How to Search

This guidance is intended as a brief introduction to searching. Further help and hints can be found in the ‘Further Help with Searching’ section.

Quick search

The quick search is accessed via the “Google-style” search box in the top right hand corner of the homepage. Simply type your search term into this box and hit the search button. This will perform a search for all occurrences of the term in the title and description fields of every record in the catalogue. Results are returned for exact matches of the word only, e.g. searching for ‘bus’ will not return results for ‘omnibus’ or ‘buses’.

Where more than one term is entered, the search will automatically retrieve records which contain both terms. These terms may not always appear next to each other in the text. If you want to search for an exact phrase (so the words appear adjacent to each other in the text), e.g. Metropolitan Railway, enter the text with double quotation marks, thus "Metropolitan Railway".

Advanced search

You can complete as many fields in the advanced search function as you like. They work as follows:


All catalogue records have a title and typing a search term in this box allows a search of all or part of the text in the title field only. Remember that a title is only a very brief overview of the record, used to answer as succinctly as possible the question ‘what is this?’ Therefore it does not contain many details of what information is contained within the record.


This is used to expand on details in the Title field so will usually contain a synopsis or part transcription of the record in question.

Any Text:

Use this to search in all fields in the catalogue. Please note that if you search for a full name or a phrase you must have the words in the correct order. Using this field is likely to retrieve the largest number of hits but is the most useful if it is not clear which of the other fields to use.


Where you know a particular reference this is the search box to use. Using the wildcard * at the end of a series number (ie the section of the number that occurs before the first forward slash) will return all items for a series. When using reference numbers as quoted in older publications or notes, be aware that these may have changed. If you do not get the required result by entering the number in this field, try putting it into the Any Text search box instead.


Click on the drop-down menu if you wish to search records only at a particular archival level. For a brief explanation of archival levels please see the Glossary page.


Specific years or a range of years, e.g. 1530-1540 or circa 1940, can be entered in this search box. Some records have “circa” dates (approximate dates) and the search function will include these records in searches 10 years either side of the date. For example if you enter '1847' you will get results for records marked 'circa 1840'. Please note that the date search is not the most accurate way of searching for records.

Please see Further Help with Searching for guidance on navigating through series, arranging search results and more

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