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Guide to searching Heritage Online

To help you get the most of our Heritage Online, we have produced the guidance below to help you find what you are looking for.

Basic search

The simplest way of searching the Heritage Online is to add a word or short phrase to the search box.

If you are searching for a phase it helps if you restrict them to specific places or titles such as ‘Meals on Wheels’, ‘Stoke-on-Trent’ or ‘Home Help Oxford’.

You should avoid using non-describing words such as ‘a’, ‘or’, ‘in’ such as ‘Home Help in Oxford’ as these will reduce the number of results returned.

Also avoid including very common words or acronyms like WVS or WRVS, as these will return thousands of results.

Advanced search

If you want to narrow down the results that you get from a search, you can use the 'Advanced search', which gives you many more options to search the Heritage Online.

The fields available to search include:

  • Keyword(s) – This is the main descriptive text field. You can change the nature of your search by using the ‘Refine Search Criteria’ option, which allows you to do AND, OR and NOT searches eg
    • With all the words (AND) - will return results which contain all of words you have searched for.
    • With at least one of the words (OR) – will return results which contain at least one of the words you have search for.
    • Without the words (NOT) – will return results which don’t contain the word you have searched for.
  • Category – This field allows you to pick a single category of records to search using a drop down menu.
  • Month and/or year – You can search for dates using the following formats - Month and year eg January 1945; dd/mm/yyyy eg 01/01/1945 or year eg 1945.
  • Name of copyright holder – If you want to search for a particular copyright holder eg Crown, or Fox Photos, you can enter the name here. We would recommend that you use only single words or well known phrases. For example if you wanted to search for pictures from Fox Photos, we would recommend only typing ‘Fox’.
    As with the ‘Keyword(s)’ field above you can use the ‘Refine Search Criteria’ option to do different types of search.
  • Reference number – Where you know the specific reference of a record you want to view eg WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/CD/EMFE001
  • Alternative reference number – Where you know a reference number for material you may have seen printed in a book or journal article eg 259
  • Level – If you are familiar with archives and want to search only for a particular level of record, eg a series, file, item then you can you can use the drop down menu to select which type of records you want to search.

Searching for individuals

Individuals are extremely hard to track down within the Heritage Collection. However, we have included the names of individuals in many of our photographs, which originally appeared in local and national newspapers and other publications and were therefore already in the public domain. Names are not included in non-public domain items. If you want to make a search for an individual within the collection, you will need to make an enquiry through our enquiry service, but certain rules apply so please read our guide to making an enquiry.

Searching for places

Due to the geographical way the WVS/WRVS compiled and filed its records, searching for information about individual places is the easiest way to make a search in the collection. While WVS/WRVS had offices in over 2,000 locations around the country, the place you are looking for might not have one, but will have been served by a nearby office which administered the activities in your town or village. You can also search by County and Country (excepting England).

Download a list of all of the WVS centres as follows:

England - by County
England - by centre
Scotland - by County
Scotland - by centre
Wales - by County
Wales - by centre

Reports might not be available for some centres, or others may be patchy due to the survival of historical records.

Searching for services

Many records (principally photographs) have service keywords placed in their descriptions eg ‘Meals on Wheels’ or ‘Darby and Joan club’, however the Narrative Reports descriptions do not include service keywords, except in cases where enclosures were included with the original narrative report.

Download a basic list of service keywords.

Searching for oral histories

The simplest way to find oral histories in the collection is to use the basic search and type ‘Voices of Volunteering’ in the search box. If you are looking for a particular individual, service, geographical location or time period then you can use the Advanced Search. In the Keywords type a service type eg Meals on Wheels, person eg Maureen Jones or place eg Norfolk and chose ‘Oral History’ from the Category field.

Either method will produce a list of search results. By clicking on the links you can open each record and from there access and download the summary sheets and oral history recordings.

To read the summary sheet go to the Media Download field and click on the top CD, this will open a pdf document; click the back button in your browser to go back to your results. If you want to open the document in a new tab right click on the CD and select Open link in new tab. To access the audio recording go to the Media Download field and click on the bottom CD this will open an Mp3 file that will play automatically. Please be aware that some Mp3 files are very large and may take time to download.

