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Tracing Past Members - FAQ

This brief guide to archival enquiries does not purport to be a comprehensive introduction to the subject of family history, local history or indeed even college history; this has been done far better elsewhere. It intends to provide the basic information needed to formulate a productive enquiry to Balliol College Archives, and to encourage researchers to become aware of the scope of the college archive for research. See also the summary catalogue of the Archives and the pages on genealogical sources.

Some common enquiries:

I want to get in touch with an Old Member

We cannot provide any personal information, including contact details, about Balliol people who are still alive; such information is closed under the Data Protection Act 1998. The exception is the basic biographical information published in the Balliol Register. If you wish to get in touch with an Old Member, please write care of the Development Office, who may be able to forward your message.

(I think) my ancestor studied at Balliol

If you know that the subject of your research attended Balliol, or want to check, please start with this guide to formulating a biographical information query, and then see our page of sources and advice on Tracing Old Members of Balliol.

Balliol used to own my house/ land where I live

Like most colleges, Balliol used to have land holdings throughout England, Scotland and Wales - though much lessextensive estates than many of the old colleges. It now owns no land except its Oxford sites, and no longer holds patronage of many of the churches it once did. An geographical overview of Balliol’s former holdings and other connections can be browsed in the Gazetteer. As an introduction, see the excellent guide to local and house history research in college archives provided by Brasenose College Archives [now archived]; the information included there applies in general to Balliol archival holdings as well.

My ancestor was a Fellow of Balliol

We will be able to confirm whether or not a named individual has ever been a Fellow of Balliol.

My Ancestor was a College Lecturer at Balliol

This will be extremely difficult to confirm for College Lecturers who were not Fellows for any period before 1833 but should be straightforward after that. However, we may have very little if any further information on College Lecturers.

My ancestor was a College Servant at Balliol

We have very few records of domestic or other staff; coverage is poor except for the years 1950-1980. As with any other records, this type of information about living persons is closed.

My ancestor was a University Professor

Although Professorships are sometimes associated with a College Fellowship or other affiliation, they are University appointments. Enquiries about Professorships should be directed to the University Archives.

My ancestor attended another Oxford college

The best source (although like any human endeavour it is not infallible) for finding out the college affiliation of any Oxford student is:

Foster, J. Alumni Oxonienses: the Members of the University of Oxford 1715-1886: their parentage, birthplace and year of birth, with a record of their degrees. Oxford: 1887.

__________. Alumni Oxonienses: the Members of the University of Oxford 1500-1714: their parentage, birthplace and year of birth, with a record of their degrees. Oxford: 1891.

The eight volumes of Foster are now searchable online; see links here.

Many of the colleges have archives, with similar (though not identical) records series to those at Balliol. All Oxford archives accessible to the public are listed on the website of the Oxford Archivists’ Consortium, Please formulate your requests carefully and be aware that most archives are staffed for 1-3 days/week.

My ancestor attended Cambridge University

The Cambridge equivalent of Foster is

J. and J.A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses : a biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900, (Cambridge, 1922-54).  This resource is now available online at ttp:// as a searchable database (subscription required), and as a searchable database (not a facsimile) via

and W.D. Peckham, Additions & corrections to J. & J.A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, (Lewes, 1968)

As yet there is no central directory of archives in Cambridge but most have their own web pages.

- Anna Sander

You do not need to request permission to download or print one copy of any of the images on these pages for your personal private study or research purposes.
You do need to request permission in writing to use any of these images for any publication in any format, including any use on a website.

The archives and manuscripts of Balliol College are open by appointment to enquirers in person at the Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell.
Enquiries should be sent in writing (email or post).
There is no charge for Archive enquiries, but donations for Archive purposes are always appreciated.
Updated 14.iii.17
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