Information for users of the Churchill catalogue


The Churchill catalogue allows you to search for catalogue descriptions using free text, keyword and date range searching.

The catalogue enables you to search for any word in the catalogue (apart from some very frequently occurring ones like "the" or "of") by typing that word into the appropriate box on the search screen. You can type in search terms in lower or upper case.

The catalogue allows you to refine your search by specifying specific terms, selecting combinations of terms, or eliminating terms as required.

Please note that the following guidelines apply to the "search for" box into which you can enter search terms. There are separate boxes which allow you to specify a search by specific dates or to add keywords to the search.

The catalogue will also automatically match similar words ("cigar" will find "cigars" too).

The catalogue allows you to sort the list of references retrieved by reference, date or score (relevance ranking). They are automatically displayed in order of relevance, but to sort them into date order, simply click on the column heading "date" above the list of hits.

How to do precise searches

  • To find a precise phrase use inverted commas:
    "Lady Randolph Churchill" will find records which contain that phrase with the words in the order specified within inverted commas.

  • Use + to give preference to a particular term, or terms:
    +potsdam +stalin will find records which contain the words Potsdam and the word Stalin.

  • Use - to eliminate terms from a search:
    "Lady Randolph Churchill" - "Lord Randolph Churchill" will find records containing the phrase Lady Randolph Churchill, but not the phrase Lord Randolph Churchill.

  • Use the # symbol for precision searching:
    #journalism will find records containing the exact word "journalism". Otherwise a search for journalism, +journalism, or "journalism" would still find records containing journalist, journalists, as well as journalism.

  • Use the * symbol for wildcard searching:
    cigar* will find records containing words beginning with the sequence of letters specified such as cigar, cigars, cigarette, cigarettes and so on.

  • Entering terms without any of the symbols explained above:
    Lady Randolph Churchill will find records which contain any of the words Lady, Randolph and Churchill. This approach can be used to combine different terms and to search for either or any of the terms entered.

  • Restricting your search to a specific section of the catalogue:
    +"CHAR 15"will find records with references beginning CHAR 15.

  • Combinations of the search operators:
    • "Lady Randolph Churchill" marriage will find records matching Lady Randolph Churchill or the word marriage.
    • "Lady Randolph Churchill" +marriage will find records containing the word marriage, giving preference to records which also include the phrase Lady Randolph Churchill.
    • +"Lady Randolph Churchill" marriage will find records which include the phrase Lady Randolph Churchill, giving preference to records which also include the word marriage.
    • +"Lady Randolph Churchill" +marriage will find records containing the phrase Lady Randolph Churchill and the word marriage.
    • Lady Lord +"Randolph Churchill" will finds records which mention "Randolph Churchill" giving extra weight to those which also match Lady or Lord.
    • Lady -Lord +"Randolph Churchill" finds things which mention "Randolph Churchill" giving extra weight to those which match Lady, but won't retrieve any records mentioning Lord.
    • +"CHAR15" +ital* will find any record with a reference code beginning CHAR 15 which also contains a word beginning " ital;" such as Italian or Italy.

  • Avoid using any punctuation (e.g. hyphens, apostrophes, etc.).

  • Square brackets are used in catalogue entries to indicate information which has been inferred from sources external to the documents.

Restricting your search to specific fields

The search will look in all the different fields which are contained in a catalogue entry. By pulling down the menu next to the search box, you can restrict your search to specific fields:

  • Reference contains the reference code e.g. CHAR 2/1

  • Title and description contain the descriptive part of the catalogue record

  • Physical describes the extent of the material e.g. 1 file (12 folios)

  • Access includes information about any closures e.g. on grounds of data protection

  • Publication includes information about documents which have been published, mainly in the official biography of Churchill's life

  • Altform contains information about alternative formats such as microfilms of the material

  • Original reference includes the Government reference given to official papers in the collection e.g. EBC (29)1

  • Language the language in which the document is written

  • Related material includes information about other collections held at Churchill Archives Centre


People in the catalogue are described by the name (and, where appropriate, the title and rank) by which they were known at the time of the creation of the document concerned, with any earlier or later names given in square brackets (e.g. John Seely [later Lord Mottistone]).

