These archives encompass a great mass of material relating to the administration of areas varying in size from the whole of Wales to a tiny country parish or an insignificant manor.
They often relate to legal actions before various courts of law, but, even so, information about persons of unimpeachable character as well as the wrongdoers themselves is often given.
Transactions concerning land were also conducted before some of these courts (Great Sessions and Manorial Courts).
The legal and administrative records are described here under the following headings:
The Court of Great Sessions in Wales was the most important of these bodies. It came into being with the union of England and Wales and continued from 1543 to its abolition in 1830.
Its records are now at the Library.
For further details, see Glyn Parry, A Guide to the Records of Great Sessions in Wales (Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, 1995) and/or the pamphlet, Records of the Court of Great Sessions.
Next in importance are the Quarter Sessions records.
The official records for the counties of Brecon, Montgomery, and Radnor, formerly deposited at the Library, have been transferred to the Powys County Record Office, and those of the county of Cardigan, comprising little more than the order books from 1739, to Ceredigion Record Office.
In addition, there are some QS-related materials among the archives of landed estates or solicitors' firms: e.g. a few sessions rolls, and land tax records 1780-1839, for Cardiganshire; some land tax records for Montgomeryshire and Breconshire; order books 1647-1675, and rolls 1643-1699, for Denbighshire; and sessions records from Montgomeryshire.
To see the Quarter Sessions records you should go to the South Reading Room.
Local government at a level between county and parish was practically non-existent before the formation of Poor Law Unions under the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 (although some parishes had formed unions before that date, e.g. the Montgomery and Pool Union).
Most of the Poor Law Union records are now deposited in the appropriate county record office, as, indeed, are most parish records of a civil rather than ecclesiastical nature.
The Library does, however, hold vestry books and other parochial records for many of those parishes which have deposited their parish registers here.
To see the poor law and parochial records you should go to the South Reading Room.
Education records, the most useful of which are the registers of admissions and log books (mainly of primary schools), will generally be found in the appropriate county record office.
The log books and miscellanea of some National schools are among the parochial records deposited at the Library, which also houses papers relating to various Nonconformist academies and colleges, notably those of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist denomination.
The Welsh colleges and schools, which have published lists of their staff and students, are few and far between. Details of many Welsh persons may be found in the published alumni of the older universities and famous schools outside Wales.
To see the log books, miscellanea, and papers you should go to the South Reading Room.
To see the published lists and alumni you should go to the North Reading Room.
The manorial records held by the Library, mainly to be found with the estate records and listed with them, are indexed separately.
They are most comprehensive for Montgomeryshire (mainly with the Powis Castle and Wynnstay estate records). There are substantial holdings for Glamorgan and Monmouthshire also (mainly with the Badminton, Bute, and Tredegar estate records).
It must be remembered that in many parts of Wales the manorial system never really took root.
An index to the manors and manorial records of Wales is available online via the website of the Manorial Documents Register Historical Manuscripts Commission It may also be searched on computer in the South Reading Room.
For further details see Helen Watt, Welsh Manors and their Records (Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, 2000).
To see the manorial records you should go to the South Reading Room.
You can search for materials from our collections in our online catalogue. You will however need a valid reader’s ticket to order material for viewing in our Reading Rooms.