Building Histories of Williams (SPEC 037)

Personal Histories

Locating sources: Some of the Archives' sources are not yet cataloged on FRANCIS. This means that you should check both FRANCIS and the card catalog in the Archives' reading room for useful materials. The Archives' catalog has separate sections for published works, unpublished documents (manuscripts and archival collections), photographs and prints, theses, and artifacts. Detailed inventories, research guides and indexes are also available for many of our archival and manuscript collections.

Help: If you'd like to talk over your research topic, or if you're having difficulty locating a specific type of information, feel free to speak with the Archives' staff.

I. First steps

General catalogue of the officers, graduates, and non-graduates of Williams College -- (call #: 411.W6 1930 in the Archives, or LD6072.5 1930 in Sawyer's reference collection) lists alumni both by Class year and alphabetically by surname; indexes also provide access to other members of the College community.

Obituary record of the Society of Alumni -- (call #: 413.W6) a series containing obituaries primarily of alumni, usually organized by Class within each issue (published 1875 - 1952).  Several volumes are available through the Genealogy Today Directory.

Williams biographical annals by Calvin Durfee (1871) -- (call #: 41.D9 in the Archives or LD6072.D8 in Sawyer's reference collection) provides biographies of the College's presidents, trustees, major donors, professors and students through the class of 1865.  This book is also available via Google Books.


Biographical files -- these files of deceased alumni and other figures associated with the College originated in the College's Alumni/Development Office.


II. Fleshing out your subject -- published sources

Student periodicals --

  • Gulielmensian (call #: 532.G9 in the Archives, or by the Circulation desk in Sawyer) the yearbook usually includes information regarding faculty members, the activities in which students have participated, Class histories, etc. (1856 -- present).
  • Classbooks or Class statistics (call #: 532.S3) provide sometimes more personal information regarding graduates from the Class of 1861 through the Class of 1924.
  • Student newspapers (call #: 533) published since 1831, student newspapers may include news items regarding, or material created by, your individual; some periodicals have been indexed, others have not; check our Undergraduate Publications Guide for more information.

College periodicals and reports --

  • Williams College bulletin (call #: 25.W6) this annual not only contains descriptions of the curriculum and College facilities, but also provides lists of administrators, faculty and students (1822 - present).
  • Report of the President of Williams College together with the reports of other officers of administration (call #: 231.W6) contains the President's annual report and usually the report of another member of the administration, such as the Dean of the College; donors' gifts and the activities of faculty members may be mentioned (1882 - 1939, sporadic since 1949).
  • Williams alumni review (call #: 62.W6 in the Archives or LH1.W5 W54 in Sawyer) contains articles and notes regarding College affairs, faculty, alumni, etc. (1909 - present); a separate index is available.

Biographies, reunions, etc. --

  • Biographies and autobiographies (call #: 42) you may get lucky and find a work relating to the subject of your study; these works are organized on our shelves alphabetically by the subject's name.
  • College histories (call #: 31) look for mention of your individual in general College histories.
  • Reunion publications (call #: 63.W1862 - present) publications compiled for reunions may include news, notes and letters by and about alumni.


III. Fleshing out your subject -- unpublished sources

Archival records --

  • Board of Trustees minutes : these minutes may include information regarding donors, faculty members, etc.; these are available from 1782 to 1947; ask for the index at the Archives desk.

Manuscripts --

  • Class records : these collections, often kept originally by the Class Secretary, may contain correspondence and statistics regarding alumni members over time.
  • Personal papers : we may have manuscripts written by or about the subject of your study; check FRANCIS, the card catalog and/or the Undergraduate Life Manuscripts Survey for details.

Audio-visual sources --

  • Photographs : the image collection includes portraits and group shots (fraternities, athletic teams, clubs, etc.); a special card file in the Archives' card catalog provides access to this collection.
  • Audio collections : the subject of your study may have been interviewed or discussed as part of our oral history collection; material may or may not include a transcription.