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Search Tips - General Files

Starting Your Search
You may enter keywords in any or all of the search boxes:

Words Anywhere: Searching only on this field will retrieve the broadest results, as the database will bring up records where your search terms appear in any of the fields. If you get too many results with this method, you may want to narrow your search using one or more of the other search boxes.
Title Words: Will retrieve results only when your search terms appear in the title field.
Subject Terms: Will retrieve results if your keywords match subject terms used in cataloging the publication. See Index Terms below for further explanation.
File Number: Useful if you know the file number you're looking for.
Time Period: You may narrow your search by choosing a specific time period from the drop-down box.
Documents per Page: You can also choose the number of documents that will appear on each page of your search results.

Search Results
Your search results will appear as a list. Each item will include the document title, date, file number, and box and folder number. Clicking on the title will bring up the full record, including a description of the document, subject terms, and names appearing in the file. If you would like Archives staff to retrieve a file for use in the research room, they will need to know the file number and/or box and folder number.

Wild Cards
These two characters can be helpful if you're uncertain of the spelling of a name or word, or if you want to bring up records that contain related words with the same stem.

  • ?: A question mark matches any single character.
  • $: A dollar sign matches any ending to a word root.
  • For example:
    • theat?? : matches theater or theatre
    • theat$ : matches theater, theatre, theatrical, etc.

Index Terms
If your keywords are not retrieving the results you expect, you may want to browse our
thesaurus. This is a list of standardized subject terms we use to maintain consistency in our cataloging. For example, we use the term "landfills"; if you are searching on "dumps," your search may not bring up all the relevant records.

Advanced Searching
By default the search operator "and" is inserted between any two terms entered into the search field. This means that if you enter more than one search term, only records containing all of those terms will be retrieved. Some terms will help further define your search:

  • or: Connecting search terms with "or" will retrieve records that contain any one of the terms.
  • "": Quotation marks can be used around a phrase to bring up records containing that exact phrase.
  • near: Using "near" to connect search terms will retrieve records where those terms appear in the same sentence (in any order). To be more precise, you may add a number; for example, "near3" will retrieve records containing the two terms within three words of each other.

Note that the words and, or, near, with, and same are not searchable terms.

Restricting a Search to a Database Field
Sometimes it is helpful to restrict a search to a certain field in a database record. To do this, enter your search term followed by a dot, then the field code, then another dot. Searching on "sewers.ti." will retrieve all records where the word "sewers" appears in the Title field. Field names for the General Files Index are:

NUM File number
BGYR Beginning year
ENYR Ending year
DATE Main Date in form YYYYMMDD
TI Title
FORM Form and date of documents
ITEM Number of items in file
NOTE Notes
SUB Subject
NAME Personal names
CORP Corporate names
BOX Box number
FOLD Folder number
SER Series code
FC File code
INFO Series information link

Searching by Date
To retrieve items from a particular year or span of years, restrict the search to the Years field, in combination with any other fields, using the following format:
@date>=19770000 and @date<=19790000
This example would retrieve all items published in 1977 and 1978. 1977 is the year, the next four digits represent the month and day; using zeros requires the search to include the entire year.

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