Frequently Asked Questions

Watch our video showing you how to search the Manuscripts Online Catalogue

Our collections and how to access them
Searching the catalogue
Searching the name and place indexes
Navigating results
Search tips
Accessibility statement

Our collections and how to access them

How can I see items from the collections? Do you charge for this? Do I need to make an appointment?
  • We do not charge, and welcome you to our Reading Rooms at King’s Meadow Campus.
  • You are strongly advised to make an appointment so that we can confirm whether the items are available. Please quote the Document Reference number/s of any manuscript or archive items you want to see, and the title, classmark and barcode of printed Special Collections.
  • See the visitor information on our website.

How do I get a copy of an item or request an image for publication?

Does this catalogue contain full information about all the collections?
No, for the following reasons:
  • Not all our holdings have been catalogued, and a few catalogues are not yet available in electronic form.
  • Where more detailed cataloguing exists but only in hardcopy, this will be indicated in the collection level record in the Finding Aids field.
  • Any records which are still being worked on by staff, and are currently closed to the public, cannot be found using the Manuscripts Online Catalogue.

Does the catalogue contain images of your holdings?
  • No, the catalogue is a written description of our holdings. You can make an appointment to see the material in our Reading Room or order copies.
  • A selection of images from our collections is available to view on our Digital Gallery.
  • Other sections of our website are illustrated with items from the collections. See in particular the Exhibitions section.
  • All images are copyright to The University of Nottingham. If you want to obtain copies or reproduce these images elsewhere, please contact us.

How can I get a general idea about the kind of archives you hold?

Searching the catalogue

How do I search the catalogue?
Watch our video showing you how to search the Manuscripts Online Catalogue

  • The easiest way to search the catalogue is to enter something into the 'Find a record' search box on the home page. This quick search form only searches a limited number of fields: document reference number, title and description.
  • You will get a more complete result if you choose 'Advanced Search' or 'Catalogue Search' and put a keyword into the 'Free text search' box. This free text search is a broad search across many more fields, including title, description, administrative history, first and last lines of poems, and subject fields.
  • If you are getting too many results, you can fill in more than one field in the Advanced Search and search both of them together. Try searching for a keyword in 'Free text search', together with a collection reference if known in the 'Document reference number' field, or a date range in the 'Date of creation' field.
  • Document Reference is the unique identifier for each item. Use quotation marks if you want to find an exact match, e.g. "La Phot", "Pw L 112/1-2". This is the reference that you need to quote if you want to see the item in our Reading Room or order a copy.
  • Date of creation. The database can understand a wide range of date formats, such as 1500-1520; 16th century; <1200.
  • Level of description. The levels of description are increasingly detailed, from a description of the whole collection (fonds) down to individual items/pieces (though not all collections are catalogued in this much detail).
  • Subject term. Type something in the box. Alternatively, click on the blue 'Terms' button to access our in-house subject term thesaurus. Choose an appropriate term, and it will then display in the main catalogue search box, ready for you to click 'Search'. If it does not display correctly, try using an alternative web browser. If a search for a term in the thesaurus then returns no records, that means that the records containing that term are currently closed to the public and cannot be displayed. Please contact us for further advice.

How do I find material about a particular topic?
  • Choose 'Advanced Search' or 'Catalogue Search' and enter a search term into the Subject term field.
  • You can search for a relevant search term in the subject term thesaurus before adding it to the search form, by clicking the Terms button
  • To search for more than one term at a time click on 'Refine search criteria' underneath Subject term, then enter each of the terms separately in the box labelled 'With at least one of the fields'.

Why does my search find no records?
  • Unfortunately the catalogue cannot indicate exactly why a search returns no results, but there are two possible explanations. It might be that your search doesn't match anything in the catalogue. Try searching again using a free text search. Alternatively, the records may be in a collection that is currently closed to the public.

Searching the name and place indexes

How do I find material about an individual, company or organisation?
  • Go to 'Advanced and index searches' on the top toolbar, click on the down arrow, and choose 'People Search'. The name index contains index entries for people, families, companies and other organisations mentioned in our manuscript and archive collections. However, if searching the index doesn’t find the term you are looking for, select 'Advanced Search' and 'Catalogue Search' and try doing a free text search across the whole catalogue.
  • The easiest way to search the name index is to put something into the Free text fields box. This is a free text search for all person, family, company and organisation names in the database. For whole names use surname, forename, e.g. 'Greville, Charles'.
  • Alternatively, you can choose to search specifically in Surname, Forename or Corporate name.
  • You can narrow the search by entering a date range into the Dates of Existence box, e.g. 1700-1850.
  • When you have found the name you are looking for, click on the hyperlink labelled 'Click here to see linked Catalogue records', to retrieve a hitlist of all the catalogue records in which that person's name has been indexed.

