘Locations’
  • By reproducing the primary source, every Jesuit is associated to a community when entered in the database
  • Historically, communities can move from one settlement to another settlement according to their needs. These occurrences will be reproduced in the database
  • Even if the number of occurrences is extremely low, it is possible that a community changed their status over time (a residence could be elevated to college and/or vice versa). In this case, Jesuits will be listed on two different communities, even if the settlement remains the same
  • Settlements are all the buildings that hosted Jesuit communities
  • Settlements are included in geographical locations (city, towns, missions, etc.)
  • Historically, a community can switch settlements multiple times according to its needs. These occurrences will be reproduced in the database
  • Settlements correspond to a specific topographic place. When it is not possible to reconstruct the exact position of a settlement on the map, Google Geocoding ID of the actual place is used to approximate its location
  • Tempus societatis is the date (or for how long) in which a Jesuit entered the Society
  • Historically, Jesuits may have entered the Society multiple times. This occurrence will be reproduced on the database
  • Being one of the most reliable and consistent data in the catalogs, this information is used to recognize the unique ID of a Jesuit by contributors
  • In the catalogs, it is possible to also encounter the term ingressus as title of the column

Vires corresponds to the health condition of a member

Ministeria are the tasks, offices, and assignments a Jesuit performed for the Society

  • The term ‘calc’ is the abbreviation of ‘calculated’. It appears in the title of some tables’ columns of the database. With calculated we refer to all data where the intervention of a collaborator was required to make the information readable by the computer. For example, time is expressed in different ways in the triennales. It could be expressed as a date or as a number of years. In the latter case, the contributor must transform data by subtracting the year when the source was compiled minus the number of years indicated on the source. The value ‘calc’ indicates when this operation is performed in order to highlight the reliability of the data and eventually manipulate or exclude them for quantitative analysis.
  • The term ‘att’ is the abbreviation of ‘attributed’. It appears as the title of some tables’ columns of the database. With attributed we refer to all data where the intervention of a collaborator was required to complete the missing information which were existing when the document was originally filled out. For example a catalog number could not be readable due to the practice of resizing the page of the catalogs when they were bound in a volume. Thus, the information will not appear on the original source

Database Structure

Implementation Plan

Developing the Dataset

  • Identify the unique record of the Jesuit in the database by inserting the essential data from the first catalogs (number on the catalog, first name, last name, birthdate, birthplace, date of the catalog, date of the volume, tempus societatis, vires, vows, reference to the source)
  • Create entries for Jesuit communities
  • Enter community financial data from the third catalogs
  • Transcribe data from the primary source page by page

Refine and Review

  • Enter information about studies accomplished in or outside of the Society of Jesus and from the column ministeria
  • Create glossary of all abbreviations
  • During the input phase, contributors will double-check information previously entered in phase 1
  • Enter information from the second catalogs
  • Transcribe data from the primary source Jesuit by Jesuit

Become a Collaborator

This project utilizes a method of crowdsourcing from an international network of scholars. If you are a scholar currently conducting research that involves Jesuit Catalogs, even for a limited region or time period, you are welcome to collaborate on the project. By joining our team, you will be provided digital access to all of the catalogs at our disposal remotely in order to consult and transcribe them. You will also be provided access to the updated dataset.

If you would like to be a collaborator on this project, please do not hesitate to contact us by sending an email to

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