Wakefield Vellum Documents
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of more than 300 documents including indentures, deeds, leases, omnibuses, wills, a few court rolls, conveyances, and other legal documents from the fourteenth century through the early twentieth century. Most of them have small wax seals and a few also have large royal seals, some of which are intact in their original metal canisters. There are also a few photostats of documents Wakefield sold before delivering the collection to Northwestern University.
Conditions Governing Access
There are no restrictions on use of the materials in the department for research; all patrons must comply with federal copyright regulations.
Language of Materials
This collection of vellum documents was purchased from William C. Wakefield by Northwestern University in 1959. There are more than 300 documents including indentures, deeds, leases, omnibuses, wills, a few court rolls, conveyances, and other legal documents from the fourteenth century through the early twentieth century. Most of them have small wax seals and a few also have large royal seals, some of which are intact in their original metal canisters. There are also a few photostats of documents Wakefield sold before delivering the collection to Northwestern University.
The following guide to the collection consists of a box inventory, a description of the documents arranged chronologically and grouped by monarch’s reign, and some information on terminology for users unfamiliar with deeds and documents.
Documents which have been flattened are stored in large quires within six oversize drop-spine boxes (I – VI) and three oversize folders or quires (VII – IX).These are individually numbered within each quire and box with dates included as well. The remaining folded documents have been arranged chronologically in manuscript boxes (AA, A – F). Each of these documents also has identifying numbers and dates. Since many of the documents are “dated” only by regnal year, e.g. 10 Elizabeth, an attempt has been made to supply a conventional date for easier identification.
Many of the documents also have a Wakefield number (W#). All documents on Wakefield’s original catalog were numbered in an attempt to inventory the deeds against the catalog. However, it became apparent that not only was Wakefield’s catalog filled with errors in dating and description, but that he must have made substitutions when transferring them to Northwestern University. The library received fewer than eighty percent of the documents in his original catalog, but also an additional eighty documents not described there at all. The W# has been retained for any researcher interested in tracking this provenance and to help in identifying a particular document. Wakefield’s corrected catalog and the McCormick Library’s inventory report are retained in the department’s files.
For information about the history and use of documents such as these, see N.W. Alcock’s Old Title Deeds: a Guide for Local and Family Historians (Chichester, 1986; McCormick Library 346.0438 A354o). The McCormick Library appreciates the corrections made by Mr. Alcock during his examinations of the documents on a visit. Mr. Alcock has included these documents in his broader deeds database.
Some West Indies slave trade documents from 1742 – 1794 acquired through special purchase were added to the collection in box G.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection of vellum documents was purchased from William C. Wakefield by Northwestern University in 1959.
This finding aid was revised in 2021 to address outdated and harmful descriptive language for the materials in the West Indies Documents series (Box G). Language was revised to reflect proper terminology to describe enslaved persons and to add more specific location information. The original finding aid is available upon request.
The following sources were consulted, among others, to advise the updated description:
Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia Anti-Racist Description Resources https://archivesforblacklives.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/ardr_final.pdf
P. Gabrielle Foreman, et al. “Writing about Slavery/Teaching About Slavery: This Might Help” community-sourced document, Accessed October 19, 2021, 9:37 a.m., https://docs.google.com/document/d/1A4TEdDgYslX-hlKezLodMIM71My3KTN0zxRv0IQTOQs/mobilebasic.
- Guide to the Wakefield Vellum Documents
- Sigrid Perry; transcribed by Nick Munagian, 2020-04-14.
- June 1999, February 2002
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Part of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections Repository
Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US