The Battell family papers consist of correspondence and the diaries of Sarah (Robbins) Battell, Anna Battell, Urania (Battell) Humphrey, and Irene (Battell) Larned. According to Memories of Irene Battell Larned (Yca/826/L3m), the habit of keeping the diaries developed in the following manner:
"An interesting custom which prevails in Mrs. Larned's family—one which was introduced by her mother, who faithfully adhered to it through all her married life—is that of keeping a brief record of the most interesting events of every day on fly leaves inserted in the yearly almanac. The children and grandchildren have been taught to regard this as almost a sacred custom; and so extensively has it been observed that throughout the different branches of the family, one might find, in these little books, the definite story of their doings and experiences for three quarters of a century."
The book goes on to say that "Mrs. Larned used to claim as her special New Year's prerogative the pleasure of sending large numbers of the new almanac to her brothers and sisters, nieces, and other relatives." (page 39)
Sarah Battell's diary entries begin in 1818 and record her day-to-day life, notes of births and deaths, recipes, and so forth, until the day of her death. On August 7, 1854, her daughter Anna records Sarah's last illness and death; Anna continues the diary until 1885. Also in the collection are segments of diaries, kept in the same style as those of Sarah and Anna, of Urania (Battell) Humphrey of Louisville, Kentucky, and of Irene (Battell) Larned of New Haven, Connecticut. Supplementing the diaries are approximately ninety-five family letters. These are for the most part letters of Sarah Battell to and from her husband and children, and of her son Robbins Battell to his wife, Ellen Mills. The letter discuss events in the family's daily life, as well as mentioning occasional financial matters.
There are also twenty-seven letters, dated 1889 to 1894, mainly concerned with various artworks, and addressed to Robbins Battell.
The Battell Family Papers were transferred to Manuscripts and Archives from the Yale Music Library.