In 1944 the Church in Wales began to deposit the records of every Welsh diocese in the National Library of Wales, for the benefit of the nation. These included the records of the four ancient dioceses of Bangor, Llandaff, St. Asaph and St. Davids, and the two modern dioceses of Monmouth and Swansea & Brecon. Documents, manuscripts, maps and drawings were deposited initially, and the Library continues to receive regular deposits to this day.
Most diocesan records relate to Church administrative and legal systems. The records chart the history of the Church and its dioceses, church buildings, and the work of its bishops, courts, and clergy. It contains vital sources for those interested in ecclesiastical, family, and local history. It is also a very large collection – one of the largest collections of corporate records in the National Library of Wales. Fortunately for researchers, it is a well-organized collection, which makes access to the material relatively straightforward.
If you have never used the collections before and the prospect of navigating the diocesan records seems a bit daunting, try the following tips:
1. Know your diocese: Records of each diocese have been arranged into broad categories, such as Bishops’ Transcripts, Consistory Court Papers, Chapter Records etc. In general, you can expect to find the same types of records in each diocesan collection, although there may be differences in the extent of the records and the time periods covered.
2. Browse the main description for the diocese: The main diocesan catalogue page will summarise what records are available – ‘Content and Structure’ and ‘System of Arrangement’ are particularly helpful. The main page will also display the categories of records.
3. Quick Search: Many of the series and record titles are keyword searchable, so try searching for specific terms relevant to your research. Remember to try different spelling variations to improve search results. It is possible for you to undertake a quick search within the collection itself by using the search box on the left hand side of the Library’s Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.
4. Printed resources: If you are trying to find information about a member of clergy, begin your search with Crockford’s Clerical Directory. It contains details of Anglican clergy appointments since 1858. This information can be a useful starting point.
5. Unexpected places: Investigate sections of the collection which may seem irrelevant to your research. Some official documents were not put into one of the general categories. For example, the Miscellaneous series in St. Davids Diocesan Records contains material relating to nonconformist chapels in Brecon!
This post is also available in: Welsh