Searching Narrative Reports

All the Narrative Reports written between 1938 and 1965 have been catalogued for more information about this series please see our Fact Sheets. The simplest way to find Narrative Reports in the collection is to use the basic search and type ‘Narrative Report’ in the search box. If you are looking for a particular geographical location or time period then you can use the Advanced Search. In the Keywords type the place name eg Lancashire or Devizes. If you are looking for a particular year type it in to the Month and/year field eg 1941.

Either method will produce a list of search results. By clicking on the links you can open each record. Reports written between 1938 and 1945 can be viewed by clicking on the red PDF symbol in the record. If you are interested in copies of reports from 1946-1965 please contact the enquiry service.

Searching the WVS Bulletin and WRVS Magazine

All 419 issues of the Bulletin/Magazine can be found on our online catalogue and are free to search view and download.

The best way to discover the Bulletins is to do an advanced search on our Heritage Online.

  • You can pull up a list of all 419 issues by choosing “WVS Bulletin” from the category drop down, and then pressing the search button. This way lets you pick any issue and you can browse through (the most fun way of finding random facts and stories).
  • You can search the text of all the WVS Bulletins using WVS Bulletin Text field. A search here will only locate mentions of the word or phrase in the body text of the Bulletin, and nowhere else in the Archive online.
  • You can refine your search using the powerful advanced search feature. For example if you only wanted to find references to Manchester from the 1960s.
    • Select ‘WVS Bulletin’ from the category drop down field
    • Type ‘1960-1969’ into the date field
    • Type ‘Manchester’ into the ‘Bulletin text’ field
    • Press the ‘search’ button

While the OCR is very good and has been manually checked, there is a lot of use of Hyphenation in the Bulletin and so some instances of place names or keywords eg Meals on Wheels etc may not turn up on a word search. Also if you are trying to look up common words this may return 100’s of irrelevant results. To help:

  • Try using part of the word and a wildcard ’*’ to improve your chances eg ‘Manche*’ for Manchester or ‘Evacu*’ for Evacuation.
  • If searching for a Long Service medal recipient with a common name, which is also a word which may appear in the main body of text, eg Mrs Green, If you know their full name try doing a search with the following format: eg ‘Green, Mrs. P. A.’ You should also restrict your search to the date period 1961-1974 as the Long Service medal was not introduced until 1961.
  • Services such as Meals on Wheels are often Hyphenated eg Meals on Wheels, or acronyms often have dots between characters eg S.E.A.C. You will find these are inconsistently used over time, so try using all the variants.
  • Try using phrases in quotation marks to narrow your search eg “Meals on Wheels”

Searching the Heritage Online will only bring up the record for the individual issue in which that word of phrase is mentioned. To find the word or phrase in the text of that issue, you will need to open the digital PDF copy and search again within that.

WVS Bulletin and WRVS Magazine FAQs

Why are there blank spaces on some of the pages?
In order to make the project achievable we have had to remove all of the pictures and adverts from the Bulletin which were not copyright of Royal Voluntary Service or in the public domain. Tracing the copyright owners of images and gaining their permission free of charge was outside the scope of the project. If you would like a copy of a page of the Bulletin including the images, you can order one through our enquiry service for research and private study purposes. Original copies of the majority of the Bulletins are also available for public access at the British Library in London.

Why are some articles obscured by black lines?
We were unable to gain permission from some third party contributors without paying a licence fee, and in order to make sure that we could make the Bulletin available free of charge to all we have had to redact a small number of articles.

I can’t find what I am looking for using a search
Why not read our guide to searching the Heritage Online, of the Bulletin but it may be that there is no information in the Bulletin about that person or subject. Alternatively you can make an enquiry to our archive team.

Can I reproduce articles from the Bulletin in my local history society magazine?
Any reproduction of material from the Bulletin must be under the terms of the non-commercial creative commons licence or the principal of fair dealing. For more detail on this see copyright and reproduction. If you are still in doubt, please contact us.

Can I get a paper copy of the Bulletin?
Unfortunately we are unable to supply paper copies of the Bulletin. If you would like a paper copy, you can print it out yourself for free, or you may be able to consult an original at the British Library.

I think you have included an article in the Bulletin without my permission.
Royal Voluntary Service believes it has made reasonable endeavours to identify and contact third party owners of credited articles. If you believe that an article has been included without your permission please contact us and we will do our best to help.