GENERAL SEARCH TIPS
The Online Adams Catalog (OAC) contains more than 110,000 records of every known document generated by the Adams family from 1639 through 1889. A member of the Adams family is typically represented as an author or recipient in the documents cataloged in OAC. The records contain information on the author, recipient, and date of the manuscript. If known, there is also information on where the original document is located, as well as references to where the item can be found in print, on microfilm, and/or online. A small percentage of the records contain limited descriptions about the content of the documents.
The OAC does not search the text of the original document, only the catalog information about that item.
The Basic Search page allows you to search for records by either names or dates or a combination of both. For more search options, select the Advanced Search tab. You may use one or more of the search criteria (described in more detail below) in any combination. In both basic and advanced modes the search will yield only those results that are common to all of your search criteria.
Many of the search options require search criteria to be selected from a controlled list. When typing in the search boxes pause in typing to allow the list to be generated. Please note that when entering names a comma is required between the last name and first name in order to generate matches on the controlled list.
To search for names, choose the appropriate button to begin your search. The option for as author/recipient will find all documents listing the name indicated as either the author or recipient of the document; selecting as author only or as recipient only allows you to further limit your results. Once you have made that selection, there are two ways to search for names. Either select a name from the quick list on the right for the most common correspondents, or begin typing the last name of the person you are searching into the search box. A list of matching names will be generated as you type. You must select a name from the list that appears by clicking on the desired name. If the name you are searching does not appear in the list, s/he does not appear as an author or recipient in the Adams catalog. If you are interested in a general group of people, for example all documents written by individuals with same last name, use the keyword search option on the advanced search screen.
There are many instances of multiple people with the same name in the catalog. When the information is known, individuals are listed in the catalog with their birth date to help differentiate between people with the same name. In some instances, it is not possible to determine which individual was the author or recipient of a document. In those cases, the catalog does not include a birth date or other identifying information. This is why there are often multiple entries for the same name.
You may continue selecting as author/recipient, as author only, or as recipient only to add as many names as you like to refine your search. Listing multiple names will not yield all documents written by all of those individuals, only those documents that are common to all of the names selected. For example, a search for both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin as authors will find only the documents that were authored jointly by the two men, not all letters written by either man You can further refine your search using the additional options on the advanced search screen.
You may also search with wildcards by beginning the word or phrase you are searching with an asterisk, such as *committee. This will yield all names that contain the word committee, for example Committee of Safety and Foreign Affairs Committee. This search is most helpful when searching for organizations or political entities, rather than when searching for individuals by name.
To search for all documents written to or from George Washington: Click as author/recipient to open a search box. Begin typing Washington, George and select Washington, George (born 1732). View the search form for this example
To search for documents from John Quincy Adams to Andrew Jackson: Click as author only to open a search box. Select John Quincy Adams from the quick list. Click as recipient only to add a second search box. Begin typing Jackson into the search box and select Jackson, Andrew (born 1767) from the list. View the search form for this example
To search for documents by date, enter the range of dates in the from and to boxes. To search for a document with a single date, use the copy function to enter the date in both the from and to boxes. To find documents written in a single year, leave the month and day blank and use the copy function to enter the year in both the from and to boxes. To limit results to documents written after a particular date, enter the date in the from box only; for documents written before a particular date, enter the date in the to box only.
Results will appear in chronological order with documents that include your range of dates appearing first on the list. To exclude documents with a range of dates that begins before or extends beyond your search range, check the box labeled Eliminate results that span beyond specified date range.
To find all documents written between January 1, 1776 and July 31, 1776: In the from field, select Jan from the dropdown menu. Enter ‘1’ as the day and 1776 as the year. In the to field select July from the dropdown menu, enter 31 as the day and 1776 as the year. View the search form for this example
To find all documents written before October 1799: In the to field, select Oct from the dropdown menu, leave the day blank, enter 1799 as the year. View the search form for this example
To find only documents written on July 4, 1776: In the from field, select July from the dropdown menu, enter ‘4’ as the day, and 1776 as the year. Click on copy to automatically transfer the search criteria to the to field. View the search form for this example
Example of a combined name and date search:
To find all documents written by John Adams to Abigail Adams in July 1776: In the names field, click as author to open a search box. Select John Adams from the quick list. Click as recipient to add a second search box. Select Abigail Adams from the quick list. In the dates field, select July from the dropdown menu, leave the day blank, and enter 1776 as the year in the from box. Click copy to automatically transfer the search criteria to the to field. View the search form for this example
Check this box to limit your results to records describing only those documents that are viewable as digital images, transcriptions, or both, at the MHS website. The right hand column of the catalog records will provide links to the online presentations of the documents.
Keywords search only the catalog information about the document, not the text of the document itself. Because the original paper catalog was created over a period of more than fifty years, terms have been used inconsistently. For example, a search for John Adams as a keyword will not yield all results for John Adams as he and other members of the Adams family are typically listed by their abbreviated names (JA, AA, JQA, LCA, etc.) in the catalog. Use the names field (above) for more targeted searching of authors and recipients. Use the keywords field to search for individuals with the same last name, or enter phrases, in quotes, to search for terms such as Continental Congress.
To search for documents from any member of the Cranch family to Abigail Adams: Select the Advanced Search tab. Select as recipient and select Abigail Adams from the quick list. Enter Cranch in the keywords field. View the search form for this example
Many of the documents included in this catalog are owned by institutions other than the MHS or are held privately. The holding institution search allows you to limit your search to only those documents held by a particular institution. You cannot search for the names of private owners. To search, begin typing the name of the institution in the search box. A list of matching institution names will be generated as you type. You must select a name from the list that appears by clicking on the desired name. You can only search one institution at a time.
To find all documents written by John Quincy Adams held by the Library of Congress: In the names field, select as author. Choose John Quincy Adams from the quick list. In the holding institution field, begin typing Library of Congress in the search box. Select Library of Congress from the generated list. Click search to view results. View the search form for this example
The special categories search allows you to search for specific types of documents other than correspondence, such as poems, wills and deeds, or subjects associated with select members of the Adams family. Click on the search box and select the appropriate heading/name combination from the generated list. You may search for only one special category at a time. You may combine this search with a date search. For a list of the names associated with the abbreviations, see the Key to Initials at the top of the page.
To search for all ciphers created by John Adams after 1800: Click on search box. Select Ciphers—JA from the list. In the dates field enter 1800 as the year in the from box. Click search. View the search form for this example
RECORD NUMBER SEARCH
View a Record by Its ID number allows returning users to quickly access records they have viewed previously. Each record is identified by a six digit ID number. Enter the ID number in the search box to go directly to that record.