How to look for Treasury Board letters and papers 1557-1920

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1. Why use this guide?

This guide explains how to find in-letters and papers of the Treasury Board, the main decision making body in the Treasury.

2. Essential information

Virtually every area of government action involved the Treasury at some stage. Therefore you can find almost any subject in the records or indexes.

T1 is the main record series for in-letters i.e. received letters. For most periods you cannot search T1 by keyword on our catalogue. Instead you need to start by consulting finding aids.

The process differs depending on the time period you are interested in.  The sections below will guide you through the process.

For the 19th century you will need to order up various registers and use them to work out where a document is and if it has survived.

This can be a time consuming process. It is useful to know beforehand the date of the letter and who sent the letter.

T1 does not contain letters sent from the Treasury to government departments before the late 19th century. These are in out letter books.

3. Finding T1 records: 1557-1719 and 1729-1745

You will need to consult the Calendars of Treasury Books, Calendars of Treasury Papers and/or the Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers.

These are well indexed and are on open access in the reading rooms and in The National Archive’s Library. The dates covered are:

 1557-1719  Calendar of Treasury Papers
 1660-1718  Calendar of Treasury Books
 1729-1745  Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers

When you find an entry that interests you:

  • Note the full number. For example: CCCXVII no. 8.
  • Convert the roman numerals into a standard number. This gives you the T1 document reference to order. For example  T 1/317.
  • When the document arrives, look for no. 8 within it.

Not all Treasury papers were recorded in the calendars. All of T 98, which supplements T1, were not.

4. Finding T1 records: 1719-1729 and 1746-1782

For 1719-1729 you can browse T1 by date in our catalogue.

From 1746 you can try a keyword search within T1. Particularly for 1746-1758 and 1764 which are comprehensively indexed.

Entries for other years are arranged under subject headings, so you need to know roughly the subject and context. You can do a keyword search for your research topic within T1.

However, be aware, the subject matters are wide. For example, to find Boston Tea Party papers look under ‘North America’ and choose the relevant date; the keyword ‘Boston Tea Party’ is not included.

5. Finding T1 records 1777-1817: T2 registers

For this period you will need to first consult the T2 registers.

For each year there is an alphabetical and a numerical register. The alphabetical register is organised by name of sender. The numerical register is organised by date.

You will then need to consult the T3 skeleton registers.

For example: you are looking for a letter from Surveyor General of Woods about Hyde Park sent in August 1807.

Step 1: Order the relevant T2 registers.  For 1807:  T2/48 and T2/49

Step 2: Find reference to the letter in the T2 register. You may need to check both.

In the T2/48 alphabetical index – try under ‘Surveyor General’

In the T2/49 numerical index – look under ‘August’ and go through the different days.

In this example, there is a reference to it on 8th August. Please note, if you can’t find reference to a letter try other dates close by.

Step 3: Note the number next to the reference to the letter. In this example 6022

Step 4: Order the relevant skeleton register (T3). For 1807: T3/3

Step 5: Find your number from step 3 within the skeleton register. In this example: 6022 within T3/3

Step 6: A black tick indicates the document has survived, a red symbol means it has been destroyed and you will not find the letter

Step 7: If there is a black tick: search within T1 using our catalogue for the relevant year and paper range. In this example, for year 1807 and a paper range which covers 6022 you need to order up T1/1009.

6. Finding T1 records 1817-1852: T2 registers

Repeat all the stages in section 5 but be aware of step 1 which changes slightly.

T2 alphabetical registers are now spilt into alphabetical: individuals and alphabetical: public offices. Therefore who sent the letter affects which alphabetical register you look in.

Sometimes it is not obvious so you may need to check both alphabetical registers.

For example a letter from the Duke of Clarence in 1823 is filed under Royal Family within Alphabetical index: public office (T2/101).

7. Finding T1 records 1852-1920: T108 subject registers

Again follow the same procedure as in section 5 but there is an extra option for step 1.

For this period it is easier as there is also a register organised by subject: the T 108 register.

This T 108 register can be used alongside, or instead of, the T2 registers.

Please note though, sometimes the subject is not always obvious and correspondence can be filed under ‘miscellaneous.’

For example: you are looking for incoming letters relating to a flood at Holmfirth in 1852.

Step 1: Order the relevant T 108 register . For 1852:  T108/1

Step 2: Find reference to the letter relating to the flood. This has in fact been filed under the subject ‘Miscellaneous: F’

Step 3: Note the number next to the reference. In this example 7217

Step 4: Order the relevant T3 skeleton register. For 1852: T3/41

Step 5: Find your number from step 3 in the skeleton register. In this example 7217 within T3/41

Step 6: If another number is written to the right of it, look for this number in the skeleton register. In this case: 17275

Step 7: Continue this process until there is a number which has no number to the right of it. In this case:    7217 then 17275 then 20366 then 24989

Step 8: If a black tick is next to this number the file has been kept. If a red symbol exists the file has been destroyed.

Step 9: If a black tick exists find the relevant T1 record for the year and number range. In this example search within T1 for the year 1852 and the number range which includes 24989. This is T1/5778A

Short video guide

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For further help searching our catalogue please read our Discovery help.

8. Finding T1 records from the 19th century: an overview

Finding aids for 19th century Treasury papers

Finding aids for 19th century Treasury papers

The image above shows you which finding aids you should consult in order to find relevant T1 papers for the 19th century.

9. Can’t find what you are looking for?

Try looking at other dates within a particular register. Sometimes letters were registered a few days after they were received.

Think laterally. Topics may be filed under various subject headings. If the correspondence covers another government department try consulting their records.

Check ‘miscellaneous’ within the T108 subject registers. Letters could frequently be filed here.

Check the long bundles (T1/3411-T1/4404). These are not covered by the registers. They contain correspondence on subjects which generated large quantities of important correspondence from 1777-1840. Subjects include: slavery, distress in the Highlands and the Charles Babbage calculator.

Try other Treasury sources:

  • From 1849 only important decisions of the Treasury Board were recorded, find them in T 29
  • Browse T5- T29 for Out papers (letters from the Treasury to government departments)
  • PRO 30/32: Leeds Papers (February 1668/9 until Michaelmas 1689) covering mainly journals and Minute Books. Contact the British Library for the Leeds Papers from 1690 onwards.
  • For after May 1920 look in series T 160-164 and T 268 for Personnel records, if they survived. However, some of the records were wrongly incorporated into these series

10. Further reading

Thomas L Heath, The Treasury (The Whitehall Series, 1927, GP Putnam’s Sons Ltd, London and New York)