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Tips on Using Archives Investigator

We have created this page of tips to assist you in searching the database in the most effective way. We will be adding more tips over time.

While information on many of the series in the State archives collection can be found in Archives Investigator, only a small proportion of the millions of individual items held have so far been catalogued in this system. Where item information is not available through Archives Investigator or elsewhere on State Records' website, lists (in paper form) are usually available for checking in our reading room.

Advanced Search - using the Note field

It is possible to search the Notes fields in Advanced Search. All you need to do is add your search term to the Note field in the Advanced Search.

You can search for a word or string of words in the Note field – for example ‘Norfolk Island’ using 'Exact phrase' in the Note field – in a Series search to locate all the series concerned in some way with Norfolk Island, where the words ‘Norfolk Island’ may not appear in the series title.

Example with a term ‘Norfolk Island’

Example of Notes field Search in Archives Investigator

This can be a useful search tool if you want to locate more information about for example, a series transferred from the Concise Guide, where there is a range of  "stroke " or microfilm reel numbers. You can search for the first number in the sequence of "stroke numbers" – for example '4/3896-902', Reels '1062-1065'. Alternatively, you can search for the last number in the sequence. Just go to Advanced Search, select Series and key in the number – '4/3896' or 'reels 1062' in the Descriptive Note field. You may find "stroke" or reel numbers mentioned in our Archives in Brief and our Guides.

A search of the Administrative History Note in an Agency search can be useful in identifying references to an area of interest, for example ‘Cockatoo Island’.

Other searches include: searching the Descriptive note in an Activity search to identify which record series might relate to your area of research (for example 'unemployment' or 'parks') and a search of the Biographical note in the Person search to identify for example the judges who sat in a particular jurisdiction  (for example 'Quarter Sessions' or 'District Court').

Finding a series (NRS) number

We have developed a list of the 100 most requested series in the reading room. The list is arranged by subject categories for easy reference and provides:

  • series number
  • creating agency
  • series title and item details (including stroke numbers where they exist)
  • links to Archives Investigator item lists, and
  • links to any online indexes.

The list is designed to help in searching Archives Investigator and in correctly citing State archives in publications.

Searching for three character words in Simple Search

When searching for a three character word, for example ‘Cox’, in the Keyword(s) field in Simple Search always add an asterisk after the word.

Sorting search results

Did you know you can sort your search results into more useful listings? Simply click the column headings to view results by date, title or entity.

Screenshot of sorted search results

‘Wild card’ searches

‘Wild card’ searches are great if you are uncertain of the exact spelling of a word used in a file or series title or an agency name. Simple Search and 'Wild card'

Enter the stem of a word (at least 3 characters) followed by an asterisk in the ‘Keyword(s) field, for example Mcd* and change the default in the ‘Using’ field from ‘All words’ to ‘Exact Phase’. It will help narrow the search if you select the entity type from the pull down list.

Wildcard search

Advanced Search and 'Wild card'

You can also use ‘wild card’ searches when carrying out an Advanced Search. For example, if you are searching the Probate Packets (NRS 13660) you can enter the stem of a Surname followed by an asterisk in the ‘Title’ field, and change the default of ‘All words’ to ‘Exact Phase’.

You can also use the ‘wild card’ to search the ‘Note’ field for series and agencies.

Wildcard Advanced Search

Tip for Mac users

If you use Safari you may find that there is a glitch in the system when conducting a search in Archives Investigator. If you cannot navigate beyond the first page of results try using Firefox or Camino.

Darling Harbour resumption plans, c.1900

NRS 19348 Darling Harbour resumption maps 1900-1902 have been digitised in full colour and can be viewed in Archives Investigator at the item level.

The set contains 25 high resolution plans showing detailed street views plus a cover sheet. Key plans "A" and "B" provide an overall key to the area indicating the mapped areas around Darling Harbour by alphabetical letters (these letters correspond to the other maps in the set).

How to access the plans

  1. Follow this link to NRS 19348 (Advanced Search -> Record Series -> 19348) and scroll down to “Record items in this series” and select a plan to view; or
  2. Do a Simple Search entering the words "resumption Darling Harbour" and selecting 'Item' in the Entity field. If you know the name of a street shown in the plans you can use that instead of the words "Darling Harbour ie., "resumption Margaret Street"

Screenshot of AI showing Simple Search for Resumption Plans

UPDATE: Also available:

NRS 12462 Darling Harbour resumption plans (part set) also digitsed in full colour. These maps are annotated differently to the above series but are otherwise the same.

Hotel Plans

How to access the images

  1. Follow this link to NRS 9590 (Advanced Search -> Record Series -> 9590) and browse through the list "Record items in this series"
  2. For a specific hotel you can do a simple search on Archives Investigator using the hotel's name and select 'item' in the entity type field (see screenshot below)

Screenshot showing Simple Search criteria for hotel plans

Primary Application search

You can search for Primary Application Packets with or without the PA number.

If you know the PA number

Conduct an Advanced Search -> Record Item. Enter the primary application number (include PA making sure you include a space after PA and before the number: e.g., PA 17106) and the series number 17513.

Screenshot of the primary application search

This search will tell you if we hold the primary application (they are being progressively transferred to us by the Department of Lands).

If you do not know the primary application number

You can still conduct an Advanced Search -> Records Item. Enter the series number 17513 and in the Title Field enter the name of the individual who obtained the PA in the Item title field: e.g., David Henry Smart. Select All Words.

Screenshot of the primary application search

Search results

Screenshot of Primary Application results

Probate packets

We hold probate packets from about 1817 onwards, covering Series 1-4 (check Archives in Brief 84 for latest dates and transfer details). While there is an index to the main probate series available on microfiche in the reading room we have also been listing the packets from NRS 13660 in Archives Investigator.

What has been listed so far?

The Probate packets for 1817-May 1873 (Series 1), 1873-76 (Series 2), 1876-c.1890 (Series 3) and part of Series 4, all listed in Archives Investigator.

Step 1

Probate Screenshot 1 of 3

Step 2

Click on the entry for the item information

Probate Screenshot 2

Step 3

Probate Screenshot 3

  • Use this information when pre-ordering or ordering a copy
  • Tip: Make sure you note the date of death, the date probate was granted and the 'series' (1,2 3, or 4) number

School photographs search

Compiled by the History Unit of the Department of School Education this photographic collection NRS 15051 consists of a variety of subjects including: buildings, pupils, teachers, and educational activities. It is a great resource for people researching the history of a school or a specific local area, or for those of you who are interested in searching for images of your old school.

Step 1

Conduct an Advanced Search -> Record Item and type in the series number 15051 and the name of the school e.g., Corrimal.

Screenshot of the school photos search

A positive search result means that there is at least one photo from the school within this series.

Information Note: there is no indication as to how many photos from the school are included, the subject of the photos or if a class photo is included. The original photos are available to view in the reading room and you can pre-order the photos for your visit.