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Duration 01:25

Video guides: How detailed is the catalogue?

Watch our video guides for guidance on how to search our records and get the most of out of your visit to The National Archives.


How detailed is the catalogue?

The National Archives is home to 1,000 years of government records and information.

Every year we add more records sent to us by central government. The original government descriptions of records are listed in our catalogue.

In the same way that you may name and file your own records, for example ‘bank statements: 1999 to 2005’, the record descriptions were created for the original government department’s purpose, and there was no standard naming convention.

So descriptions may just be something like ‘correspondence 1953-1955’.

So, if you were looking for details of a murder trial at the Assizes in Newcastle, you would need to first identify the geographical court district – or ‘circuit’ – then identify the year and quarter of the case, and then look through all those records to find the specific case details.

Think of the catalogue as a list of books in a library: the catalogue shows you what’s on the shelves, but you can’t search the text inside the books themselves.

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