Tips for Locating Records in the Texas Digital Archive

Tips for Searching the TDA

The Texas Digital Archive provides multiple ways to access electronic records: Browsing, Searching, and Descriptive Guides.

  • Use the links under the “Collections” section on the home page or the sidebar menu to access descriptive information about collections and link to records in the TDA.
  • Browse the TDA holdings by using the “explore archive” button at the top of the page.
  • Searching is available through the “Search Archive” bar at the top of each page.


Click on a link below to obtain tips on using each of these options:



Descriptive Guides


To browse in the TDA, simply click on the “explore archive” button in the upper right-hand corner of the web page (see Figure 1, below.) This will always take you from your current location to the Main Collections level of records held by the TDA. (Use the back button on your web browser if you need to return to previous location.)

Figure 1

From the Main Collections level, clicking on an icon or image will let you enter that Collection and show you its sub-divisions (see Figure 2, below.)

Browse illustration

Figure 2

Continue clicking on the appropriate icons/images to open levels as you drill down into a Collection.

  • This icon CollectionIcon is represents a large container, usually a Collection, holding other groups of records.
  • This icon FolderIcon is smaller container of other objects.
  • Continue clicking on the icons if you wish to open the container.

For the Prints and Photographs Collections, you generally only need to go one or two levels down to see the records in that Collection.

For the records of Governor Rick Perry, or other State Agencies, you will have to navigate through various offices and divisions, then to records series, and finally to the records themselves.

These icons represent an object or a single record and clicking the picture will open that record.

VideoIcon This represents a video file


AudioIconThis represents an audio file


DocumentIconThis represents a text document


Browsing Neighboring materials







When viewing the description of a Collection, Record or Item you can get a list of materials at or below your current level in the TDA. This list is available on the far left of the description page, next to viewing pane, and is a set of links. Clicking on a link will take you to a search page where the information has been pre-filtered to show results based on what the link states. Child links will show results for Collections, Records or Items that are directly below your current level in the TDA. Sibling links will show results for Collections, Records or Items that are at the same level in the TDA.

Please note: To accommodate large sets of material, a Collection is sometimes used as a container; to ensure best results we recommend using both of the Sibling/Child links when browsing in this manner.

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Faceting Simple Searching Advanced Searching

This section provides you with information on how to perform a search. Basic searching information is provided first, followed by three main strategies for performing a search. Click on one of the links above to go directly to a strategy.

Searches of the TDA will generate results based on available descriptive information and full-text indexing. When digitizing records, TSLAC staff will ensure that our existing descriptive information is made available for searching and viewing. For born-digital records, it is not possible to provide full descriptions of the contents of every record; available descriptive information is almost always limited to details about the Collection a record is part of. Results based on full-text indexing can only occur on documents that were created with text-based programs; digitized type-written pages are generally not full-text searchable.

To conduct a search, simply click on the search bar at the top of any web page and enter your search terms. If you are already within a Collection, Sub-Collection, Series, or Record level; then you can search within only level and lower in the archive, or all of TDA. You can choose from these two options by clicking on the drop-down menu to the right of the search bar. The first choice will always be to search within the contents of the level you are at, the second will always be for everything. (See Figure 3 below).

Figure 3

Once the search has been run, the results will show each level of the archive (based on your choice above) that has your specific search terms within its description. The highest level of results will be shown first, and any item level results will be shown last.


Regardless of how a search is conducted, the TDA will provide you with facets upon which you can refine results. This is an excellent way to narrow a broad search down to a few items. Facet options will always appear on the left side of the search results page. Facet options will have a check-box, the facet name, and the number of results applicable to that option (see Figure 4 below).

Figure 4

Figure 4

Clicking on a facet will revise the results to items that match those criteria, and the page will update the numbers next to facet options to show how many records still apply.  However, facet options that no longer apply are not automatically removed from the list; to update the list to show only those options that still apply, you will need to refresh the page in your web browser (see Figure 5 below to an example).

