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State Papers, Domestic, Foreign & Colonial

Nature of Source

Records relating to a vast array of government work from the principal secretaries of state. The collection includes public letters, petitions, memoranda and papers originally kept by the State Paper Office.

Many lists of Catholics recusants and Newgate gaol prisoners are amongst the records. The documents can include members of the militia, names of masters and owners of ships, naval matters (including Trinity House certificates), military musters and court proceedings.

The establishment of modern government departments resulted in the demise of state papers. Victorian archivists preserved the papers, putting them in chronological order and compiling indexes by name and place.

Where Found

The National Archives (Series SP, Records assembled by the State Paper Office including detailed calendars and indexes covering 1547-1704)

Indexed and searchable records for government departments include:

FO 1111, Foreign Office: Card Indexes to Correspondence from 1906 to 1920
FO 409, Foreign Office: Indexes to General Correspondence from 1920 to 1959

Society of Genealogists (Some calendars)
British Library (Calendared volumes)
National Library of Scotland
Local Reference Libraries (Some calendars)

Period Covered

1578 - 1872

Genealogical Value

Names, addresses, occupations

Further References

Calendars of State Papers (200 volumes of calendars of the Domestic, Foreign and Colonial papers, ranging from the early sixteenth to the later eighteenth century have been published. Search WorldCat for the availability and whereabouts of published volumes)


Thomas, Francis Sheppard. A History Of The State Paper Office: With A View Of The Documents Therein Deposited: London, 1849 (Available to view online at Google Books or to download at the Internet Archive)


TNA Research Guides:
American and West Indian colonies before 1782
How to use the Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, 1573-1739
Irish maps c.1558-c.1610
Letters and papers of Henry VIII
State papers domestic 1547-1649
State papers domestic 1642-1660
State papers domestic 1660-1714
State papers domestic 1714-1782
State papers foreign 1509-1782
State papers Ireland 1509-1782

A selection of volumes of State Papers can be viewed online at Google Books or downloaded at the Internet Archive.

Websites (National Library of Scotland Guide: State Papers) (National Archives of Scotland Guide: State Papers) (State Papers Online, The Government of Britain 1509-1714) (State Papers of Henry VIII: the archives and the documents, by Dr Amanda Bevan)

Online Databases (State Papers Online, 1509-1714: Access to State Papers Domestic and Foreign and Registers of the Privy Council. The database is only available to institutions and not individuals)
British History Online (Calendars of State Papers: Searchable transcriptions of State Papers calendars including: State Papers Domestic, State Papers Colonial, State Papers Foreign, State Papers, Scotland, State Papers, Ireland. State Papers Domestic are only available on subscription) (The University of Hull State Papers Project: Digitised images and transcriptions from State Papers)
Ancient Petitions, Henry III - James I (Details of petitions contained in TNA series SC 8 pursuing grievances which could not be resolved at common law, or requests for a grant of favour. Searches can be made directly in the TNA Discovery Catalogue with the reference for the petition or a general search within the series) (State Papers)