skip to main content

Search Hacks

The simplest way to search our online catalogue is to use the search box displayed on all pages of the website.

To start a search, type in a word or phrase and click Search.

Simple searches

Constructing a good keyword term can make the results returned more useful. You might have to be creative with names and phrases. Catherine Smith (nee Jones) could turn up as Kate Jones, Mrs Smith, Mrs Thomas Jones or many more variants! The same applies to modern phrases which might not have been used at the time. A good example is “World War One” which wasn’t in use before 1939.

When multiple keywords are used, by default the search will look for records that have all of those words. This means the more keywords you use, the fewer results you’re likely to get.

You’ll also need to use keywords that strike a balance between being specific enough to get useful results and not being too specific to exclude records that aren’t described with the exact term used.

You might find it useful to consider all the possible search terms for your topic before you begin searching. Keep a record of those which were more successful than others.

If your search returns the message ‘No record found’, this means there are no records matching your search term, but does not necessarily mean that records on the chosen search subject are unavailable. It might be that a different search word or phrase may be more appropriate.

Filter your results

After you’ve conducted a search, you will have the option to filter the results. You’ll find the filters on the left-hand side of the results page.

Clicking on any one of the options displayed will filter the results, only showing those associated with that term. You can add multiple filters to a search.

To remove a filter and try another one, click on the checkbox beside the active filter to remove it and then choose an alternative option.

You can sort your results by relevance, title, date and level (eg item, file, series).

Display your results in different ways

The default display is to show your results as a listing. But you can change this view to interrogate the results in different ways. These buttons can be found at the top of the left hand navigation bar on the search results page.

  • Map: Results that have had geographical coordinates added to the catalogue record can be shown on a Map.
    • Currently, this only includes the Protestation Returns – a type of census from 1642. More records will be added as the website is developed.
  • Images: Results that have a related image can be shown as a gallery.
  • Timeline: Results that have an associated date in the catalogue record can be shown on a timeline.

Press the back button to return to the main listing view

Advanced search

Click on the Advanced button to the right of the free text search box to open up the Advanced Search form.

The Advanced Search fields allow for more focused searching. At the top of the search form you’ll see the box ‘Search Type’. This allows you to change the way the search is conducted:

  • All of the words searches for records that contains every word/number you’ve entered.
  • Any of the words searches for records that contain any, some or all of the words/numbers you’ve entered.
  • Exact phrase searches for records that contain all the words/number you’ve entered in precisely the order you’ve entered them.
  • Proximity searches for records that contain all the words/numbers you’ve entered within a certain number of words from each other.

In the middle of the search form, you can direct the search to only look in certain fields of the catalogue record that represents an archival item. These fields have been populated by the Archivist who catalogued the item. There can be a big difference between how the Archivist used the field in 1950, and how the Archivist approached the same task in 2010. You might want to try combinations of fields and search terms to get the best results:

  • Identifier searches for the catalogue reference code assigned by the Archivist.
  • Date range searches for the records that fall within the whole period you’ve entered.
  • Main title text searches the short title field assigned by the Archivist.
  • Creator etc searches fields that contain the name of an item’s author, or a person/organisation closely associated with that item.
  • Place name etc searches fields that contain the geographical location an item was created, the place it refers to, or a place closely associated with that item.
  • Keywords, subjects searches the ‘tags’ the Archivist attached to a catalogue record to help improve searching.
  • Formats, materials searches the fields that convey information about the physical format of an item. For example, map, photograph, act etc.

REMEMBER! The more fields you complete on the Advanced Search form, the fewer results will be returned.

Improve your search

The Advance search and filtering options should help you to narrow down a broad search to a specific search both before (Advanced search) and after (filtering) you search. However, you can also use these tips and tricks to improve you search from within the free text search bar.

  • Put “quotation marks” around search terms to find results that contain an exact phrase.
  • An asterisk * can be used to represent any letters that are not certain, eg ‘ye*man*’ will bring up results for ‘yeoman’ and ‘yeomanry’.
  • A question mark ? can be used to represent a single letter that is not certain, eg. ?atherine will bring up results for Katherine and Catherine.

Boolean Search (and, or, not)

How are the words combined in a search? When you type a search phrase, normally the search results contain all of the words.

  • For example, a search for Elizabeth Coronation will bring up records containing the words Elizabeth AND Coronation.

If you want to search for records with one word or another word, use OR in capitals.

  • For example, a search for Charles OR Barry will bring up records containing both the words Charles and Barry followed by records containing just the word Charles, and then records containing just the word Barry.

If you want results that contain one word but not the other, use NOT in capitals.

  • For example, a search for Clement NOT Attlee will bring up records containing the word Clement, but will not return records that contain both the words Clement and Attlee. 

Searching specific fields

When you type a word or phrase in the free text search it searches all the catalogue fields at the same time.

You can use the Advanced Search to narrow your search to specific fields in the catalogue record. You can also do this from the simple text search by using a field qualifier. Field qualifiers include:

  • dc.title  – searches the title field.
    • Example: dc.title:aviation
  • dc.description – searches the description field.
    • Example: dc.description:Elizabeth
  • dc.identifier – searches the reference field.  This is useful if you already know the catalogue reference.
    • Example:  dc.identifier:FLS
  • dc.subject – searches the subject field. This will only find records that have been subject indexed by the Archivist.
    • Example: dc.subject:Elections
  • dc.creator – searches only the Person, Creator and Organisation fields. This will only find records that have been name indexed by the Archivist.
    • Example:  dc.creator:Barry
  • date_earliest or latest – can be used in several different ways to search the date fields.
    • Example: date_earliest:1900
    • Example: date_earliest:[1900 TO 1910]
    • Example: date_earliest:[1900 TO 1910]   date_latest:[1940 TO 1950]