On the main search page you will find a form allowing you to specify your search. The 'Keywords' search looks for your search term(s) occurring anywhere in the record, however occurrences within key areas of the record (e.g. titles, content description and subjects) will cause the record to appear higher in the list of results. You can switch from the 'Keywords' index to a more specific one (e.g. 'Title', 'Personal Name' etc.) using the first drop-down list.

If you are entering more than one word as a search, you can use the second drop-down list to specify whether the search should look for 'All' or 'Any' of your terms, or whether they should be treated as a 'Phrase'. When you switch indexes using the first drop-down list, the system will automatically suggest the most appropriate way to treat your term(s) in the second drop-down list. However you may still change this.

Note: All searches are case-insensitive, so searching for "London" is the same as searching for "london". All search examples on this page are intentionally presented in lowercase.

[ top ]

Additional search terms

Additional searchs can be specified by clicking on the "...Add another search term" link. This will add another search, along with the boolean operators: 'AND', 'OR', and 'NOT'. You may select which boolean operator should be used to combine the search clauses (this defaults to 'AND'). The "...Add another search term" link can be used as many times as necessary to create more complex searches.

[ top ]

Using Quotation Marks

You may use quotation marks to delimit a phrase within your search terms when searching 'Keywords' or 'Title'. For example the following search is legal:
[Keywords] [All] [legal correspondence "john smith"]
This will only work if you have selected 'All' or 'Any' from the drop-down list. If you enter quotations in an 'Exactly' search, then the system will search for the string exactly as you entered it (including the quotation marks). You should ensure that you use such quotations in pairs to avoid errors, or unexpected search results.

[ top ]

Using Wildcards

You may use wildcards within your search term. These are applicable when searching for words, phrases and exact terms, but NOT dates. If you wish to use any of these wildcard characters literally (i.e. meaning that character), you must escape it using the backslash (\) character.
N.B.: While it is possible to use a wildcard as the first character of a term, this is inadvisable as this drastically increases the search response time in the current implementation.
Available wildcard characters and their meanings are listed below:

  • A single asterisk (*) matches zero or more characters. This is particularly useful for end truncation of subjects etc, but can also be used in the middle of terms. Examples:
    • [Subject] [Exactly] [coal min*] will match records with subjects: "coal mines", "coal miners", "coal mining", "coal mining, great britain, wales" etc.
    • [Title] [Exactly] [the * archive] will match records with titles: "the john smith archive", "the national coal mining archive" etc.
  • A single question mark (?) matches a single character. This is particularly useful when searching for words, or names, you know can have variant spellings. Examples:
    • [Keywords] [All] [coloni?ation] will match records with keywords: "colonisation", "colonization" etc.
    • [Personal Name] [All] [sm?th] will match records with personal names: "smith", "smyth" etc.
  • Of course, these wildcards can be combined and they will work as one would imagine:
    • [Personal Name] [All] [sm?th*] will match records with personal names: "smith", "smyth", "smithson", "smythley" etc.

[ top ]

Only display collections

You may also limit your search to display collection descriptions only by using the checkbox provided. If you only display collection descriptions, you will be presented with a list of titles of all the collections that contain your search term(s). If you do not select this option, you will see the titles of the collections and the those of the particular files or items within those collections which contain the search term(s). This may be useful if you are interested in a general topic, but do not wish to see detailed descriptions of every single item which matches your search. It may also be useful if you are interested in finding out about the history of a particular person or organisation.

[ top ]


When you submit your search, you should see the results within a few moments.

The software will tell you how many records matched your search (i.e. how many hits there were), and which it is currently displaying. The response should look something like this:

[screenshot unavailable]

The first hit displayed above is a collection description, the second and third component records. Component records can be recognised both by the title of the parent document on the top line in italics, and by the use of the folder icon next to the unit title. Depending on the type of search you used, and local configuration decisions, you may also see a representation of the relevance of this record, represented as either a number of stars out of five, or a percentage. In most cases you will be able to click on the folder icon show/hide a display of the context of this component on and off - this is demonstrated in the third result. There are a number of different display options for each hit. A discussion of each of these is included in the Record Displays section below.

[ top ]

Refining your search

When your search results are displayed, the right hand column should look something like:

[screenshot unavailable]

This section allows you to refine your search results by a number of different attributes or facets. Clicking on one of the terms will refine your results to just those which share that term. The number in brackets following each term tells you how many of your results share that particular term, and how many you can expect to see if you click on the term.

Terms are grouped under the headings 'Subject', 'Creator', 'Date' and 'Genre'. The most frequently occurring terms under each section are shown by default. The full list for a particular section can be viewed by clicking on the 'x more...' link.

[ top ]

Record Displays


For each hit you can view a summary or full description. Clicking on the title displays the summary of the record with your search terms highlighted wherever they were matched. The summary display includes the core information, such as title, reference and name of creator as well as the scope and content, administrative/biographical history and access terms. In the case of a component, you can view the full description of the whole archive by clicking on the title of the containing archive (the top line in italics). You may also be able to view the context of the component within the archive by clicking the folder to the left of the containing archive's title. This will display all levels of description from which the current component descends, which may be navigated to directly by clicking on their title.

N.B.: if the system administrator has disabled graphical results, the links to the following functions will be in plain text.


This option will return the full description, including any and all subordinate units of description. In the case of collection-level records which contain subordinate levels of description, a Table of Contents is displayed on the left-side of the screen. This allows you to navigate the record in a hierarchical, rather than linear way. In the case of a component, the context of the component within the archive be be displayed at the top. This will show all levels of description from which the current component descends, which may be navigated to directly by clicking on their title. Larger records may have to be split into several pages in order for them to be dealt with efficiently during transport, and rendering by the browser. If this is the case, linear page navigation is also available at the top and bottom of each page.

N.B.: Please note that it is not possible to achieve search term highlighting in full display, due to the potential variation in record size.


This option will allow you to send the text of the description to an email address that you provide.


This option will return records that are considered statistically similar because they contain the same words in keys areas of the records. Areas considered key are, title, creators, scope and content, and controlled access terms.

[ top ]

Browsing Indexes

This option allows you to browse through subjects, titles, personal surnames etc. in alphabetical order. Simply choose the type of field to browse, enter your search term or starting letter in the box, and press the Return key or click the 'Browse' button to browse your term and those either side of it. If you do not enter a term to browse for, the system will start browsing at the beginning of the index.

On the results page, by default 25 index terms will be returned. If the term you entered is present, it should be in the middle in bold type. Clicking on a particular index term will find the records where the term occurs. You can also browse through previous, or subsequent pages of index terms using the links provided.

[ top ]

Finding Subjects

Enter a single word or simple phrase, such as 'Missionaries' or 'World War Two' and hit Return, or click on the submit button.

A list of related index terms from the UNESCO and/or Library of Congress Subject Headings will be returned, along with a measure of relevance, and the number of records (collections + items) that the subject appears in. Clicking on any of these results will perform a search for that term within the subject index.

If you are looking for information on a more specific topic, such as 'Railways in Lancashire', it might be better to go to the Search page and combine your terms using the multiple fields and boolean options available there.

N.B.: Wildcards (e.g. *, ?) are not in the Subject Finder and will be treated as the actual character.

[ top ]