About the Archives
The documents held in the archives of Magdalen College fall into several categories:
- Documents about the administration of the College, including statutes and minute books.
- Documents about the College’s estates and properties across 20 English counties, including many early title deeds (incl. many dating back to the twelfth century), leases, maps and manorial records.
- Documents about the College’s finances from the 1480s onwards.
- Documents about the College’s buildings, including one of the largest collections of architectural drawings in any Oxford or Cambridge College.
- Papers from many Presidents, Vice Presidents, Fellows, and undergraduates.
To find out more, you can search Magdalen’s new online archive catalogue or browse our major record series and collections. Alternatively, there is an excellent overview of the whole archive in our Guide (Jan 2020 version).
Key College printed sources for Magdalen College itself are the Magdalen College Record/Register (which lists living members 1909-1997), John Rouse Bloxam’s Register (listing choristers, chaplains, clerks, organists, grammar instructors and demies, late 15th century-c 1857) and William Dunn Macray’s Magdalen College Register (New Series) (listing fellows, late 15th century-1910).
We hold very few records actually about Magdalen undergraduates, although it is always worth checking in the online catalogue in case we have any personal papers. Students may also be mentioned in our records of college societies and organisations. You may also find it useful to contact the University Archives at the Bodleian Library for centralised University matriculation (registration) records, or the University’s Degree Conferrals Office (which holds records of Oxford degrees awarded). As most students matriculate and graduate, these routes can be a good way of establishing which Oxford College was attended, if a student cannot be found at Magdalen. The OAC’s Bibliography also lists the standard printed sources for tracing members of the University, such as Emden’s Biographical Register, Foster’s Alumni Oxonienses (and later follow-up volumes) and the University Calendar.
It may be possible to find out whether the personal papers of former members of the College or stray papers relating to College estates are held in other archives or libraries by using the Discovery catalogue on the website of The National Archive or the Archives Hub.
Local history and house history
An overview of our main series of records about College estates can be found here or in our Guide to Archives here (Estates) and here (Endowment). We also have a large collection of maps. Some of the College’s manorial document holdings are now included on the Manorial Documents’ Register at TNA. Medieval and early modern records are listed in Macray (M) and Woolgar (Estate Papers/EP) typescript catalogues; a project to convert these into the online catalogue is underway, but volume pdfs are available on request.
Local history and house history can be challenging areas of research at Magdalen, as the College’s Bursary records are organised primarily by date and tenant (not by county and/or property). It is therefore recommended that you do as much research as possible at the relevant County Record Office, looking at standard sources such as the census, tithe maps etc, before contacting Magdalen; this is because it is often very helpful to have the tenant’s name before starting any research in the College archives. We have a very useful series of printed estate registers from c 1900-1980s, but these often do not name properties by name but instead by tenant. And our Estate Ledgers running from the late 15th c up to the 1950s are arranged and indexed by tenant name, not always by property.
Further reading and useful links
The Archivists of the Oxford Colleges have created an OAC website for their collections. This includes a very useful page of FAQs which answers questions often asked by our researchers. There is also a helpful Glossary page explaining Oxford jargon and terminology, as well as a really good Bibliography page which lists all the major printed sources for tracing members of the University. If you have not contacted a College archive before, we suggest that you look at this OAC website before contacting us, as it will help you decide whether we can help you or not. The OAC website provides contact details for archivists in the Oxford Colleges and also useful links to the University Archives and other relevant institutions.