Detail from U DDLG-33-75

Using the Family and Estate collections for social history research

The family and estate collections are valuable sources for social history, the history of childhood, and women's history.

Many of the collections contain personal letters between family members, as well as more general correspondence. Letters are usually incoming, but many people did also keep copies of their own outgoing correspondence as well.

The papers of the Forbes Adam family of Escrick, U DDFA, is particularly rich in correspondence dating from the early 18th century to the mid-20th century (see U DDFA3), and contains many women’s letters. Irene Forbes Adam’s correspondence (U DDFA3/6) contains a large number of letters relating to the First World War as the family house, Escrick Park, was turned into a hospital for wounded officers. Many of the men corresponded with her and she received letters from all over the world, including France, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, and the USA.

Other collections which contain substantial amounts of family correspondence are the Baines family papers (U DDBH); the papers of Sir Charles and Lady Mary Chichester (U DDCH); the papers of the Constable Maxwell Family (U DDEV); papers of the Hotham family (U DDHO); and the papers of Mark Sykes, although the family correspondence is outweighed by the large number of political letters (U DDSY2).

To locate the correspondence of a particular person, search for their name in the online catalogue. To look for correspondence on a particular subject search for it using keywords (e.g. “funeral”, “health”). Bear in mind that the catalogue will only ever include a brief summary of a letter’s contents.

To browse correspondence within the family and estates collections, go to the Advanced Search page in the online catalogue and use the search terms “Correspondence” in the title field and “UDD” in the reference field. Click into a search result and then click “Show items” on the right of the screen to see all items in that series.

The collections also contain also children’s exercise books, women’s household management and recipe books, daily diaries, travel and war diaries, journals, family pedigrees, and manuscript biographies and autobiographies. To locate these in the catalogue search for keywords such as “diary”, “journal”, or “recipe”.

Return to the family and estates introduction, or see tips on researching family history, local history, or political history.