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Catalogues, online

Nature of Source

Online catalogues prove a convenient way of searching across catalogues covering a variety of repositories and organisations. Searches can be made on a person, subject, place, company name or organisation and can be used as a starting point as a way of gathering initial information. When considering a search it is important to make a distinction between published printed materials such as books, journals, articles and archival material and to know how each catalogue is composed of this material. It is worth noting that many paper and card catalogues held in libraries and repositories are not included in online catalogues.

England and Wales
Access to Archives (A2A)
The A2A database is a gateway to the catalogues held by local record offices, libraries, universities, museums and specialist institutions across England and Wales, dating from the 900s to the present day. A2A can search across hundreds of catalogues for a variety of genealogical and historical information. It is particularly useful for a specific structured search for example on names, places, occupations and events. The database can also be used as starting point for any type of speculative search. It must be noted that A2A only covers about 30 per cent of archives in England and Wales and may not contain all the material from that archive's holdings. Many archives have their own online catalogue which may contain additional references. Details of the participating organisations can be accessed through the Archon Directory (Find an archive) which includes contact details for record repositories in the UK which have holdings indexed in the National Register of Archives. Contacts can include local archives, specialist libraries, museums, religious bodies, charities, businesses and universities. The database also includes a list of overseas repositories connected with the National Register of Archives. Archives Wales offers a similar facility containing 7,000 collections of historical records in the holdings of 21 archives in Wales.

The Aim25 website contains catalogue description of holdings of education institutions, learned, scientific, social and cultural organisations and livery companies, mostly within the M25 region/greater London area. The website contains summaries and the whereabouts of the holdings of each participating organisation including a short history of the organisation. AIM25 is similar to Access to Archives but with an emphasis on educational institutions but is also worth checking for non-educational organisations. The M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries hosts a catalogue called InforM25 which contains a union catalogue of academic libraries primarily within the M25 region. The catalogue allows users to identify books, journals and other material in over 45 academic libraries. In addition the catalogue holds data on periodicals in the libraries of the University of London, Imperial College London and the University of Westminster.

Bibliography of British and Irish History
(BBIH), The (Catalogue)
The Bibliography of British and Irish History is a subscription based online catalogue of over 420,000 entries describing books and articles about British and Irish history from the Roman period to the present day. BBIH is the result of a partnership between the Royal Historical Society, the Institute of Historical Research and Brepols Publishers and is available through Brepolis. The catalogue incorporates data from Irish History Online and London's Past Online. Publications included of interest to the genealogist include the journals Ancestors, Family & Community History, Genealogists Magazine (SoG), History of the Family, Journal of Family History and Scottish Archives. For a particular entry, it is possible to search Copac for the whereabouts of the item. The Guide to Record Societies and their Publications (Texts and Calendars) is available on the Royal Historical Society website together with a list of individual record societies and a list of their publications. For more information see 'Introduction to the Bibliography of British and Irish History'. A Flyer and Tutorial is available at the Brepolis website. The equivalent catalogue covering Irish history is available free to use at Irish History Online.

British Library Catalogues

Main Catalogue: Explore the British Library
The main catalogue contains records for over 56 million items, including circa 13 million records for books, journals, newspapers, conferences, maps, scores etc.; 37 million journal articles; thousands of electronic journals, ebooks and hundreds of databases; Sound Archive items; Web Archive links and over 400 Research datasets.
Integrated Catalogue
The Integrated Catalogue unites a number of previously separate catalogues so that all the records can be accessed on the same system allowing the user to find information on books and other documents held at the library. Catalogue subsets such as the Newspaper Catalogue and the British National Bibliography can be searched individually or combined with others.
English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)
 The ESTC is an international union catalogue listing early books, serials, newspapers and selected ephemera printed before 1801. The catalogue lists holdings from the British library and over 2,000 institutions worldwide. The catalogue includes items printed in the British Isles, Colonial America, USA, Canada and other territories governed by Britain before 1801. Items of family history interest such as poll books can be searched for their whereabouts.

Other major catalogues include Images Online, Sound Archive Catalogue and the Catalogue for Archives and Manuscripts. For a full listing of all the British Library online and card catalogues see here.

(Higher Education Libraries in your PERsonal history reSearch)
Helpers is an online catalogue of the resources held in London University's libraries and archives specifically aimed at family and local history research. The collections cover a variety of sources such as estate rentals, wills, railways employees and many other documents and could contain a named individual. The collections can be browsed by each collection or by free text searches. The catalogue does not include all the collections held by the participating organisations.

National Register of Archives (NRA)
The NRA acts as a gateway to many private archival collections held by repositories throughout the UK and the world. It deals mainly with prominent private individuals, businesses, trade and employer's organisations and families who may hold the collections themselves or have deposited them with public archives. The database also describes non-private catalogues and lists sent in by various repositories, such as the location of nonconformist and school records . The NRA links in with other catalogues such as A2A, AIM25 and the Archives Hub. Individuals named are normally prominent people but others may be mentioned within the larger collections. Organisations can include schools, hospitals, poor law boards, political parties and religious organisations. Family collections can include rental surveys. When searching it is important to recognise that a business might have changed names over time and others trade under different names. The NRA is incorporated into The National Archives' Site Search.

Discovery, The National Archives Catalogue
Online catalogue of TNA's holdings covering archives of central government, courts of law and other UK national bodies including records on family history, medieval tax, criminal trials, the history of many countries and many other subjects. The Discovery catalogue is not a complete listing of the entire TNA holdings. For a complete listing, paper based catalogues are available at TNA. The TNA Online Collections (formerly DocumentsOnline) can be searched via the main catalogue search screen or from the dedicated Online Collections search. A comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions is available.

