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How do I search the database?

Standard Search

The standard search facility on the home page searches all text in the St.Helens Local History and Archives catalogue.

  • You can enter one or more words or the date of a document or a collection
  • Words can be entered in any combination of upper and lower case; it will make no difference to the search
  • You can use the asterisk symbol * as a "wildcard" in any part of a word to widen your search. For example entering rain* will bring up Rainford and Rainhill. Entering *ford will bring up John Titford, Thomas Bradford etc. Adding an asterisk to the end of a word will allow you to search for both the singular and plural versions of that term, e.g. if you type marriage* into the search engine, you will find results for the words 'marriage' and 'marriages'

Enter your terms in the search box then click on the search button and you will see an overview list of search results.

Advanced Search

To access the advanced search page:

  • Hover the cursor over the “Advanced Search” banner on the homepage
  • Click on “Catalogue”

You will see the following fields:

AnyText: You may enter a single word, a name or a phrase into this field. Please note that if you search for a full name or a phrase you must have the words in the correct order e.g. "Joseph Beecham" will return results, but "Beecham Joseph" is unlikely to result in many matches.

RecordsWithImages: If you are looking for an image of a particular subject, enter your search term in 'AnyText', type 'Yes' in 'RecordsWithImages' and then press 'Search'. Then click on a record in the results list to view an image. Alternatively, if you wish to browse through all of the records in our database that have images attached then just type 'Yes' in 'RecordsWithImages' and press 'Search'.

Title: You can use this field if you know the exact title (or part of the title) of the archival record or local history book that you require.

Description: You can enter keywords in this field to find records about particular subjects or people. Please note that if you search for a full name or a phrase you must have the words in the correct order e.g. "Joseph Beecham" will return results, but "Beecham Joseph" is unlikely to result in matches.

RefNo: If you know the reference number of an item or collection it can be entered here e.g. searching for RCC will return all the record descriptions for the Rainford Cricket Club. Searching for RCC/1 will return all the record descriptions relating to the minute books of Rainford Cricket Club.

Level: Click on the drop-down menu if you wish to search records at a particular archival level. You can search through all levels by leaving this field blank. For a brief explanation of archival levels please see the Glossary page.

Date: You can search for archival records produced in a particular year. Many of the records have “circa” dates (approximate dates). For example if you enter '1847' you will get results for records marked 'c. 1840s'.

AltRefNo: All items in our archives and collections have an alpha-numeric reference number in accordance with the cataloguing system used by St.Helens Local History and Archive Library (see RefNo field). However in certain cases it is important to know the original numbering system that the creators of the records used. These original numbers (which are sometimes highly idiosyncratic) are listed as an “alternative reference number” and they can be searched via this field.

Class: This field relates to local history books and pamphlets, all of which have a classification number e.g. B51 (P). In this example (P) indicates that the item is a pamphlet.

Author: You can search for all books and pamphlets by a particular author by typing in their full name or surname into this field.

PubDate: You can search this field for the publication date of local history books and pamphlets.

Please note: In Advanced Search, words can be entered in the fields in any combination of upper and lower case; it will make no difference to the search

Once you have entered a term into a field, click on the “search” button at the bottom of the field.

Navigating through search results

Records are displayed in two ways:

  • as a brief description in an overview hitlist of search results
  • as a full record view situated on an individual page

If you search for a name or date, you are likely to get results from a variety of archival collections and your hitlist may also include local history books and pamphlets. When the overview list of search results appears it is possible to see more details by clicking on a record in the list. Once inside the individual record it is possible to navigate to other full record views in the hitlist via the following route.

Click on the options on the hitlist menu above the record - “Next” will take you to the next page of the hitlist, “Last” will take you to the final page in the list, "Previous" will take you back to the page that you have just looked at and "First" will take you back to the beginning of the results.

If you are looking at an individual record and wish to return to the overview list of search results press “Back” on the toolbar at the top of the screen. Alternatively you can click on the words “Search Results” above the full record view. Clicking on "Advanced Search" will allow you to begin a new search.

Navigating through collections

Please note the following applies to archives and collections only and does not include local history books and pamphlets

If you want to browse through a particular collection it is possible to do so by accessing the “Hierarchy Browser”.

Example: If you are looking at the full record view for “Postcard showing sepia image of Windlehurst, St.Helens” you will see the reference code PCM/5/5. If you click on this reference code you will be able to view the “Hierarchy Browser” for the entire PCM collection. Clicking on any of the reference codes in the browser list will take you directly to the full record view of individual items in the collection. Alternatively, if you click on "Record" at the top of the “Hierarchy Browser” you will be able to view the full record for PCM/5/5 once more.

Classification system for local history books and pamphlets

Many of the local history stock of books and pamphlets are arranged according to a modified Hobbs classification system.

A letter in front of a local history classification number denotes the area to which the book and pamphlet relates:

A St.Helens Borough
B Lancashire
C Cheshire
D North West England and General History
E Lancashire post-1974
F Merseyside
G Greater Manchester

Some of the most popular subject areas have the following classification numbers:

12.1 General directories
13.1 Derivation of place names
21.2 Census
25.1 Elementary education
28.1 Theatre
35.7 Railways
36.2 Coalmining
57 Genealogy
65 General History
67 Military History and war
78 Architecture
95 Roman Catholic church
96 Anglican church

Example: Books about theatre in St.Helens Borough would be classified as A28.1 and pamphlets on the same subject would be classified as A28.1 (P).

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