About PRONI catalogues and the eCatalogue

The eCatalogue is a fully searchable database containing over one million catalogue entries in PRONI’s archives.

About the eCatalogue

The search facility allows you to find catalogue entries using text, date or PRONI Reference Number searches. You can use the browse facility to navigate up and down the various levels of a catalogue.

The catalogue entries describe the records held in PRONI. If you want to see the records they relate to firsthand, you will have to visit PRONI.  If you are unable to visit in person, PRONI offers a search and copying service to help you access information held in PRONI records. 

eCatalogue entries include the following information:

eCatalogue entries Meaning 
Repository name Name of holding organisation/ institution, for example - PRONI.
PRONI reference Unique alpha-numeric code particular to an item or level, for example - D2778.
Level Archives can be sub-divided into related areas or topics, which in turn can be further sub-divided. These divisions are classified using international cataloguing terms (described below).
Description Description gives a brief overview of the record, indicating what content may be found in the actual document.  For example, a catalogue description may say 'Register of Baptisms' - so you know that the record is likely to include the names of children baptised; however, you will need to order and view the actual document to find out the names of those children recorded in the register.
Title The title of the catalogue entry is often a shortened version of the description.
Access decision Indicating whether the actual record is open or closed to the public on-site at PRONI.
Covering date/ s Either a single date or date range.
'Item' identifier Items are the lowest level of an archive for example - usually an individual document or volume.  Only records set to 'item' in the electronic catalogue can be ordered on-site at PRONI.  This field is displayed in the 'results overview' so you can see at a glance if a record listed in your search results is an 'orderable item' - that is if the record 'level' is an 'item', a 'Y' will show in this field, or else 'N' will show.

Note, there may be slight variations between the eCatalogue online and the onsite version.

How PRONI archives are catalogued

A PRONI archive can range from a single document to many thousands of documents. 

  • each archive has a unique overarching reference number (which can be further sub-divided into related areas or topics)
  • each individual document held by PRONI has a unique reference number which is needed to order the document at PRONI

PRONI’s archives are split into two main categories - privately deposited archives and public records.  The first letter or group of letters (prefix) before a forward slash (/) indicates the type and/or origin of an archive.

Public records  

Government departments:
Prefix is normally the first 3 letters of the name of the Department or Ministry.  For example, records of the Department (formerly Ministry) of Finance have a reference prefixed with the letters ‘FIN’

Non-departmental organisations (such as courts, local authorities, non-departmental public bodies or quangos):
Prefix is usually abbreviated initials.  For example, records of local authorities always have a reference beginning with the letters ‘LA’

A prefix of letters is followed by a forward slash and the rest of the reference number (for example:  FIN/....)

Privately deposited archives

Most privately deposited archives have a letter prefix plus a number.  Together, these make up the main archive reference number.

For example: D2778

  • 'D' tells us that this archive contains privately deposited original material
  • '2778' is the specific number for the Workman Papers

An alpha-numeric prefix is followed by a forward slash and the rest of the reference number (for example: D2778/....)

How PRONI catalogues are organised

Catalogues are numbered lists of PRONI’s archives. They are arranged according to a main archive reference (see above), and further sub-divided into a hierarchical structure based on topic/type of record.  

Classification scheme

This hierarchical structure is known as a classification scheme.  The classification scheme shows how the documents have been sorted into related areas or topics and will guide you to the particular area you are interested in.  PRONI archives are classified using international cataloguing standards, described as follows:

The top level of an archive.  For example, D623 is the overarching archive reference (or Fond) for the Abercorn Papers - all of the c.30,000 documents in this collections have a unique reference number beginning D623/....

The upper-most sub-division of an archive, for example -

  • D623/A - Correspondence
  • D623/B - Title Deeds
  • D623/C - Rentals
  • D623/D - Maps and plans and so on

Sub-series' and file:
The archive can be further sub-divided, for example -

  • D623/A/16 - out-letters from the 8th Earl of Abercorn, 1758- 1760
  • D623/A/17 - out-letters from the 8th Earl of Abercorn, 1760- 1764
  • D623/A/18 - out-letters from the 8th Earl of Abercorn, 1764- 1767

'Items' are the lowest level of an archive, that is usually an individual document or volume. Only 'items' can be ordered on-site.

For example: D623/A/16/3 - James, Earl of Abercorn, to Mr Nisbitt.
Letter commenting in detail on tenants and the drafts of new leases...

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