How The Na­tional Ar­chives’ Dis­cov­ery cat­a­logue can help your re­search

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS - Si­mon Fowler

Let’s be hon­est, the Dis­cov­ery web­site ( dis­cov­­tion­ is a bril­liant guide to what can be found at Kew, but it is an ab­so­lute beast to get your head around. Just when you thought you had it sussed, The Na­tional Ar­chives (TNA) has made ma­jor changes.

Now in­cluded are sev­eral ma­jor datasets for records that are not at Kew. Ac­cess to Ar­chives (A2A) boasts de­tailed lists of records held at 400 ar­chives across Eng­land and the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of Ar­chives (NRA) has de­scrip­tions of col­lec­tions held at ar­chives across Eng­land and Wales.

How­ever, the data does not in­clude ev­ery­thing at other ar­chives – far from it. Even so, is very use­ful to be able to check across a va­ri­ety of ar­chives with just a few mouse clicks. And there’s AR­CHON, which has de­tails of al­most ev­ery ar­chive, great and small, found in the UK. Scroll down Dis­cov­ery’s search page un­til you see the ‘Find Your Ar­chive’ box.

How you search TNA’s own hold­ings has also been tweaked. In par­tic­u­lar, it is now eas­ier to find down­load­able doc­u­ments.

There are now just two ways to find ex­actly what you want: ei­ther type a search term into the main search box or click on ‘Ad­vance Search’. Both will take you to other screens with var­i­ous fil­ters al­low­ing you to quickly nar­row your search.

How­ever, avoid the ‘Browse’ op­tion, which is tricky to use. Dis­cov­ery’s de­sign­ers have tried to make the cat­a­logue as sim­ple to use as pos­si­ble. It’s not per­fect, but with a bit of pa­tience you will soon be us­ing it like a pro.

Dis­cov­ery holds more than 32 mil­lion de­scrip­tions of records held by TNA and more than 2,500 ar­chives across the coun­try.

Over nine mil­lion records are avail­able for down­load.

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