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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Search Tips

Find out how the Durham County Record Office online catalogue has changed and how to search the catalogue.

This page tells you about:

  • What changed in February 2012
  • What to look out for
  • What has stayed the same
  • How to enter Search Details
  • Options to Refine your Search
  • Search Results

What changed in February 2012

Our new online catalogue replaces the DRO Database on the previous version of our website. We have moved all the data from the DRO Database to a new database which offers new features and an improved search facility.

See Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for more about the recent changes to our website.

The former DRO Database allowed you to search for keywords within a single catalogue containing a number of individual catalogue entries (item descriptions). You could then use Ctrl + F to locate all the keywords matching your search within that catalogue.

Our new catalogue allows you to search for keywords within a single catalogue entry. Instead of searching 5,000 catalogues your search will now look for keyword matches in over 400,000 individual catalogue entries.

Your search results will be more specific.

It will be easier to go straight to the appropriate catalogue entry.

If you find the search is too slow, use the options to refine your search so that you only search the parts of the catalogue which are relevant.

What to look out for

At the start of our catalogues we can now add structured catalogue indexes which will allow you to jump directly to information at a specific level of the catalogue. For an example see the Brancepeth Estate Plans catalogue ref: D/Br/P Plans.

Use [+] to reveal the structure of the Catalogue Index at the beginning of the catalogue. See how to enable JavaScript to ensure that this search function operates.

We will also start to add Collection Level Descriptions in the near future to provide an overview of our major archive collections.

What has stayed the same

You can still browse entire catalogues.

The option to search for images which you can view online works in the same way as the previous database, with the following improvements:

  • Improved image quality and watermarking
  • Grid view (default) or list view options
  • Results per page 100 (default) and options to view 50 or 250 per page

How to enter Search Details

To search the catalogue you can:

  • Enter keyword(s) in one of the three boxes in 'Search Details'
  • Select one of the options to refine your search without entering a keyword
  • Combine a keyword(s) search with one of the 'Refine Options'

Exact Word or Phrase

Use the 'Keyword' box to search for an exact word, phrase or catalogue reference.

Example 1: Phrase stockton and darlington railway 
Results include:

Ref: D/X 992/1
Memorandum book kept by John Pease, recording weekly receipts on the Stockton - Darlington Railway, 7 July 1836 - 18 November 1840
(1 volume, cloth bound)

Example 2: Catalogue reference D/X 992/1

If you know the catalogue reference number you can enter this in the 'Keyword' box. Note that there is usually a space between the last letter and the first number of our document references.

All of These Words

Use the 'All of These Words' box to search for keywords which appear in any order in the same catalogue entry, eg.spennymoor photograph
Results include:

Ref: CC/PLANNING 555/14
Photograph of North Road allotments, Spennymoor, c.1960
(1 photograph, 21.5 cm. x 16.5 cm., black and white)

Any of These Words

Use the 'Any of These Words' box to search for specific keyword variations, eg. football soccer
Results include:

Ref: E/NW/G14(19)
Photograph of the football team of Langley Park County Junior School, 1963-4, with the headmaster, S. Lewis, and sports teacher, 1964

Ref: E/NW/G13(21)
Photograph of the Junior Soccer XI of Langley Park County Junior School, who were league champions runners-up in the League Cup, and C.B. Watson Challenge Cup, 1959

Options to Refine your Search

Make a selection from one of the four drop-down lists to narrow your keyword search or to view specific parts of the catalogue without using a keyword.

Catalogue Area:

  • Catalogue
  • Collection Level Description
  • Indexes
  • Library

Catalogue Title:

  • All catalogue titles are listed A-Z


  • All catalogues are arranged under 14 separate categories

Catalogue Reference:

  • All catalogue references are listed A-Z

After selecting an option click 'Search' or press the 'Return' key.

Search Results

'Your Search Results' will tell you how many matches were found in how many catalogues, for example:

  • Your search found 34 matches in 17 catalogues

Below this a 'Results List' appears. You can sort the results by catalogue title or by relevance. You can also select the number of results per page (the default setting is 100).

There is a symbol to indicate whether a catalogue includes images you can view online.

Information about each catalogue in the Results List includes title, type/category and description. We are adding covering dates to the catalogue titles and more detailed descriptions to make the results information easier to use.

Click the red reference link, for example ref: D/Br/P Plans to view an entire catalogue from the beginning. If there is a Catalogue Index at the top, use [+] to reveal the catalogue structure and use the links to skip to the appropriate place in the catalogue.

Click [+] to reveal all the matches found within the catalogue. You can click on a reference number link, for example.

to skip to the relevant catalogue entry, which will appear at the top of your screen. Scroll from here to browse the rest of the catalogue.

Use the 'back' arrow on your browser to return to the Results List.