Searching for Archives and Manuscripts

Archives and Manuscripts


We are responsible for the care and storage of the early College Records as well as other archival collections and manuscripts which have been acquired over the years.

All of our collections are bound by one common factor, their relevance to the history, people and topography of North Wales. However, their subject areas are wide ranging and are of national as well as local historical interest.

The holdings of the Archives Department can be split into 3 groups

College Records

The records of the University form a vast percentage of the holdings of the Archives Department. They vary greatly in format, from correspondence, plans, photographs, postcards, printed ephemera, programmes, to newspaper cuttings, brochures, prints, minutes. They touch upon such subjects as the University buildings, various funds, staff members, clubs and societies, concerts, strikes and protests, halls of residence, conferences, scholarships etc. They also range in date from before the establishment of the University, 1880's, to the 1980's.

Archival Collections a.k.a. Special Collections

These consist mostly of estate and family papers from the counties of Anglesey, Caernarfon, Flint, Denbigh and Merioneth; although there are collections of papers of various University professors and lecturers, historians, antiquaries, farmers, businessmen and ministers. Also, papers of local attorneys and solicitors, records of plantations in Jamaica and the West Indies, and hunting records. They date from the 12th century to the present day. Click here for a list of all 104 collections.

General Collection of Bangor Manuscripts

A miscellaneous collection of papers in various formats. Literary, historical and antiquarian records of religious and educational bodies; records of ownership of land and property; personal and family archives, farming and agricultural records, records of a political nature, genealogical records, etc. They date from the late 12th century to the present day.

Searching for Archives and Manuscripts

The Archives has an online catalogue to enable users to search through thousands of descriptions of individual manuscripts held at the University.

Although the database contains thousands of descriptions, we urge users to keep in mind that the catalogue is very much a work in progress. Although new data is added on a regular basis, information about some of our collection is not yet available here. Click here for a list of the catalogues that are available online.

The Archives Hub has information on all our Archival Special Collections and a great percentage of our General Collection. The information, at present, is at collection level and partly at item level.

Requests for further details or item level descriptions can be made to the Department by emailing us at or phoning us on 01248 383276

Descriptions are also available on the Library On-line catalogue. When conducting a search, remember to specify that you are searching the catalogue of the Bangor University Archives Collection only.

There is also a card catalogue in the reading room that serves as a guide to all Special and General Collections. It is arranged into personal, subject and place names. New readers wishing to consult the card index can ask for guidance from the Archives staff.

Searching the Archives Online Catalogue Video Guide

This is a short video on how to search the online catalogue of the archives and special collections.

The simplest way to search the catalogue is to enter a search term into the box at the top right of the screen and click the search button next to it.  For example, a search for ‘furlough’ comes up with a hit list of two items. Click on a record in the hit list to see a more detailed description. Click on the Alt Ref No.As you can see this particular item is a letter written in 1906 by Isia Brooks Jones. In the description, there is a summary of the content of the letter. If you would like to consult this item in the archives, or make a request for a copy, you need to make a note of the Alt Ref Number which is the number that uniquely identifies the item in this case the number is bmss forward slash 29381.

A hierarchical chart above the description reveals the name of the collection in which the item belongs. In this case we can see that the letter belongs to the general collection of Bangor Manuscripts volume 15. This section also reveals where the item sits within the hierarchy of the collection, in this case, the letter belongs to the papers presented by Mr W.T. Owen of Glassfor, Old Colwyn, and that within that series, there are further papers belonging to the late Isiah Brooks Jones. Click on the ‘next’ button to see the description for the other item that was on the hit list. This item, as you can see from the top of the screen, belongs to the Porth yr Aur collection. You can find out more about the collection by clicking on the title, just like this.

You may wish to combine search terms in your simple searches, and you can use the plus sign to do this. I’ve searched for slaves plus the place named Clarendon, so the hit list will now show descriptions that contain the words slaves as well as clarendon.  Let's do another search using the minus symbol in order to exclude a term. This searches all fields for the word Bangor and excludes any records with the word university from the search results. It's important to enter search words or phrases carefully to ensure that you find the intended results. Use double quotes around the search term to return exact matching phrases. A search for railway station with double quotes searches all the fields for the exact phrase ‘railway station’ i.e. the two words together in the specified order.

If you think a quick search is likely to turn up too many results, click the catalogue search button on the left-hand side of the screen. This will give you the option of searching in more than one particular field. Here is an example of an advanced search. So we'll type in Eisteddfod under any text and we’ll put in a date. You will see here that the description is written in Welsh. Please note that our catalogues are only available in one language, some of them are in Welsh where the language of the original records are in Welsh, but the majority are in English.

Let's do another search. We'll clear the box by clicking on the clear button. So, while searching under Anglesey map and 18th century, we've come up with two items in a hitlist. When you start using the online catalogue, bear in mind that searching will only find the exact words used in the catalogue. So, if you haven't found what you wanted it's often best to try several related terms. So, if you're searching for material relating to education, why not try related words like school or teaching. The spelling of names and place names can also vary within catalogue, although some have been standardized, for example the parish of Llendegai, just outside Bangor, can be spelt in two ways Llandegai with an e, this comes up with six hundred and forty nine hits. Llandygai with a y however comes up with 311 hits.

So, I hope that you found this video to be useful and it's provided you with some great tips for searching our online catalogue. I hope to see you soon in the archives reading room, take care.

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