How To

A Fête at Bermondsey, c. 1570 (oil on panel), Gheeraerts, Marcus, the Elder (c. 1520-90) / Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, UK / Bridgeman Images

3. Search Tips

  • By default, all records in the database are displayed on the Search the Records page. You can use the filters along the left side of the page, as well as the search box above them, to refine the results.

  • Select terms within the filters to narrow the results. Selecting multiple terms will find records containing all the selected terms. For example, selecting 'Stafford' and 'minstrels' will find records relating to both Stafford and minstrels, rather than one or the other. Similarly, if you would like to search for plays that occurred at a specific time of year, for instance, plays at Corpus Christi, select 'Corpus Christi Day' and 'plays, unspecified.'

  • The display will reload with each selection, and the numbers in parentheses beside the terms within the filters will change. These numbers indicate the number of records related to the term. As you select more terms, the numbers beside unselected terms will often decrease or terms might disappear entirely if they do not appear in records containing the selected terms.

  • The search box above the filters allows you to search for an exact term or phrase (in quotation marks) only. Spelling varied wildly during this period, so a search for the term minstrels will not produce all records that mention minstrels, only records with that spelling of minstrels. For a more comprehensive search, use a filter, if one is available, or try entering wildcards and Boolean operators into the search box.

  • Single wildcard characters can be used to represent one or more characters:

    • ? represents a single character. For example, ?sages finds both usages and vsages. m?nstrel finds both mynstrel and minstrel.

    • * represents zero or more characters. For example, play* finds play, plays, player, and players.

  • Boolean operators: The search box ORs each keyword or phrase, unless you type an AND (in capital letters) between them:

    • minstrel piper finds every document containing one or the other word.

    • minstrel AND piper finds every document containing both words.

  • Use parentheses for grouping. For example, (king players) AND night finds documents containing night and one or both of king and players.

  • Changing search terms or setting a date will reset the filters, so always start a more complex search with the desired date and/or the search term, rather than trying to filter by date or term partway through your search.