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William & Mary

This guide provides an overview of sources, both primary & secondary, for conducting research related to William & Mary.

Preserving Your Material

Organizations may want to review the Tips for Preserving Your Group's History as one tool in ensuring that the history of the organization is preserved for future students and scholars and individuals will find the suggestions provided useful as well! Organizations should also contact Special Collections with any questions or to arrange the transfer of records (spcoll@wm.edu or 757-221-3090).

OTHER GUIDES

These guides also include resources about the College of William and Mary:

PEOPLE OVERVIEW

In addition to official records created in the day-to-day work of the College, the Special Collections Research Center also collects information and materials by and about individuals who have been associated with William and Mary. This includes personal papers; biographical information; newspaper clippings; speeches written by or about College people; selected articles; selected books; selected family and genealogical information; correspondence; selected student papers; doctoral dissertations and honors and master's theses by William and Mary students; selected diplomas, particularly those with historical significance or that demonstrate changes in the artifact of the diploma; scrapbooks; photographs; lecture notes taken while a student at the College; and memorabilia.

Scrapbooks created by students and staff while at William and Mary give a fascinating and intimate glimpse of campus life. Often including programs of events, mementoes, dance cards, photographs of fellow students and staff and the campus, invitations, and special notes and letters, scrapbooks are an important part of the collection. While most scrapbooks date from the early 20th century forward, there may be earlier examples and scrapbooks continue to be produced up to the present.

Information on individuals may be found in a variety of locations in Special Collections, including the University Archives Faculty-Alumni File Collection, University Archives Photograph Collection, and individual personal papers and organizational records collections. Books written by individuals associated with the College of William and Mary are also accessible through Swem Library's library catalog.

Some additional collections of papers relating to individuals with ties to William and Mary are part of Special Collections and can also be found by searching the Special Collections Database and W&M Digital Archive. The SCRC Wiki includes further information about selected individuals and groups.

ALUMNI

Knowledge of who has attended William & Mary since 1693 varies as many records were destroyed by fire. Few actual records of early students are still in existence other than the matriculation records from 1827 to 1920. They record the students in each session, along with names of parents or guardians and their addresses.

The Virginia Historical Index compiled by Earl Gregg Swem contains references to many early alumni and others associated with William & Mary. Copies are available in Swem Library and in the Special Collections lobby and an overview of the index (also known as the Swem Index) is available from the Library of Virginia. Over the years extensive research has been done, resulting in the listing of many alumni. The earliest list in the Archives was published in 1859, with later ones published in 1870, 1874, 1932, and 1941. The first modern alumni directory was published in the 1970s and continues to the present. William & Mary alumni may contact the Alumni Association to access current contact information for other alumni. 

The official "permanent student records" containing transcript information are under the purview of the University Registrar. Contact the Registrar to access these records.

  • Provisional List of Alumni...1693-1888 is available online and includes alumni, faculty, and members of the Board of Visitors.
  • Catalogue of the Alumni and Alumnae For the Years 1866-1932 is also available online and includes alumni sorted by geographic area as well as by graduation year and alphabetically.
  • Further, for 19th and early 20th century students, there are lists of current students in catalogs and campus directories available to researchers. 
  • Graduates of the College of William and Mary: 1932 to May 1976.  This is an index to Commencement programs for the years 1932 to 1976, published by the University Archives staff.  Copies are available to use in the Special Collections lobby reference collection and in the Reference Department's Reference-Virginia collection, shelved at Ref LD6051 .W51a 1985 (two volumes). 
  • Alumni Directory, published by the College of William & Mary's Society of the Alumni (now Alumni Association).  Years include 1978, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004.  Copies available at LD6051 .W51a 1992 in Reference-Virginia and Special Collections.  Check the library catalog for details.
  • William and Mary Alumni Today, published in 2009 by the College of William & Mary's Alumni Association.  Copies shelved at LD6051 .W51a 2009 in Reference-Virginia, Special Collections, and other locations.  Check the library catalog for details.
  • Notable Alumni -- the Alumni Association's Wikipedia list of College of William & Mary alumni who have made significant contributions in their fields but also including fictional characters who are described as having attended W&M.
  • A list of records of Alumni groups is available from Special Collections.
  • For alumni who were also faculty or staff at William and Mary, be certain to review the list of personal papers of in the Special Collections Research Center.

