The Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, is a significant religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. At the start of the twenty-first century, there were approximately twenty thousand Jesuits. These priests are engaged in missionary and charity activities on six continents in 112 different countries. The Jesuits have established hundreds of colleges and universities around the world to spread their message.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola founded this order in 1534. The society dedicated itself to education and charity work. It also sought to convert non-Catholics to Catholicism. During the 1500s, 1600s, and 1700s, Jesuit missionaries traveled around the world-seeking converts. Many Jesuits came to the New World and engaged in missionary activities among American Indians in the Spanish colonies in Central America and South America, as well as in French colonies in modern-day North America .
Beginning in 1632, Jesuits in New France (modern-day Canada) began to publish yearly accounts of their activities. These accounts became known as the Jesuit Relations. The Jesuit Relations provided Europeans interested in settling in North America with information on life in the New World. These writings also have provided subsequent historians with an abundance of information on the Jesuits' experiences in New France. In addition, the Jesuit Relations give modern researchers some of the most detailed and earliest written accounts of American Indian peoples who resided in modern-day Ohio.