Catalogues, guides, indexes and leaflets
Archives are rather different from printed material. A book deals with a particular person, place or subject and so its contents are easy to define. An archive on the other hand consists of the papers created by organisations and individuals in their day-to-day activities. It usually covers a multitude of subjects, persons and places. Archives therefore cannot be organised by subject, place or person - rather they are arranged according to the organisation, person or family who created them.
Each archive in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is given a main archive reference number. However, an archive can contain anything from a single document to many thousands of documents, so it is not possible to order a whole archive at once. Every individual document held by PRONI has a unique reference number. This unique reference number is needed to order a document.
Unless you already know the archive you are interested in, guides, indexes and leaflets are crucial in identifying the archive/s relevant to your research. Guides, indexes and leaflets are arranged by place or subject and usually only record main archive reference numbers. You must then look at the catalogue covering that main archive reference and identify the unique reference for the particular document you want to view before attempting to order a document.
Catalogues are numbered lists of PRONI’s archives. They are arranged according to the main archive reference numbers and give details of all documents contained within each archive – a date, description and unique reference number for each individual document.
Catalogues, guides, indexes and leaflets are collectively known as finding aids. Some are available online and others are used by researchers on-site.