STUDENTS & STUDENT GROUPS

STUDENTS

In addition to official records created in the day-to-day work of the College, the University Archives also collects information and materials by and about individuals who have been associated with William and Mary. This includes personal papers; biographical information; newspaper clippings; selected books, articles, and speeches written by or about William & Mary people; selected family and genealogical information; correspondence; selected student papers; doctoral dissertations and honors and master's theses by William and Mary students; selected and historical important diplomas; scrapbooks; photographs; lecture notes taken while a student at the College; and memorabilia.

Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to donate their material to Special Collections for the benefit of present and future researchers. Special Collections staff is available to advise individuals in preparing their personal papers for transfer, completing a deed of gift, and arranging the physical transfer of the material. 

Material related to the Law School is available at the William & Mary Law School Scholarship Repository.

STUDENT GROUPS

Materials generated by the students themselves give us the best view of student life at William and Mary, since student organizations are poorly reflected in administrative office files. Few records survive from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but it is possible to research the existence and activities of most twentieth-century groups and even some of the earlier as well. The Archives contains official records such as minutes of meetings, publications, artifacts, and other information about many student organizations, including several sororities and fraternities.

All information and materials relating to student organizations can be located through the Special Collections Database and the other guides described at the Search Tools List. A sample of the records of student organizations and personal papers in Special Collections is available in the Special Collections Database. Researchers should search by the name of a group or browse the Student Organizations Collection, which holds material from many student groups for which only a small amount of material is in the archives. Scrapbooks created by students are often a good source of information about student groups, as are personal papers donated by alumni. In addition to papers, a wide range of artifacts relating to student groups are preserved in the University Archives Artifact Collection.

  • Student Publications: There are several major student publications which are rich sources of information about students and student life. In 1911 the student newspaper, The Flat Hat, was first published, and since then has announced and documented campus events and reflected student opinion. Until a few years ago, Archives staff indexed The Flat Hat as well as the Alumni Gazette and the William and Mary News by subject and by personal name. This index is available as a card file in the SCRC. All three of these publications are available on microfilm, except for the most recent years.  The Colonial Echo, the student yearbook, began publication in 1899, and has continued to record students, organizations, and activities each year. In some years, in addition to a photograph of a group and a list of its members, a brief history of the group or a list of its activities for the year is included. Literary magazines have been published by students at William and Mary since 1890. The earliest one, the College Monthly, included information about campus events and alumni news in addition to poems and stories until about 1911. Later issues continued to carry news about alumni, editorials, and occasional articles about student life.

    Other publications in the Archives also contain extensive information relating to student organizations. Student handbooks, student government handbooks, College catalogs, the Alumni Gazette, and publicity materials and programs for specific events sponsored by student groups all provide in-depth documentation of the history and activities of students and student organizations.

  • Literary Societies: Among the oldest records of student organizations are those from the various literary societies, of which William and Mary had several. These societies, which were popular all over the country in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, sought to train their members in public speaking by sponsoring debates and dramatic readings. Some also assigned their members to write essays, which were then critiqued. While the Archives does not have a complete set of records from all of the literary societies, substantial quantities of these records do exist, including nineteenth and twentieth- century minute books, constitutions, by-laws, membership lists, and treasurer's books. Because they flourished at a time when college libraries were all but closed to undergraduate students, a number of literary societies had their own libraries. Archives has the library accession book for the Philomathean Literary Society. The Phoenix and Philomathean Societies, although not the oldest groups, were the longest lived and therefore more material exists for them. After women were admitted in 1918, they began their own societies, the Whitehall and the J. Lesslie Hall Literary Societies. Information on them can be found in the Archives, although official records do not exist. In addition, there are literary society pins, ribbons, medals, printed copies of speeches delivered to the societies, and other materials detailing the activities of these groups.

