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The Spanish Colonial Manuscript Collection (Conway)

The Spanish Colonial Manuscript Collection (Conway)

Gilcrease Museum Library and Archives

Housed in the Helmerich Center for American Research, the entire archive contains over 100,000 books, manuscripts, documents, and maps ranging from 1494 to the present.  It has strengths in many areas, including maps of the New World, economic and political documents of the colonies on the Eastern seacoast, accounts of exploration and conquest, missionary records, sketches, and holdings concerning particular American Indian Nations removed to Oklahoma. Its holdings are written in English, French, Spanish and indigenous languages. 

The Spanish Colonial Manuscript Collection (Conway)

The Spanish Colonial Manuscript Collection is comprised of The Conway Collection and other related manuscripts from the same period, for a total of 275 archival units which was also formerly known as the Hispanic Documents Collection.

The collection contains:

  • Documents on civil and government matters in New Spain during the 16th through the 19th centuries. Included are viceregal pronouncements, receipts, announcements of appointments, bills of sale, land grants, reports and wills.

  • Thousands of documents related to lawsuits and civil trials in the Mexico jurisdiction of New Spain, ranging from the 16th to the 19th century. A group of these are documents related to suits and other legal matters involving the family of Hernán Cortés.

  • Some 600 documents on miscellaneous matters of New Spain, including genealogical records, personal letters, and matters pertinent to administering particular encomiendas.

  • A large collection of documents pertaining the Inquisition in the New Spain. Most are paperwork originating from or related to the seat of the Inquisition in Mexico City. This collection documents many Inquisitional trials on a wide variety of matters including accusations of heresy, moral irregularity, and abuse of clerical position. The archive possesses a substantial group of documents from trials of individuals accused of practicing Judaism. It also possesses documents related to accusations lodged against slaves and American Indians.

  • Around 500 ecclesiastical documents from New Spain and over 1200 documents of Spanish royal correspondence, stretching over the 16th through the 18th centuries.

  • The twin ventures of exploration and Christian evangelization in the Borderlands are well represented in several thousand documents dated from the 16th through the 18th centuries.

  • The archive possesses over 1500 documents in Spanish and in Nahuatl pertinent to relations between Spaniards and American Indians.

The Spanish Colonial Manuscript Collection was collected by G. R. G. Conway, an Englishman who lived in Mexico for many years. Thomas Gilcrease purchased 125 volumes, folders and documents directly from Conway and is known as part of the Conway Collection. They include the records of Inquisition trials for heresy, for charges of Judaism and obeying the Law of Moses, investigations concerning Purity of Faith, relations with the Devil, cursing God, insulting the saints, and questioning the authority of the church. Many of these records are three or four hundred pages in length. Other trial records, not so lengthy, are for fornication, blasphemy, misconduct in office, bigamy, astrology, theft, debt, personal lawsuits over property and inheritance, and a few aimed at securing a title of nobility by proving family descent. A few petitions seeking appointment as commissioner of the Inquisition are included. There are another 150 Spanish Colonial volumes, folders and documents which were not acquired as part of the initial unit and are not mentioned in the Conway papers. However, all of the Spanish Colonial material is carefully cataloged under a separate cover, compiled by Dr. C. L. Strout of the University of Tulsa in the 1960s.

Items of interest include:

  • First Book of Votes (1573-1600) transcript with the sentences imposed of early Mexican Inquisition cases (566 pp.)

  • Instructions for confession to the priests and chaplains (1668-1683, 46 pp.)

  • History of the Discovery of East Indies by Captain Juan Mateo Monje (1720, 246 pp.)

  • Copy of a diary of Father Junípero Serra (1769) and a letter by Father Serra (1774)

  • Diaries of soldiers and friars concerning journeys by land and sea along the coasts of Monterey and California. Many of these papers relate to Hernán Cortes and his son, Martín.

Finding Guides Online:

Three guides are now accessible to support researchers. Available below is an early PDF of the comprehensive Strout Finding Guide along with an index of thematic terms that refers to a large percentage of the collection. Microfilm was created in the 1960s and has recently been digitized while other efforts are underway to seek funding for conservation and high-quality imaging for online use. The digitized microfilm is not online but images may be ordered to use in research.

To order images or make further inquiries, please contact the Library at 918-631-6449 or

Finding Guide PDF for Spanish Colonial Manuscripts (Conway) by Clevy Lloyd Strout
Created in 1962, these are the most comprehensive descriptions available at this time. 

Thematic Index for Spanish Colonial Manuscripts (Conway) by Robert B. Pickering, PhD
This thematic index was organized in 2010 based on the Finding Guide by Clevy Lloyd Strout listed above.

Spanish Colonial Manuscript Collection finding aid