Tagging our past

A little over a year ago, we developed a new feature in Discovery (our catalogue) that allows our users to add their own tags to our records. Tags are a way for you to add more descriptive metadata to our records to make them more findable.

Will of William Snelgrave, Gentleman of Stepney , Middlesex

Will of William Snelgrave, Gentleman of Stepney, Middlesex (catalogue ref: PROB 11/732/98)

When we launched the feature we weren’t really sure how our users would engage with it, or what types of tags they would attach to our records. There are now over 5,000 tags attached to more than 7,500 documents, and that number is growing daily. People tag for all sorts of reasons – to bookmark records they are interested in, to help improve the findability of poorly described records, for research purposes and for fun.

Here are some of my favourite tags:

  • “gran savages ww1 record” – this tag made me chuckle when I misread the name savage as a verb
  • “great,great,great,great,great,great,granddad” – someone is doing well with their family tree!
  • “curried goat” – I thought I might find an interesting recipe with this one, but it was something else altogether
  • “dead man’s island” – Sounds like somewhere a pirate would bury his treasure!
  • “beard army” – this tag conjured up an image of thousands of bearded men marching off to war

You can find out more about tagging and browse through tags in Discovery: discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/all-tags/browse


  1. David Matthew says:

    It would be nice to ‘tag’ some of the records but I have been unable to do so and the link to Discovery (see above article) is showing an error message as well!.

  2. Colin Moretti says:

    It worked for me and I’ve tagged some records too.

  3. Simon Fowler says:

    I am responsible for the Dead Man’s Island tags (It’s an island in the Medway). I have never understood the value or use of tags. I’d much rather have bookmarks which I could use to note particular searches.

    1. Vikki Corker says:

      Thanks for your comments.

      The main difference between Tagging and Bookmarking is that Tagging allows for a more collaborative way of working. Researchers can tag poorly described records to help improve their descriptions and findability, also if more than one person is researching the same subject their tags can be shared.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We will not be able to respond to personal family history research questions on this platform.
See our moderation policy for more details.