The William D. Ely Family Papers are contained in one box and span the dates 1834-1877. The collection consists exclusively of personal correspondence. Folders 1-9 have letters written to William Davis Ely from college friends, female acquaintances, and his brother Richard Sheldon Ely. It also includes drafts of three letters written by Ely to Frances Louise Apthorp, Folder 2. Two friends, William Ives Budington and Moses Hoge Hunter, were ministers. In several letters Budington writes about his professional prospects. He declined an invitation to settle at Lowell, Massachusetts in July 1839 in part because of his bachelor status. Moses H. Hunter was a Presbyterian minister in western Virginia and in an 1840 letter discusses the availability of rail transportation between New Haven and Virginia. While Ely was a tutor at Yale College, he also seriously considered the possibility of entering the ministry, a subject discussed by his brother and Hunter in two letters.
Folders 10-13 contain letters written by Anne Crawford Allen, later the wife of William D. Ely, to different members of her family. Eighteen were written between December 1834 and May 1835, when Anne was visiting relatives in Georgia. In these and other letters, she writes primarily about relatives and her social activities, but in a December 3, 1834 letter she discusses a solar eclipse and in several talks briefly about slavery. She displays a sympathetic attitude towards the institution of slavery, saying in one letter, "I only wished that an abolitionist was present....He could not, I am sure, wish to change the situation of these poor but happy people."
The provenance is unknown.