Practical Search Tips

Archival research can be exciting and challenging – exciting because until you search you can never be sure what records we hold or what information you will find (you may be the first researcher to see the record); challenging because archival records are more difficult to research than books in a library.

There is no single subject index to the collection. Archives are not organised by subject, but by the government agencies or individuals who created them. You can save time by searching our RecordSearch database on our website and, if unable to visit a research centre, you can order or request quotes for the copying of records you identify.

Keyword Search
A keyword search is a search for a word, words or phrase in the title or description of a record item, series, agency or depositor (for example, Barton, Cyclone Tracy or Snowy Mountains Scheme). Keyword searches are the quickest and easiest way to search for records on a particular subject, person, place or event.

Wildcard searches

  • find variations of a keyword by entering the common stem of the word followed by an asterisk eg Malay* will find Malay, Malaya, Malayan, Malaysia and Malaysian
  • enter more characters before an asterisk for more precise searching eg use Malay* (see example above) rather than Mal* which will find malaria, Malay, Malaya, Malcolm, male, Malta, Malvern etc
  • find alternative spellings in one search by entering the alternative spellings eg naturalisation naturalization, and select the search option any words (see below)

Searching for all words, any words or phrases
If using two or more keywords be sure to select the correct search option (all words, any words or exact phrase) from the drop-down menu. For example, for the keywords civil defence

  • all words (the default setting) will only find records that include both civil and defence, though they may be separated by other words
  • any words will find records that include either civil or defence or both, including records where they are separated by other words
  • exact phrase will only find records that include both civil and defence in that exact order, with no other words between.
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Is there a list of all the Commonwealth and Federal agencies by their designated numbers?