As an institution, the Roman Catholic church has been generating and preserving archival records longer than any other. From the appointment of special notaries charged with collecting the acts and sayings of the martyrs at the end of the first century until the present day, the church has been creating records which document the role it has played in western civilization and the lives of millions of people. At the same time it has, with greater or lesser zeal, organized those records and made them available for study. In the United States this tradition is of much more recent historical vintage, but it still embraces the nearly two hundred years since the first Catholic diocese was organized at Baltimore in 1789. Today, dioceses across the country create and preserve the permanently valuable records of the Catholic experience in America. 1