Search Help & Tips

Common Search Features

All of the searches on the viHistory site share a set of common features that work much the same way for every search. Each of the search pages has a similar layout, and supports the same or similar options. The four main sections of each search page are:

Search Options
Search Criteria Form
Search Results Navigation and Options
Search Results Table

Search Options

Near the top of each page, next to the title of the search, is a row of buttons. These buttons let you select different varieties of search, and display additional information about the search. Only the buttons that apply to a particular search page will be visible, and some may only be available after you have done a search.

Button Meaning and Use
Basic search
Switches to the Basic Search form. In some cases, any data you have entered in the current search form will be copied to the Basic form.
Advanced search
Switches to the Advanced Search form, which usually has many more options than the Basic Search form. In some cases, any data you have entered in the current search form will be copied to the Advanced form.
Fuzzy search
Switches to the Fuzzy Search form, where you can search for names phonetically.
Switches to the Occupations Search form. This is only available for Census and Directory searches.
Switches to the Employers Search form. This is only available for Directory searches.
Switches to the Religions Search form. This is only available for Census search.
Search Help
Displays the specific help page for the search type.
Show search form
After you submit a successful search request, the search form will be hidden so that more search results can be shown. Clicking this button will reveal the search form with all of the data you have entered; you can modify the data and do another search. Clicking the button again will hide the search form.

Search Criteria Form

Each search page has a form where you can fill in the words you want to search for and where you can select options that control how the search is performed. While each search type has a different form, they all have features in common.

A search criteria form has a set of fields where you can type in text and/or numbers (search terms), possibly using search operators, wild cards, and pattern matching. Most forms also have checkboxes that let you select multiple options; some forms have "radio buttons" where you select one of a set of options. You can use the Tab key on your keyboard to move from one field to the next (the Tab key plus the Shift key moves backwards to the previous field). The fields, checkboxes and radio buttons work in the same way as in other programs you may have used. Some forms may have several sections, each containing a related set of fields.

Which fields are available on a form depends on the kind of search being done. For the Census Search forms, information is available on the meaning and usage of the census terms used in fields on the search page; see the 1881 census enumerator’s notes and the 1891 census enumerator’s notes.

Some fields have a linked "lookup" function. This displays a list of possible values for the field; you select the one or ones you want from the list by checking the checkboxes. All of the checked items will be copied into the field. You can then either search using those terms, or modify the terms as needed. Any field that has an associated lookup will show a data list button to the right of the field box.

One field that is found in all search forms is the "Rows/page" field. This lets you specify how many rows should appear in each page of data displayed in the search results table. The default value is 20 rows, but you can set it to any number (for example, to ensure that all rows are displayed on a single page you can enter a large number like 99999). The more rows are displayed per page the longer it will take for the page to be displayed, so you should normally keep the number relatively small.

At the bottom of each search criteria form are one or more buttons. One of the buttons will normally be labeled "Search"; clicking that button will start the search with whatever search criteria you have entered on the form (you can also start the search by pressing the Enter key while the cursor is in any search field). You should only click the Search button once; clicking it again while the search is being processed will only restart the search, so it will take even longer to complete! Some forms also have a "Clear" button; clicking it will clear out all of the fields and set all options back to their default values; it will also remove any search results that are being displayed.

Search Results Navigation and Options

Once you have performed a successful search (one that produces results), the results are displayed in "pages" of however many records you specified in the "Rows/page" field. A set of navigation controls, located above and below the search results table, allows you to display other pages of data. Additional options may appear to the right of the navigation controls. A typical navigation and options bar looks like this:

Results navigation bar

Depending on the search and the results, some of the options may be hidden or disabled. The options are:

Option Meaning and Use
First First
Displays the first page of data. If the first page is already being displayed, this option is disabled.
Previous Prior
Displays the previous page of data. If there are no pages before this one, this option is disabled.
Next Next
Displays the next page of data. If there are no pages after this one, this option is disabled.
Last Last
Displays the last page of data. If the last page is already being displayed, this option is disabled.
Page 1 2 3 ... Clicking on a page number will immediately display that page of data. If there are more than 10 pages of data, the numbers will run from 1 to 10, followed by three dots (...), followed by the last page number. If you click on the 10, the page numbers will shift so that 11 to 14 are visible; click on 14 and 15 to 18 become visible; and so on.
Export Export
This option allows you to save your search results on your computer in a format that can be used to import the data into analysis programs (such as a spreadsheet program). When you click on this option, the export page will appear, where you can select the export type. This option is not available for all searches.

This function will not work if session cookies are blocked by your browser. Session cookies are temporary, and disappear when you shut down your browser. If you have blocked all cookies in your browser, you will probably also have blocked session cookies. To use the export function, you must allow the viHistory site to set cookies in your browser.
Bookmark Bookmark
This option allows you to create a "bookmark" (called a "favorite" in Internet Explorer) in your browser that will let you get the same search results without having to re-enter all of the search terms. When you click this option, the usual "add bookmark" dialog for your browser should appear, with the correct URL filled in. You can change the name or title of the bookmark, but if you change the URL it may no longer work. The bookmark will be saved under your browser's Bookmarks or Favorites menu, or in a Bookmarks window; selecting the bookmark should return you to the viHistory site and display the search results. This option requires JavaScript to be enabled in your browser, and may not work with all browsers (it works with Internet Explorer version 6+, Firefox version 1+, and Opera version 7+). This option is not available for all searches.

Note for FireFox users: As of FireFox version 1.0.7, launching the bookmark will cause the page to open in the sidebar, which is probably not what you want. To fix this, open the Manage Bookmarks dialog, find the viHistory search bookmark, right click (or option-click) the name, and uncheck the "Load this bookmark in the sidebar" checkbox.

Search Results Table

All search results are displayed in tabular format (columns and rows). Normally each row displays one retrieved record. The table has a header row that shows the title for each column, and usually provides the means to sort the table by any column.

Depending on the search, the results table may have many columns. If your browser window is too small the columns may become too narrow for easy reading. For best viewing, maximize your browser window.

The results data can be sorted on any column that has sort buttons [ Sort ] displayed. Click the up arrow button [ ] to sort the column in ascending order, or the down arrow button [ ] to sort in descending order. If the sort buttons do not appear for a column, that column cannot be sorted on.

If the data in a column is highlighted blue, it is a link. Clicking it will display additional information for that item. In some cases a new search will be done, and a list of related results will be displayed.

For some searches, additional information for each row is available, but is initially hidden. Rows with hidden information will have a complete record button at the left. Clicking the button will reveal the hidden information; clicking it again (when a complete record button is displayed) will hide the information. You can reveal or hide the additional information for any number of rows at once. To reveal the details for all rows, click the Show all icon in the table header. To hide the details for all rows, click the Hide all icon.

For some searches, you can submit annotations for a record. Rows with a annotate button at the right can be annotated. Clicking the button will display the Annotations page, where you can enter your information and submit it. If the row also has a annotate button, that record already has annotations; click the button to view them.

Census, directory and tax assessment records can be linked to show relationships between the records; for example, a "John Smith" in the 1891 Census might be linked to a "John Smith" in an 1891 tax assessment to show that they are the same person. An icon ( links ) will appear in the census, directory and tax assessment search results if the record has any links to other records. Click the icon to see a list of the linked records.