Born to an English Roman Catholic family, Joseph Gillow was educated at St Cuthbert's College, Ushaw. In 1878 he married Ella McKenna, a brewer's daughter, securing him a private income allowing him to pursue his antiquarian interests.
He published various researches into the history of Catholicism in Lancashire, but his greatest achievement was the Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics (5 vols, 1885-1902). To fit his material into the five volumes allotted him by his publishers, Gillow needed to abbreviate the later volumes. No index was available until 1986.
- Thomas Bridgett, in The Catholics who's who and yearbook, 1908. Quoted in ODNB.
- J. F. X. Bevan, ‘Gillow, Joseph (1850–1921)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 1 August 2008
- Bevan, J. F. X., Index and finding list to the bibliographical dictionary, 1986
- Catholic Records Volume List 1-76
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