Where can I find Archives?
Archives are kept in record repositories - but this is a rather technical term, and many people use the word 'archives' to denote the place where they are kept as well as for the archives themselves. There are archives of several different types in Wales:
- national institutions (for example the National Library of Wales)
- local authority archives (also known as record offices)
- university libraries and archives
- some local organisations, museums and libraries also hold archives
They are open to everyone and welcome visitors.
National Institutions which hold archives
Two national institutions hold collections of archives which relate to the whole of Wales.
The National Library of Wales holds large and significant archive collections as well as printed books. These collections include a number of large estate archives, the archives of the Church of Wales (apart from parish registers) and of several nonconformist denominations, and the archives of cultural, political, industrial, agricultural, educational and professional institutions. It also holds the archives of individuals and families who have played a significant role in Wales.
Find out more about what it holds.
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales holds a huge amount of information on the land and buildings of Wales in its archive, the National Monuments Record of Wales.
Find out more about what it holds.
Local Authority Archives
These may be called 'Record Office', 'Archive Service', or simply 'Archives'. There's no difference between them - they are are all just different names for the same thing. They hold records for the area covered by the local authority or authorities which they serve, so if you are looking for archives for a particular area you will probably need to start with a local authority record office.
Most local authority offices hold
- the records of the authority itself and of all its predecessors (for example county councils and quarter sessions), and of a range of local official bodies
- other organisations such as boards of guardians and schools.
- records which have been deposited by individuals, families and organisations of all sorts - from landed estates, solicitors' firms, and businesses to local societies, community groups and prominent local people
- parish and some nonconformist chapel registers for their area.
Not sure which record office covers the area you're interested in?
Find out brief details of what each record office holds.
Universities which hold archives
Several universities in Wales hold archives of varying types and sizes in their libraries. Some of the archives are linked to specific academic research interests, while others are of general local interest - the universities of Bangor and Swansea in particular hold some archives similar to those found in local authority record offices.
Use of these archives is open to everyone, but as the libraries' main focus is on serving internal users - staff and students - conditions of access may differ slightly from those of repositories serving only the general public.
Find out more about university archives.
Other organisations which hold archives
Some other organisations, such as antiquarian and local history societies, and some local museums and libraries, hold small collections of archives. At present, only one such organisation, the Neath Antiquarian Society, has its catalogue on this website.
Plan your visit