Manuscripts Online
Manuscripts Online enables you to search a diverse body of online primary resources relating to written and early printed culture in Britain during the period 1000 to 1500. The resources include literary manuscripts, historical documents and early printed books which are located on websites owned by libraries, archives, universities and publishers. Manuscripts Online was created by a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Leicester, Birmingham, York, Glasgow and Queen's University Belfast.

SCAN Scottish Archive Network
The online catalogue describes private archive records (not printed material) covering over 50 Scottish archives. The site also includes an extensive links page, a Knowledge Base and other research tools including a Glossary, a Scots Currency Converter, a Family History Guide and a Weights & Measures guide. The SCAN catalogue includes the catalogues of the National Records of Scotland and the National Library of Scotland. The catalogue includes business and society records and family and estate papers but not those held in private hands or in solicitor's offices. The Scottish Archive Network also maintains the,, and websites.

The National Library of Scotland
The NLS provides a number of catalogues which provide access to the printed materials held by the library. The majority of the collection is available via the online main catalogue. In addition to the main catalogue, a number of more specialised online finding aids is available from their catalogues section on the web site. These include a manuscripts catalogue and the library's special collections of printed books as well as the Scottish Book Trade Index (SBTI) which is an index of printers, publishers, booksellers, bookbinders, printmakers, stationers and papermakers based in Scotland from the beginnings of Scottish printing to circa 1850. The main catalogue allows the searcher to use the 'cross search' facility which combines the NLS main catalogue with the NLS manuscripts catalogue, together with the Scottish Bibliographies Online, the Advocates library (mainly law) and the Edinburgh University library. Scottish Bibliographies Online contains the Bibliography of Scotland (BOS) which brings together over 90,000 records of books, periodicals and major articles of Scottish interest published all over the world. The period covered is from 1975 although most online records date from 1987. BOS contains the index of the journal 'The Scottish Genealogist' which is available in print from 1976 to 1987 and online from 1988. In addition to the online catalogue other items of the NLS's holdings not contained within the online catalogue are detailed in their manual catalogues available on site. The items included in the manual catalogues include books and periodicals, maps, manuscripts, music and official publications.

National Register of Archives for Scotland (NRAS)
The online catalogue of the National Register of Archives for Scotland provides access to the whereabouts of private archival printed materials in Scottish locations. The NRAS does not generally cover printed materials and not all material is available through the online catalogue. The material consists of papers relating to people, families, landed estates, clubs and societies, businesses and other organisations. Some Scottish material is also accessible via National Register of Archives maintained by The National Archives in Kew.

United Kingdom
Archives Hub

The Archives Hub provides online access to catalogues and collections found in UK universities and colleges and a number of research institutes and museums. The catalogues contain the whereabouts of collections generated by individuals, families or organisations and consists of archive material and not printed matter such as books and journals. The catalogue is not a comprehensive representation of all the holdings of the participating institutions. The site has a list of contributors to the Archives Hub with an overview of the organisation and their holdings. The Archives Hub provides users with an option of a regional search at narrowed down by region.

Copac - National, Academic, and Specialist Library Catalogue
Copac provides online access to the merged catalogues of UK and Irish university libraries and other specialist libraries including the British Library, National Library of Wales, Guildhall Library the English Short Title Catalogue and many others. The coverage for Scotland includes National Library of Scotland and the university libraries of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews. The catalogue has a number of search options including a map search.

PERiodical Source Index (PERSI)
PERiodical Source Index (PERSI) is the largest index of citations from thousands of family history and local history specialist publications and journals. It covers English language periodicals since 1800 and is maintained by the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in the USA. Searches can be made on named individuals, families and places and topics. The full article can be ordered from the supplier listed or directly from Allen County Public Library which holds back issues of all periodicals indexed in PERSI. The indexed collection can be searched at which offers the full article or content linked online to the indexed entry. The index can also be searched at HeritageQuest Online which is only available at libraries that subscribe to the service. The Genealogical Periodical Annual Index (GPAI) is similar to PERSI in scope but with fewer indexed articles from periodicals published over the last forty years. The index is available on CD ROM and as an e book download covering 1992 to 2001. These products and the complete volumes are available from Heritage Books at

SLASER is a union catalogue of serials holdings including journals, periodicals, newspapers, newsletters, magazines, annual reports and other publications of a continuing nature held by Scottish academic and research libraries. The service is run by Edinburgh University under the EDINA program. Participating organisations include Scottish university libraries, the National Library of Scotland, the municipal research libraries of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and numerous smaller Scottish research libraries. The search results are displayed by the items held by each participating organisation and allows the user to select all or just a selection of the organisations. SALSER also provides links to useful information about library addresses, phone numbers, opening hours and lending services. SUNCAT is the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK research community and is similar to SALSER but on a UK wide basis.

WorldCat (maintained by OCLC) is worldwide union catalogue from over 71,000 institutions worldwide including national libraries, university libraries, college libraries, specialist and public libraries. It is possible to search for books, music CDs, videos, research articles archive material and photos. For genealogists, items such as parish registers, tax returns, historic newspapers, wills, manuscripts and maps can be searched for. A detailed guide to using WorldCat as a resource for family historians is available here. Participating libraries that hold an item are shown at the search results stage.

Period Covered

900 - Onwards