  • Student Government: Student government is also represented. Over the decades many changes have taken place in the structure and titles of the governing bodies. The Archives has minute books for the meetings of a number of these, as well as constitutions and lists of members. Women Students' Cooperative Government Association (WSCGA) minutes cover 1921 to 1954. The minute book of the Men's Student Body also contains minutes of joint meetings of the men's and women's student government officers for part of the same period. Minutes of meetings for the General Cooperative Committee (which included administrators as well as both women and men students), Student Assembly, and Board of Student Affairs date from 1940 to 1973.

  • Phi Beta Kappa: Phi Beta Kappa, the premier honor society in the United States, was founded at William and Mary in 1776. The original minute book of the society is preserved in the Archives, as are later minute books, programs, poems read at meetings, some treasurer's records, and articles about the society at William and Mary. The Archives possesses the Phi Beta Kappa key of Peyton Short, who joined the society in 1780. It is the only eighteenth-century key from William and Mary known to exist. The Archives does not attempt to document the history of the national society, leaving that to the PBK headquarters in Washington, D. C. Other honor societies are represented in the Archives as well.

STUDENT LIFE

Students at the College of William and Mary live and learn in conjunction with many administrative offices, functions, regulations, etc. Official publications such as catalogs and bulletins contain official requirements for students. Other publications offer informal information for students about what to expect at William and Mary, including the student handbook, Green and Gold, and others. Offices of potential interest include:

  • Office of the President
  • Office of Student Affairs
  • Office of Minority Student Affairs
  • Office of Multicultural Affairs
  • Dean of Students
  • Residence Life
  • Student Health
  • Project Plus
  • And many others. Search the SCRC Collections Database for more information.

 

ONLINE EXHIBITS

FACULTY AND STAFF

 

  • Information about individual faculty and staff may be found in a variety of official university record groups, the records of individual departments or schools, and other many collections.
  • Martha Barksdale online exhibit featuring the papers of William and Mary professor and a member of the first class of women to the enter the College.
  • The Provisional List of Alumni, 1693-1888 is available online and includes alumni, faculty, and members of the Board of Visitors.
  • Faculty are also included in the early listings of students. The minutes of meetings of the faculty begin in 1729 and, with only one gap between 1784 and 1817, continue to the present. The first volume of minutes of faculty meetings, 1729 to 1784, has been published in the William and Mary Quarterly, and is indexed in the Virginia Historical Index. Lists of individual faculty members and administrators are included in most annual campus directories and annual course catalogs (going back to 1829). The official personnel files of faculty and other staff are confidential and under the purview of Human Resources.
  • Samplings of course syllabi and tests, student and faculty speeches, and even some textbooks used at the College are also included in the Archives. Search the Special Collections Datbase by topic or individual for examples of these.
  • The University Archives attempts to obtain at least one copy of each publication issued by a campus office or organization. While this is not, of course, completely possible, the Archives contains an extensive collection of twentieth-century materials, and has a number of publications back to the early 1800s. The historically important college catalogs run from 1829 to the present, with gaps. In addition to describing the history of the university and the courses of study offered, the catalogs also include a list of officers and faculty and through the early 20th century included a list of students.
  • Other important published sources of information about the college include: campus directories, student handbooks, student and faculty speeches, Charter Day programs, departmental newsletters, annual reports, publicity brochures, materials for prospective students, affirmative action reports, fliers announcing up-coming fraternity parties, news releases, athletic programs, cultural events calendars, play programs, and student newspapers. There are some scattered publications from the various branch and extension colleges which have been affiliated with William and Mary.
  • The student newspaper, The Flat Hat, is a rich source of information, announcing campus events as well as reflecting student opinion. It began publication in October 1911 and, except during the fall of 1918, has been continuously published ever since. A beta version of a database allowing users to browse and conduct keyword searches of issues of the student newspaper The Flat Hat is now available for browsing online almost in its entirety from 1911 through 1999 and 2004 through 2007. All issues from September 1939 through May 1950 are available for keyword searching as well as most issues from August 2004 to the present.  The remaining issues will be added in the coming months, and keyword searching will be expanded to include all issues. 
  • During the latter half of the twentieth century through 2007 William and Mary published a newsletter including substantial information about policies, campus events, and people on campus for faculty, staff, and others. The Faculty Newsletter later renamed Colleague were published from 1967-1972. The William and Mary News is the most recent in that series, in existence from 1972 through 2007.
  • The Colonial Echo, the student yearbook, began publication in 1899. There were no volumes produced in 1900 or 1904. In addition to photographs of individual students, it includes information and photographs of student groups and activities, scenes of campus and the surrounding area, and occasionally administrators and faculty.
  • Material related to the Law School is available at the William & Mary Law School Scholarship Repository.