How do I find material about a particular place?
  • Go to 'Advanced and index searches' on the top toolbar, click on the down arrow, and choose 'Places Search'. The place index contains index entries for places mentioned in our manuscript and archive collections. The easiest way to search is to put something into the Free text fields box. This searches all types of placenames including country, region, county, city, village, hamlet, parish, village and site.
  • 'Site' is used to index specific places of significance, such as country houses, churches, civic buildings or estates.
  • 'Region' is used for broader areas, e.g. West Indies, Low Countries, or for places where the modern country did not exist at the time the document was created, e.g. Italy before unification.
  • When you have found the place you are looking for, click on the hyperlink labelled 'Click here to see linked Catalogue records', to retrieve a hitlist of all the catalogue records in which that place name has been indexed.

I found the person name (or placename) record I want, but why doesn't it link to any catalogue records?
  • The records are closed - a small number of records are closed to the public because they are still being worked on. They cannot be viewed in the Manuscripts Online Catalogue, but please contact us and we may be able to give you more information.

How do I search for names in the Archdeaconry of Nottingham archive?
  • The People Search index is the best place to search for people mentioned in the Archdeaconry Presentment Bills (AN/PB), Marriage Bonds (AN/MB) and Penances (AN/PN). There is more information about the Archdeaconry of Nottingham and its records on our website.
  • The Offence field allows researchers to retrieve records for everyone presented for particular offences in churchwarden presentment bills.
  • The Role field is used to narrow down the search to people playing a particular role (e.g. churchwarden, presentee, bride, groom). A similar field, Marital Status, classifies people involved in marriage bonds only.
  • Researchers can also search for the occupation of the people involved, and their literacy (e.g. signed, mark).
  • The age of the bride and groom applying for marriage bonds has been indexed. Researchers can search for an age range in this box, e.g. enter 30-40 to get records for all people marrying between these ages.
  • Archdeaconry index data also includes the Date of Event and Place of Event. These two fields can be used to narrow down churchwarden presentment bills, marriage bonds or penances relating to people living in a particular parish at a particular time.

Why can't I find the person I am looking for?
  • Cataloguing and indexing of the entire Archdeaconry collection has not yet been completed. The Archdeaconry name indexes currently hold information from the following series:
  • Presentment Bills (series AN/PB 292 – AN/PB 351). All people named in all presentment bills dated 1587 to 1699. For presentment bills dated 1700 to 1752, we have only indexed the names from presentment bills containing presentments. Those returned ‘nothing to present’ have not been indexed.
  • Marriage Bonds. All marriage bonds dated 1771 to 1789 and 1801 to 1884 (series AN/MB 167-185 and AN/MB 197-280). Earlier marriage bonds, and those dated 1790-1800, have been indexed and published in book form. For more details, see the page about marriage bonds on our website.
  • Penances. The name indexing of penances is an ongoing project. So far we have indexed names from series AN/PN/361-366 (1663-1741) and AN/PN/368-370 (1745-1794). The penances from 1741-1745 require conservation before they can be indexed. We are now working back and indexing the earlier penances. Please contact us if you are interested in a particular name or date which has not yet appeared in the indexes.
  • Excommunications (AN/E 196/1-2). Entries from two books of schedules of excommunication dated 1617 to 1628.
  • Inconsistency in the spelling of personal names can also lead to problems in retrieval. Try searching for a number of different spellings. This can be done by choosing ‘Refine my search’ and typing all the variants into ‘With any of the words’. For example, type Thompson Thomson Tompson Tomson to retrieve variants of this surname.
  • The presentment bills indexes include an additional field for 'Original Spelling'. This records the spelling used in the original document, which can vary greatly from modern usage. Names have been standardised in the principal 'Surname' index field to assist retrieval. However, spellings in marriage bond and penance indexes are always the ones used in the original document.

Why can't I find the place I am looking for?
  • The spelling of place names has sometimes changed over time. We have indexed all place names according to the spelling used in Bartholomew's Survey Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1914 edition.
  • Most places mentioned in Archdeaconry records are parishes, made up of townships and hamlets. For instance, the place Kimberley does not appear often in the index, because it was a hamlet in the parish of Greasley. There will be many more entries for people from Kimberley indexed under 'Greasley'. To check which parish a particular place was in, use the Table of parishes and places in Nottinghamshire on the Archdeaconry Resources section of our website. Places which were in Peculiar jurisdictions do not appear in Archdeaconry records until 1842.