For untitled people, the usual form is the main forename in full (where this can readily be established) followed by the surname, except in a few cases where a person is better known by some other form such as their forename initials (e.g. F E Smith rather than Frederick Smith).

Titled people below the rank of Duke or Duchess (i.e. barons, earls and marquises) are described as Lord or Lady followed by the title name (e.g. "Lord Crewe" rather than "the Earl of Crewe"), whilst different holders of the same title are distinguished by a number (e.g. "10th Duke of Marlborough"). Women holding rank by marriage are given in the form "Cornelia, Lady Wimborne", whilst those holding rank by birth are given in the form "Lady Sarah Spencer Churchill".

If you are not sure about the form of a name, just type in the part (for instance the surname or the main part of a title) that you are sure about. Separate the elements in a double-barrelled surname with a space rather than a hyphen.

The most important exceptions to these rules are Sir Winston Churchill himself, who is always given as WSC, Clementine Churchill, who is CSC, and Sir Winston's mother, all references to whom can be retrieved by Lady Randolph Churchill, although her later married names are also given where appropriate. Below is a list of the other main exceptions.

  • BROZ, Josip (known as Tito)
    Use Tito

  • CHURCHILL, John Strange Spencer (brother of WSC, known as "Jack")
    Use John S Churchill

  • GAULLE, Charles de
    Use surname de Gaulle only

  • HITLER, Adolf
    Use surname Hitler only

  • ROOSEVELT, Franklin Delano
    Use surname Roosevelt only

  • SMITH, Frederick Edwin, 1st Lord Birkenhead
    Use F E Smith or 1st Lord Birkenhead

  • STALIN, Joseph
    Use surname Stalin only


Using keywords in your search can help you in three ways:

You can bring together records which contain information about the same subject but which do not all refer to it in exactly the same way. For instance, descriptions mentioning "votes for women" or "suffragettes" can all be retrieved using the keyword "womens suffrage".

You can bring together records relating to different aspects of a general theme. For instance, letters on railways and roads can all be retrieved using the keyword "transport".

You can search for records which contain substantial information about the subject, organisation or place you are interested in, excluding those which only refer to it in passing. This is particularly useful for place names.

The keywords are arranged in four sections: Corporate for names of corporate bodies or organisations such as the Home Office; Geographic for place names; Personal for the names of individuals; and UKAT for subjects or events such as colonialism or the Second World War (1939-1945).

By default, the catalogue will find references which do include any or all of the keywords specified. If you remove the tick next to "required", you can widen your search and find records which contain either the keyword(s) you've specified or any other search term you have included. To ensure that you find all relevant references please search for subjects/keywords as well as the names of individuals.

Levels of description

The catalogue descriptions are at four levels, ranging from the most detailed (item) to the most general (catalogue introduction).

Item level

An item is almost always an individual document like a letter, a telegram or a pamphlet. All items belong to a file.

File level

A file is a collection of related items such as all the correspondence between certain dates. It is the physical unit which is brought out to you from the strong room. Usually it actually is a file, although occasionally it may be a volume or a bundle.

Several sections of the Churchill Papers are catalogued at file level only. Catalogue descriptions often include a list of the correspondents represented in the file. It is important to note that not all the correspondents are mentioned: only "prominent" individuals (i.e. those who appear in "Who Was Who") or those who are represented by several letters in the file (an indication of the number of letters is given in brackets after the sender's name).

All files belong to a class.

Class level

A class is one of the thirty six broad categories such as official Prime Ministerial Papers (CHAR 20) into which the papers are divided.

Catalogue introduction

The catalogue introductions contain general information about the two groups into which the papers have been divided: the Chartwell Papers, and the Churchill Papers.