County Hall, Truro, TR1 3AY
Tel: (01872) 323127
No serious research into Cornwall's past or the history of its people can be completed without a visit here
Have you ever wondered what life was like in Cornwall years ago? Are you interested in your Cornish ancestry - their names, where they went to school, their work, their activities?
Did you know that at the Cornwall County Record Office at County Hall in Truro there are seven strongrooms containing nearly three miles of shelves where are stored tens of thousands of documents recording Cornwall's distinctive and significant past?
The Cornwall Record Office was established by Cornwall County Council in 1951, with a responsibility for all records of the County Council and earlier authorities, and 'all other legal, historical and valuable documents entrusted to the Council's care'. The brief included 'the collection and safeguarding of all surviving mineral records and maps'.
The office is appointed by the Lord Chancellor as an approved repository for public records, and by the Master of the Rolls for the care of manorial and tithe documents. It is appointed by the Bishop of Truro as Diocesan Record Office.
The records in its care are therefore wide-ranging in type and date - from the twelfth to the twentieth century - and geographically cover the whole of Cornwall. There are parish registers, churchwardens' accounts and poor law records; wills and probate documents; tithe maps, Methodist, Society of Friends and nonconformist records and registers; estate deeds, rentals and plans; manor court rolls; mining plans, setts and cost books. There are records of shipping, fisheries, engineering, shops and solicitors; programmes and minutes of clubs and societies, family correspondence and diaries.
More formal and official archives include quarter sessions court order books and plans of public undertakings; County Council minutes; borough, district and parish council minutes, accounts and rate books; school log books, admission records and managers' minutes; records of hospitals and turnpike trusts, and census returns.
Some of these are archives of the County Council, some are transferred by the terms of Parliamentary Acts or Measures, others are presented or deposited on loan by their custodians or owners. Nearly all of them are available for research at the Record Office, for anyone who wishes or needs to use them. Documentary sources are, of course, used for research on a variety of aspects of Cornwall's history, but they are also used for more practical applications including the location of mine shafts and underground workings, boundaries, common rights, rights of way, and even Victorian drains; they can provide evidence of coastal erosion, identification of archaeological sites, and the location of ancient woodlands, wells and springs.
Documents are numbered and accessioned on arrival, and copies of all catalogues subsequently compiled are available in the public search-room. Copy catalogues of the main collections are also sent to the National Register of Archives in London, and an annual List of Accessions is published to ensure that searchers have up-to-date information about new acquisitions.
The number of researchers visiting the office increases every year; from fewer than 600 in 1960 to nearly 6,000 last year. In addition the office receives over 4,000 enquiries by post each year, and around 5,000 queries on the telephone. Not all users of the archive service visit the Record Office in person. The office has a range of sophisticated equipment which enables it to supply photocopies from many of the records in its care, including parish registers and wills; it publishes and sells guides, and an outline map showing all the parishes in Cornwall; it produces a wide range of free information leaflets; and it offers a professional research service which is used by enquirers all over the world.
If you are planning a visit to the office, it is usually wise to make an appointment - this serves two purposes, as it not only ensures that there will be a seat and table allocated for your use, but it also gives the archivists an opportunity to advise you on the availability of documents relevant to your personal research - you may find that some sources can or need to be consulted elsewhere in this country, or even overseas. With over 70 years accumulated experience of Cornish archives between them, the five archivists at the Cornwall Record Office are not only willing, but able to help!
Cornwall Council looks after 1.5 million records covering 850 years of Cornwall’s history. Anyone can visit and access these historic records and they are an excellent source for family and local history. These archives used to be housed at Cornwall Record Office in Truro and the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth. They have now been moved to Kresen Kernow, Cornwall’s new archive centre, which has been constructed on the former Brewery site in Redruth which opened in September 2019.
One mile south-west of the city centre on the A390.
Royal Cornwall Museum Truro The Royal Institution of Cornwall Cornwall's History Kresen Kernow