Searching the Catalogue

Quick Search

You can do a quick search by using the search box on the Home page. Simply type the word or words you wish to search on into the search box. Where more than one term is entered, the search will automatically retrieve records which contain all your 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 next to each other in the text), for example John Smith, enter the text with double quotation marks, "John Smith". For speed, this option searches just the title and description fields in each catalogue record. These fields contain most of the text in each catalogue record but you should be aware this option will not search the Reference or any other field.

Advanced Search

Click on Advanced Search to search on one or any combination of the following fields:

  • Any text – you can enter one or more words. If you enter more than one word such as John Smith, the search will return records which contain both John and Smith but these terms may not always appear next to each other in the text. If you want to search on the phrase John Smith, enter the text with double quotation marks, "John Smith". You can use the asterisk symbol as a 'wildcard' to widen your search. For example the search term john* will return records with John, John's, Johnson, Johnston etc. Similary the search term *bert, will return Albert, Egbert, Robert etc and the search term b*er would return brother, butcher, butler, baker etc.
  • Reference number – enter either a full or partial archive reference, for example HCA/D456/1/1 or SL/CI. Use the wildcard to widen the search for more records with the same or similar reference, for example HCA/D456* will show you all the records beginning with the reference HCA/D456. All of our catalogue references have an Archive Centre reference at the beginning – HCA is Inverness, SL is Skye and Lochalsh, L is Lochaber and C is Caithness, e.g. if you are searching for D766 held in Inverness you should search HCA/D766 instead of D766.
  • Title - enter search terms here to search the title field of records. This will search both collection titles and the titles of individual items such as Council Minutes or specific letters.
  • Description – enter search terms here to search the description of records. This can include the contents of letters, dates and committees in Minute Books or any specific references made within the record. Please note, not all records will have descriptions so if this search returns no results you should try searching the same terms in the ‘Any Text’ field.
  • Archive centre – select one option to limit results to records held at just one of our four offices.

Extra search options

By default, a search will look for any records with all the term(s) you have entered. However you can choose to change the default search criteria by clicking “Extra search options” under Any text or Collection title. There are three ways to refine the search option:

  • With all the words = boolean AND search; for example John Smith will return all records containing both John and Smith
  • With at least one of the words = boolean OR search; for example John Smith will return all records containing John or Smith or both John and Smith
  • Without the words = boolean NOT; use to exclude unwanted returns from search terms entered in other search fields

How is the information from a search presented?

The results of your search will be presented in four columns:

  • Reference: the unique code used to identify a collection or document
  • Title: a brief summary of the record or name of its collection
  • Date: an exact date, estimated date or date span of the document or records
  • Archive Centre: the Highland Archive Centre which holds the collection or document - at Inverness, Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh or Caithness.

The total number of catalogue records retrieved will be given at the top of the display; if your search has retrieved more than 20 records, use the Next, Previous, Start and End links at the top of the screen to view all the records in your hitlist.

How do I sort the records in the 'search results' hitlist?

By default, records in a hitlist are presented in Reference order alphabetically. However, you can also sort the records alphabetically A-Z by Title, Archive Centre, or by Date (earliest-latest) by clicking on the appropriate column heading above your search results.

How can I find out more information about an entry displayed in the 'search results' hitlist?

Click on the Reference number link to see the full catalogue record. Click on the Reference number again if you then want to see the record in its hierarchical context (how it relates to other records in the collection) and to see other records in the same collection.

How do I browse the catalogue?

You can browse the catalogue in a number of different ways. You can also see our Collection web pages to identify relevant collections.

  • Browsing a single collection: Search using a Quick Search or Advanced Search. From your list of search results, select an entry and click on the Reference to see the full catalogue record. Click on the link text next to the Reference field. This will take you to the Collection browser which gives you a 'tree view' of the catalogue. You will see all records within that collection arranged hierarchically. Click one of the tree items to see the full catalogue record for that item.
  • Browsing collections by reference number: If you know collection references you can use these to browse the collections. For example 'CI' is used by Inverness for Inverness County Council records. In the Reference search field you can enter HCA/CI followed by the wildcard symbol * to identify all records with references beginning with CI. You can then go into the HCA/CI entry to see them in their hierarchcical view, as above.

Image Showcase

Explore some of our documents from across the Highlands