How can I do a search to find all instances of a particular offence presented in a particular parish?
  • Go to the People Search. Choose the offence you are interested in from the drop-down list in the 'Offence' field. Then type the name of the parish into 'Place of Event' and click 'Search'.
  • If there are no results, check that you are searching for the correct spelling of the parish name. Use the Table of parishes and places in Nottinghamshire on the Archdeaconry Resources section of our website.
  • There are some offences which are very similar to each other. Repeat the search for each offence. A full list of Archdeaconry offences is available on the Archdeaconry Resources section of our website.

Why were so many brides and grooms aged 21?
  • '21.' is a way to translate the phrase 'of full age'. Brides and grooms who were under 21 years of age had to get the consent of their parents or guardians in order to marry. If they were over 21 years of age it was not strictly necessary to record exactly how old they were. Therefore, where the number 21 appears in the index of Archdeaconry names, it could mean that the person was any age at all over 21, or even exactly 21!

Navigating results

The Overview
  • Searching normally brings back an overview of multiple results. The overview table has three columns. By default it is arranged by Document reference number. You can sort the table chronologically by date of creation of the document, or title, by clicking on the column heading.
  • The bar at the bottom of the overview tells you how many results there are. If there are more than ten, you can click on 'Next' to see the overview of the next ten results, or choose to show all.

Record view
  • The Overview only gives you a brief idea of the contents of each item. Click on the Document reference number of any item you are interested in. This will bring up the full record view of the document. Depending on the collection, there may be a substantial amount of further detail given.
  • At the top of the record view page is a breadcrumb link allowing you to return to your search results. At the bottom of the page is where you can also navigate to the next or previous detailed record in your search results.

Collection hierarchy
  • Above the record view is a folder structure, showing which collection the record belongs to. You can see the whole collection as a hierarchical tree by clicking on the hyperlinked Document Reference number at the top of the record view. This brings up the Hierarchy Browser, with your record highlighted in yellow.
  • You can navigate around the collection within the Hierarchy Browser by opening up the series entries marked with a +. If you click on any other line within the Hierarchy Browser, the appropriate record appears in record view. You can return to your original record by choosing ‘Record’ in the top breadcrumb (Advanced Search > Search Results > Record)

  • If your detailed record has been indexed, name or place index results will appear underneath the record view. Click on the hyperlinked 'Code' for the index entry which interests you.
  • If the index has been used more than once, you will now be able to navigate to the other linked catalogue records by clicking the 'Click to see all linked catalogue records listed below' hyperlink. This will bring up an overview of all the linked records. Click on the hyperlinked Document Reference to see the record in detail. From a detailed record you can navigate through the hitlist by clicking 'Next' or 'Previous'.

I have found the collection I’m interested in. But when I try to build a collection tree, it doesn’t show any records for it (or only some records).
  • If a collection tree doesn’t show a list of records, then no other cataloguing is available for this collection.
  • Check the Finding Aids field in the collection level record for details of any alternative catalogues, such as hardcopy lists.
  • In a few cases, a tree might not display sub-records because a particularly large collection has been artificially split within the database (to turn a huge tree into several smaller trees). For example, the Newcastle collection (Ne) has no collection tree, but it is possible to view individual trees for Ne C, Ne L, Ne X, etc. Information about split trees can be found in the Finding Aids field in the collection level record.
  • If you require further information, please contact us.

Search tips

  • Searching the catalogue free text fields may return better results than the indexes - not all collections have been indexed in detail.
  • By default the advanced searches will conduct an AND search on the word or words you have entered, e.g. if you enter University Park it will find every record in which both words, 'university' and 'park', appear. If you enter the words within quotation marks, e.g. "University Park" you will get results for the exact phrase.
  • An AND search is also assumed if you enter search terms into more than one field. So for instance if you entered University into the free text search, along with a date range 1200-1300, and the catalogue did not contain any medieval material, you would not get any results.
  • You can change the default criteria by clicking 'Refine Search Criteria'. There are three ways of refining the search option:
  • With all the words (Boolean search AND)
  • Without the words (Boolean search NOT)
  • For wildcard searches, use * before, after or within your search term.

Accessibility statement

An accessibility statement for the Manuscripts Online Catalogue is available on the University of Nottingham's website.