Mapping Catholic Chicago


Mapping has long been a popular way for scholars to visualize spatial relationships between urban institutions. Over the past decade, digital mapping has become much easier with the availability of free web resources like Google Maps and Batch Geo. Previously, scholars had to use proprietary software, such as ArcGIS, which often required extensive training to use. Now anyone who invests a little time in learning the ropes can do their own mapping.

This week we turned our attention to the change brought by the influx of Catholic immigrants into Chicago over the last six decades of the nineteenth century.  Graphs of the total number of immigrants over time reveal peaks in the two decades before the Civil War and two much larger spikes between 1880 and 1920.  New arrivals hailed from different parts of Europe overtime and represented a varying percentage of the overall population.

Working in groups, this past week students mapped the growth of Chicago’s Catholic churches, schools, and benevolent institutions between 1830 and 1871 on Google Maps. They used Gilbert Garraghan’s The Catholic Church in Chicago, 1673-1821 as the primary source for their data. Many sought out other sources to either clarify or confirm Garraghan’s information, making for an even richer presentation of Chicago’s Catholic past.

  • Andrew and Guy focused on the mid-nineteenth century’s dominant ethnic parishes: the Germans and the Poles.
  • The territorial parishes of mid-nineteenth-century Chicago were overwhelmingly dominated by Irish clergy and laity, as Brendan and Shannon discovered.
  • Dan and Hector show the landscape of Catholic Chicago was composed of Episcopal residences, bookstores, and parishes run by specific religious orders, such as the Jesuits.
  • Olivia, Susie, and Claire explored the important contribution of women religious to this landscape by building up schools.
  • Asylums, convents, and hospitals were plentiful – and transient – in Chicago, as Bianca and Maya discovered.

Having conquered Google Maps, the Scholars move onto Google Fusion Tables. Stay tuned!


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