Sunday 1 July 2012

New Scottish Post Office Directories page

The National Library of Scotland has updated its Scottish Post Office Directories page to include a new search function. At the Addressing History website launch event in Edinburgh in November 2010 (see it was announced that an index for the directories would hopefully be online by August of last year, but although delayed it does fulfil the functionality that was promised. The new page is available at

In essence the site is not quite fully searchable - instead each query entered has a search performed which looks for the first 3 characters entered for a surname (or first 5 for names starting with 'Mc' and first 6 for names starting with 'Mac'). A browse function is included however, should you wish to continue to manually look through the volumes on the website.

It should also be noted that whilst the NLS website advertises that it has 708 directories from 1773-1911, the Scottish Directories category on the Internet Archive website at, the partner in the project, in fact lists 818 holdings - considerably more.  For example, whilst the NLS site has Glasgow directories up to 1911-12, the Internet Archive has directories for the city at present up to 1917-18. The Internet Archive also has a separate search function on its site, using background text obtained by OCR software, as well as a separate option to browse the collection.

My initial opinion on the new NLS site is that it seems a bit overly complicated and in parts confusing, but that is undoubtedly due to the fact that it is radically different to its previous format. It will take a bit of getting used to. The simplicity of the previous set up was that you could click on a link and be taken to the Internet Archive page where the directory was held. On the other hand, searches on the Internet Archive occasionally do not work, even though the information required is often there - it has just not been picked up by poor OCR.

I have become well used to using the online directories by browsing, as I would at a library, and suspect my own way of working will likely remain the same, even with this new NLS portal. However it is useful to have a second search system, which may well come in handy.

(With thanks to ‏@geniaus, @AmandaEpperson and @ScottishHistory on Twitter)


Check out my Scotland's Greatest Story research service
New book: It's Perthshire 1866 - there's been a murder... (from June 12th 2012)

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