Document, Special and Topographical Collections – What’s the difference?
The Document Collection comprises of miscellaneous manuscript research notes arranged by surname. These can be found in boxes in the lower library, although all notes and documents received since 1992 have been microfiched as there is no longer room for them in the document boxes. All Document Collection accessions are listed in the Genealogists Magazine. The Document Collection can include draft pedigrees, extracts from registers, photographs, unique family papers such as letters and marriage settlements, wills and certificates. In fact anything a family researcher might have in their own family history files at home could be found in these notes. Some 44,000 surnames and variants are represented in these notes and a list of the surnames can be found on the Library pages of the main SoG website or can be printed out at the Society’s Lower Library Enquiry Counter.
There are over 350 Special Collections. These collections are generally the dedicated work of one researcher and are much larger. For example one collection which is the work of a retired professional genealogist is housed in over one hundred boxes. The Special Collections usually contain extensive information on several families that may or may not be related but often have a common theme. This means the collection has an integrity that doesn’t lend itself to being split up by surname into the document research notes. A special collection could contain the work of an extensive one-name study such as the ‘DOO’ collection which is now contained in over 30 boxes or the ‘FRY’ Collection which is contained in 10 boxes with many accompanying bound volumes of manuscript notes and extracts from records. There are special collections that look at families from certain areas such as the ‘CAMPLING’ collection which notes on East-Anglian Families or the ‘RODGERS’ collection of manuscript pedigrees of Cornish families. Some of the collections look at Jewish families such as the ‘COLYER-FERGUSSON’ collection and Huguenot families are in the ‘WAGNER’ collection. The latter two collections have been microfilmed to conserve them and indeed many of the Special Collections are now quite fragile. The surnames listed in the Special Collections and notes on their contents are listed in a card index and accompanying folders in the Lower Library. New collections are always noted in the Genealogists Magazine after they have been sorted and listed. New accessions are coming in regularly to the Library and are looked after by a team of volunteer archivists.
The Topographical Collections usually contain notes and documents relating to a specific place or county. They could contain extracts from, or copies of, documents for a specific place or indeed could even be original documents such as deeds and even a manorial court roll. These are arranged in county boxes or on microfiche in the Lower Library. New accessions are noted in the Genealogists Magazine but there as yet, is no other list of the places mentioned in the Topographical collections.