Historical Records

On-line Catalogues

To find out whether our record offices hold archives which are of interest to you, it is necessary to consult catalogues or other finding aids.  Many of the catalogues of collections held in Devon's three record offices are now available on-line.

Access to Archives

National Register of Archives

Other on-line catalogues

  • The Drake Family of Colyton
  • Plymouth and West Devon Record Office catalogue

Access to Archives

The Access to Archives project has resulted in a number of catalogues being placed on-line. The Access to Archives (A2A) on-line database, administered by the National Archives, includes catalogues of archives cared for in hundreds of local record offices and similar institutions across England.

Between 2000 and 2005, Devon Record Office at Exeter was involved in a number of phases of the Access to Archives project, in some cases in conjunction with other record offices in the south-west of England. As a result, Devon Record office contributed about 40-50% of its catalogues to the Access to Archives database.   North Devon Record Office at Barnstaple, and Plymouth and West Devon Record Office contributed about 90 to 95% of their catalogues during the same period.

A number of specific theme-based projects resulted in the submission of catalogues of Quarter Sessions records, magistrates records, crew lists, the Inland Revenue wills series, railway and hospital records, and the political correspondence of the Addington family.

The first south west regional phase of the project, completed in March 2002, was named @ the Heart of the Community, and catalogues of ecclesiastical parish collections, schools and educational organisations were submitted.  The second phase of the project, completed in December 2003, was named South West Family Fortunes, and involved submission of some catalogues of family, estate, solicitors and business archives.   In the third phase, named South West Access All Areas, a large variety of archive catalogues were sent, including those of non-conformist congregations, District Council and additional Borough Council records, some clubs and societies and additional family, estate and business records.  This phase was completed in 2005.

The Access to Archives database will no longer be added to, but is gradually being complemented by on-line catalogues developed by the individual record offices.

Catalogues contributed to Access to Archives up to 2005 by Devon Record Office, Exeter include:

  • Parish records
  • Non-conformist records
  • Educational records, including school and education department records
  • Estate Duty Wills, 1812-1857
  • Hospital and asylum records
  • Quarter Sessions - County of Devon
  • District Council and Borough Council records
  • Parish Council records
  • Feoffees’ records
  • Court of Petty Sessions  [Magistrates' Court] records
  • Records of some families and estates
  • Some solicitors’ records
  • Some other business records
  • Records of some clubs and societies
  • Devon crew lists, 1860-1914
  • Political and personal papers of members of the Addington family, Viscounts Sidmouth [152M]
  • Railway company records

Catalogues contributed to Access to Archives up to 2005 by North Devon Record Office, Barnstaple include:

  • Parish records
  • Non-conformist records
  • Educational records, including school and education department records
  • Hospital records
  • Borough, Town Council and District Council records
  • Barnstaple Quarter Sessions
  • Bideford Bridge Trust
  • Court of Petty Sessions [Magistrates' Courts] records
  • Family and estate records
  • Solicitors’ records
  • Other business records
  • Programmes of North Devon events
  • Railway company records

Information about Plymouth and West Devon Record Office’s catalogues on Access to Archives.

National Register of Archives (NRA)

The National Register of Archives (NRA) is now maintained by Historical Manuscripts Commission staff based at the National Archives at Kew. Its on-line database contains basic information on most known collections of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history, including personal, family and estate collections, and those of organisations, businesses and other corporate bodies.  The on-line register gives a very brief description of the contents and date coverage of these archival holdings and their locations in the United Kingdom and, occasionally, overseas.  

Regular additions to the National Register of Archives are made, based on information submitted by record offices and other repositories.  Catalogues of collections are sent each year to the National Register of Archives by these repositories.  The National Register of Archives currently holds over 44,000 unpublished lists and catalogues. In its annual 'Accessions to Repositories' survey The National Archives also collects information from over two hundred record repositories throughout the British Isles about manuscript deposits received in the previous twelve months.  This information is also added to the National Register of Archives.

The National Archives has recently launched the NRA Digitisation Project.  The purpose of the project will be to digitise 250,000 pages of paper NRA catalogues, and make them available online as .pdf files.  The lists will also be fully-searchable using The National Archives Global Search.  The project will focus on repositories which are unable to make their lists available online through any other route.

Other on-line catalogues

The Drake Family of Colyton

The records of the Drake family of Colyton have been purchased with generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Friends of Devon's Archives, and the Kent Kingdon Trust.

  • The catalogue of the main collection (Accession 1700) can be searched on the Access to Archives website.  
  • View the on-line exhibition of letters and other papers relating to the War of the Spanish Succession and the Napoleonic War.  
  • There is also an on-line list of additional letters and papers received in 2005.

Plymouth and West Devon Record Office

The Plymouth and West Devon Record Office has its own online catalogue.

This catalogue is constantly growing as catalogues of newly-deposited collections are added, together with records converted from the record office’s paper catalogues. It should be used in conjunction with the Access to Archives website which contains the bulk of the record office’s material catalogued prior to 2005.