"Sketches of the Bell & Gell families, from the year 1630 to 1868,” aka “The Bell manuscript,” is a handwritten family history held by the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections in its Rare Book Room. The bulk of the manuscript was written by William Bell in 1869, but includes a few pages of updates from 1884, as well as a few pages added by his brother Charles in 1869. It was donated to the University of Manitoba Libraries by Dr. Andrew Taylor.
As well as serving as a rich genealogical document, the manuscript is remarkable in a number of other ways. It is an extensive (246 page) account of all aspects of rural life in nineteenth-century northeast England, from the details of everyday life to the many riveting anecdotes of the lives and deaths of the family members. The family practiced Wesleyan Methodism and the document would also be of interest to anyone studying the early practice of that religion. Also interesting is the fact that the author does not hold back in criticizing what he believes to be the weaknesses of character in his family members. One would expect a family history to be exclusively complimentary, but William Bell showers praise on the relatives he admires and, in equal measure, showers judgment on those he does not. His story is compelling from beginning to end.
University of Manitoba librarian Christine Bone has transcribed the handwritten volume.
The original handwritten volume is available in Archives & Special Collections' Rare Book Room.