How to carry out a basic search

You can find the basic search box in the grey bar at the top of the screen.


Simply click in the search box and start typing in your search terms. It doesn't matter whether your search terms are in upper or lower case, both will produce the same results.

The search facility includes a helpful auto-suggest feature. As you start typing, suggestions from our catalogue will appear. Click on the one that is of interest to you, or continue typing and press enter on your keyboard (or click the magnifying glass next to the search box) to see a list of archival descriptions that relate to your search term.


If your search is successful you will see a list of results and down the left side of the screen are a number of categories which allow you to filter your results. These can be really helpful if you are faced with a large number of results. Scroll down to see all the categories (including place and subject).


If you have too many results in your results list (and not all of them appear to be immediately relevant to you), have a look at the search tips below or open up the advanced search options to search on specific fields within the catalogue.

Search tips

Searching for archival reference numbers: If searching for archival reference numbers (for example RET/1/1/1) we recommend you enclose the reference in double quotes. Enter "RET/1/1/1" into the search box to find the description for this reference. You can search without using double quotes but the results returned will not be as accurate.

Searching for an exact phrase: Use double quotes to search for an exact phrase. For example search for “John Smith” instead of John Smith. This will ensure that the search only returns results that contain the exact phrase.

Searching for any occurrence of more than one word: Use OR to ensure your search picks up any occurrence of the words you are searching for. If you search for college OR school the search will return any results that mention the word college or the word school. Otherwise your results will only include records that mention both college and school. Note that OR needs to be in capital letters.

Excluding search terms: Use NOT to exclude records that contain a particular word or phrase. For example, search for charity NOT school if you want to find records that mention charity but exclude those records that mention schools. Note that NOT needs to be in capital letters.

Allowing for different spellings or plurals: Use the wildcards * or ? to search for words that may be written in singular or plural or that may have different spellings. For example if you want to find out about sports that are mentioned within the archives, search for sport*. This will return results that contain the word sport or the word sports. If you want to find information about the Merchant Taylors but want to allow for different spellings, you could search for merchant ta?lors and this would pick up results for taylors and tailors. The * can be used to find matches for zero to many characters and the ? can be used as a wildcard for a single character.

How to carry out an advanced search

An advanced search option is available and can either be accessed by clicking in the basic search box (as illustrated below), or using the advanced search options drop down menu when browsing or searching archival descriptions.


Using the advanced search enables searches to be carried out within a specific date range. Selecting the ‘overlapping’ option will give you more results, but if you want to search for records that fall within a very specific date range you may prefer to use the ‘exact’ search.

The advanced search also allows you to identify specific fields to search for your keywords or phrases. For example, you may find it useful to search just the title or scope and content field for a particular word or phrase.

You may build up quite complex queries using the advanced search page and can use AND, OR and NOT operators to add further criteria to your search.


Browsing an archival finding aid

Some of our archives have a more detailed finding aid within the Borthwick Catalogue. When you access a record for one of these archives, the hierarchy of the finding aid will be visible in a window above the description of the record you are looking at.

You may use this window to see where you are within the finding aid - the record you are looking at will be highlighted in blue. You can also use it to navigate the archive. Clicking on different areas of the hierarchy will reveal other levels of description, allowing you to see how the archive has been structured. Seeing where you are within the finding aid will help you to understand the wider context of the record you are looking at


Using the clipboard

As you are searching or browsing the catalogue you may find it helpful to create a list of those records you are interested in so that you can easily find them again.

Adding records to the clipboard

To add records to your clipboard simply click on the paperclip icon next to a record when browsing within the catalogue. The icon will change colour to indicate that an item has been pinned to your clipboard.

You can pin both archival descriptions and authority records to your clipboard.


Removing records to the clipboard

To remove an item from the clipboard simply click on the paperclip icon again - you can also do this from the clipboard itself.

You may also remove all pinned items by clicking on the clipboard icon (top right of the screen) and selecting ‘Clear all selections’.

Retrieving records from the clipboard

The paperclip icon at the top right hand corner of the screen displays the number of items you have on your clipboard. In order to access these records click on this icon and select ‘Go to clipboard’. The clipboard page will by default show you the Archival Descriptions you have pinned. If you would like to view the Authority Records that you have pinned, select ‘Names’ from the entity type drop down list.

From this page you can access any of the records you have pinned by clicking on them.

The records you have pinned to your clipboard will only stay there for the duration of your session. They will not be there the next time you access the Borthwick Catalogue.

If you want to keep a note of these records for future use you can copy and paste them into another document or click on ‘Print Preview’ in your Clipboard and then print the page. Other export options exist and are recommended only for those users who are comfortable working with XML or complex CSV formats.