Figure 5

Figure 5

PLEASE NOTE: Facets only apply based on additional descriptive information created by TSLAC. Only files digitized by TSLAC will have item-level descriptive information.

Simple Search

A simple search is done by typing one or more words in the search box. These words will not have a particular order within a description or full-text; and the results will include hits for both words, then each word individually. Preference is given to results with all of the search terms. Exact spelling is necessary. If exact spelling is unknown, use a wildcard search (see below.)

Advanced: Boolean Search

A Boolean search is a search using multiple terms that are connected using AND, OR or NOT. In a Boolean search, a connecting AND, OR or NOT must be used between each search term. If using a Boolean search:

  • Type an AND in capital letters to require the search to include only results that have both of the terms. For example: “Austin AND Houston” will pull results that have both terms.
  • Use OR in capital letters to include results that have one term or the other, but not both. For example: “Austin OR Houston” will pull results that have one or the other.
  • Using NOT in capital letters will exclude results with the term on the right of the not. For example if you were searching for the city of Houston, but didn’t want Sam Houston. Searching “Houston NOT Sam” will exclude “Sam” from the search.

Advanced: Phrase Search

A phrase search is used to search a set of words in the exact order they appear. A phrase search is done by typing a multiple word search with a quotation at the beginning and end of the set of words that must appear in order. In a phrase search, no other words can appear between the individual words in the phrase. For example: “Austin Texas” searches for both words together. “Austin AND Texas” searches for each word but not together.

Advanced: Wildcard Search

A wildcard search is used to search a term when you wish to have results include multiple spellings of a term or terms.

??? If you know the word you want but are unsure of the spelling, use a question mark (?) at the exact spot where you are unclear of the spelling. The search results will include all results with all letters available for that single spot. For example, using “m?ster” (as in searching for muster rolls) would return results for master, mister and muster.

In this type of search, the following rule applies: The ? must be used to replace exactly one (1) letter. Using a single ? for multiple unknown letters will not return the correct results.

*** If you want results for multiple versions/derivatives of a term, use a asterisk (*) at the end of term where spelling starts to vary. The results will include all results with the exact spelling up to the asterisk (*), and results with any additional letters after the exact spelling. For example, searching for “supervisor*” will return results for supervisor, supervisory and supervisoree.

Please note: An asterisk (*) wildcard can be used in the middle of a term to replace an undefined number of letters. This can include multiple words.

Descriptive Guides


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The Descriptive Guides are webpage versions of the finding aids similar to what one would use in the Archives Reference room to locate records. These finding aids are copies of the official versions available on the Web at TARO (Texas Archival Resources Online).

By navigating through the descriptive guides, researchers will gain an understanding of the context of records, how they relate to an agency’s functions, and how these records relate to other records created by the agency. Finding aids also provide important historical information about the agency, the function (or scope) of the records as well as brief description of contents, the arrangement of the records, any restrictions on the records, and other important information for the researcher.

To access the descriptive guides, click on one of the Main Collections links on the TDA homepage.


Figure 6

Each of the Main Collections offers unique ways to access records. Governor Perry’s mainpage includes a full list of subdivisions of the Governor’s office with links to the descriptive guides available for those offices. The Prints and Photographs mainpage lets you access individual collections by clicking on a representative image from the collection. The Texas State Agencies mainpage lets you access records of individual agencies by clicking on the agency’s logo.

Once you have navigated to a descriptive guide for a specific set of records (due to the hierarchical nature of government, it may take several clicks to get to this level), you will see a description title and set of links to navigate the guide. Each guide is divided into several sections: Overview, Other Finding Aids, Arrangement/Organization, History, Scope and Contents, Restrictions, Related Materials, and Administrative Information. The links provide shortcuts to major sections of the guide. See Figure 7 below.

If the records covered in a descriptive guide have major subdivisions that need a separate description (referred to as a series/sub-series), links to separate pages describing only those materials will be provided in the Organization/Arrangement section.

Figure 7

Figure 7