ADMINISTRATION

Official Records

The most voluminous part of the University Archives are the records created in the day-to-day activities of the College. These include correspondence and subject files from offices, reports, committee minutes and files, and financial data. Video, audio, and phonographic recordings documenting many of the events and concerts on campus are also a part of the Archives. Unfortunately, many of the early original records were destroyed by fire, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The College's charter given to William and Mary in 1693 was lost sometime in the past, but the Archives was able to purchase the 1693 copy which was sent to Edmund Andros, then Royal Governor of the colony of Virginia. From 1888 on, however, most of the vital records of the operations of William and Mary are intact and available on paper or microfilm. Prior to 1888 the records consist of scattered documents and ledger books.

A small group of papers documents some of the activities of President Benjamin S. Ewell between 1854 and 1888. However, the records of the Office of the President really begin in 1888 with President Lyon G. Tyler's era and continue to the present. These records are a rich source of information about the activities, events, issues, and people throughout William and Mary's recent history.

Financial records somehow fared better over the years. The earliest extant Bursar's records begin with 1745. Between 1777 and 1850 there is a significant gap, and there are some smaller gaps until 1888. From then on the financial records are fairly complete, although varying in the amount of detail which can be researched. Most of these records are available on microform.

The earliest existing bound volume of minutes of meetings of the Board of Visitors, the College's trustees, begins in 1860. There are a few other scattered records of their meetings prior to that time, including a bound volume of Faculty Reports to the Board of Visitors from 1831 to 1835. The early Board of Visitors records contain interesting and detailed information about many aspects of the administration of the College, but more recent minutes are primarily an official record of actions taken.

There are many other smaller groups of official records within the Archives which deal with every possible facet of College operations, from academic and curriculum matters to the maintenance of campus facilities and grounds. Not all series of records, however, are complete from the origination of the function to the present. Samplings of course syllabi and tests, student and faculty speeches, and even some textbooks used at the College are also included in the Archives. In addition, many early documents are contained in a special group of records entitled "The College Papers," which has its own index available in the SCRC.

Most groups of records have inventories, or folder-heading lists, to help researchers pinpoint the location of needed information. Complete information about finding materials is available here.

The minutes of meetings of the faculty begin in 1729 and, with only one gap between 1784 and 1817, continue to the present. The first volume of minutes of faculty meetings, 1729 to 1784, has been published in the William and Mary Quarterly, and is indexed in the Virginia Historical Index. Lists of individual faculty members and administrators are included in most annual campus directories and annual course catalogs (going back to 1829). A card file documenting past William and Mary faculty and administrators is available. The official personnel files of faculty and other staff are confidential and therefore not available for use.

Many early documents were formerly arranged in a special group of records entitled simply The College Papers, which has its own index.

The University Archives attempts to obtain at least one copy of each publication issued by a campus office or organization. While this is not, of course, completely possible, the Archives contains an extensive collection of twentieth-century materials, and has a number of publications back to the early 1800s. The historically important college catalogs run from 1829 to the present, with gaps, and the earliest commencement program is dated 1831.

Other important published sources of information about the college include: campus directories, student handbooks, student and faculty speeches, Charter Day programs, departmental newsletters, annual reports, publicity brochures, materials for prospective students, affirmative action reports, fliers announcing up-coming fraternity parties, news releases, athletic programs, cultural events calendars, play programs, and student newspapers. There are some scattered publications from the various branch and extension colleges which have been affiliated with William and Mary.

Search or browse the SCRC Collections Database for records from any current or past campus unit including:

Material related to the Law School is available at the William & Mary Law School Scholarship Repository.

    VISITORS TO CAMPUS

    Her Royal Majesty: The Queen's Visit, 1957 -- "online" exhibit including video.