1639-1899; bulk: 1755-1889
Guide to the Microfilm Edition
Microfilming sponsored by the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
This collection consists of the correspondence, letterbooks, diaries, literary manuscripts, speeches, legal and business papers, and other papers of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Charles Francis Adams, as well as papers of many other Adams family members and incoming correspondence from hundreds of major and minor figures in America and Europe.
The Adams family papers consist of correspondence, letterbooks, diaries, literary manuscripts, speeches, legal and business papers, and other papers of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Charles Francis Adams, as well as papers of other family members, including Abigail Brooks Adams, Abigail Smith Adams, Brooks Adams, Charles Adams, Charles Francis Adams II, George Washington Adams, Henry Adams, John Adams II, John Quincy Adams II, Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, Thomas Boylston Adams, Abigail Adams Smith, and others. The collection also contains a large amount of incoming correspondence from hundreds of major and minor figures in America and Europe.
Gift of the Adams Manuscript Trust, 1956. The Adams Manuscript Trust was instituted in 1905 by the three surviving sons and one of the grandsons of Charles Francis Adams, in order to provide for the proper care and use of all the papers, public and private, of President John Adams, President John Quincy Adams, and Charles Francis Adams, together with the papers of their wives and children. The papers were on deposit at the Massachusetts Historical Society from the establishment of the trust until April 1956, when they were given to the MHS. The collection was microfilmed between 1954 and 1959.
The Adams Papers editorial project and Harvard University Press have published and continue to publish many volumes of Adams family papers. The volumes are arranged in four series: I. Diaries, II. Adams Family Correspondence, III. General Correspondence and Other Papers of the Adams Statesmen, and IV. Adams Family Portraits. See the Adams Papers's list of Volumes Published for more information.
The Founding Families project at the Massachusetts Historical Society contains all the content of the printed documentary editions of Revolutionary-era Adams Papers. Included in this digital edition is all the text of the historical documents, all editorial text, and a single index containing all entries from the 16 printed Adams Papers indexes.
Many Adams family manuscripts have also been digitized for the Massachusetts Historical Society website, including correspondence between John and Abigail Adams, the diary and autobiography of John Adams, and the diaries of John Quincy Adams. See the MHS's Guide to Adams Resources on this Site for a list of on-line resources.
The Adams family papers microfilm is available for purchase through:
UMI Research Collections
789 E. Eisenhower Parkway
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346
(800) 521-0600 x2793
For a list of institutions holding this microfilm, see Microfilm Set Locations.
Detailed Description of the Collection
I. Diaries, 1755-1880
A. John Adams diaries, 1755-1804
B. John Quincy Adams diaries, 1779-1848
C. Charles Francis Adams diaries, 1823-1880
II. Letterbooks, 1755-1881
A. John Adams and Abigail Adams letterbooks, 1755-1826
This subseries includes one Abigail Adams letterbook (Reel 97) and one John Adams letterbook that also contains some earlier correspondence of John Quincy Adams (Reel 96). The rest of the letterbooks belonged to John Adams.
B. John Quincy Adams letterbooks, 1781-1848
C. Charles Francis Adams letterbooks, 1826-1881
III. Miscellany, 1761-1899
This series consists of miscellaneous manuscript material, largely in bound volumes, of various Adams family members, friends, and connections. In some cases, a single volume was used for different purposes or by more than one person.
The material in this series is arranged as follows: first by generation, beginning with John and Abigail Adams. Each generation is then organized from the oldest son to the youngest, with the wife of each son immediately following her husband. For family members with extensive material, papers are arranged in this order: 1. autobiographical material, including diaries (except those of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Charles Francis Adams, whose diaries are located in Series I), memorandum books, etc.; 2. financial papers; 3. legal papers (notes, briefs, fees received, etc.); 4. literary material, including student exercises, commonplace books, translations, and original compositions; 5. political writings; and 6. unclassified material (manuscripts not classifiable in the other categories). Within these categories, manuscripts are arranged in chronological order whenever possible, with the exception of John Quincy Adams's literary manuscripts, which are arranged into two sequences: Reels 217-236 and Reels 237-243.
Non-Adams material, arranged alphabetically by author, is located at the end of the series.
A. John Adams miscellany, 1761-1831
B. Abigail Adams miscellany, 1784-1818
C. John Quincy Adams miscellany, 1780-1848
D. Louisa Catherine Adams miscellany, 1812-1849
E. Thomas Boylston Adams miscellany, 1794-1797
Thomas Boylston Adams (1772-1832), the third son and youngest child of John and Abigail (Smith) Adams, graduated from Harvard in 1790 and studied law. He accompanied his brother John Quincy Adams on his first diplomatic mission to Europe as secretary in 1794, returned in 1798, and practiced law and contributed to Joseph Dennie's Port Folio in Philadelphia for some years thereafter. In 1805, he married Ann Harrod of Haverhill and settled in Quincy, which he represented in the Massachusetts legislature, 1805-1806. In 1811, he was appointed chief justice of the circuit court of common pleas for the southern circuit of Massachusetts.
F. Ann Harrod Adams miscellany, 1806-1840
Ann Harrod Adams (1774-1846) was the wife of Thomas Boylston Adams.
G. William Stephens Smith miscellany, 1783
William Stephens Smith (1755-1816), of New York, married Abigail, daughter of John and Abigail (Smith) Adams, in London in 1786. He had served in the Continental Army throughout the Revolution, part of the time as aide to General Washington. From 1813 to 1816, he was a member of Congress from New York.
H. George Washington Adams miscellany, 1814-1825
George Washington Adams (1801-1829), the eldest son of John Quincy and Louisa Catherine (Johnson) Adams, was a member of the class of 1821 at Harvard. He studied law but was much more devoted to literature. He took his own life by jumping from a steamboat in Long Island Sound.
I. Charles Francis Adams miscellany, 1803-1876
J. Elizabeth Coombs Adams miscellany, 1770-1899
Elizabeth Coombs Adams (1808-1903), the second daughter of Thomas Boylston and Ann (Harrod) Adams, never married and lived all her life in Quincy, Mass. One of her hobbies was preserving family mementoes and chronicling family history in the form of notes and marginalia.
K. William Steuben Smith miscellany, 1814
William Steuben Smith (1787-1850), the eldest child of William Stephens Smith and Abigail (Adams) Smith, accompanied his uncle John Quincy Adams to St. Petersburg in 1809. In 1813, he married Catherine Maria Frances Johnson, younger sister of Mrs. John Quincy Adams.
L. Non-Adams miscellany, 1769-1843
"George Beaufort" is evidently a pseudonym for Samuel Cooper Johonnot (1768-1806), who accompanied the Adamses on their voyage from Boston to Spain, Nov.-Dec. 1779. Johonnot was a grandson of Reverend Samuel Cooper and a son of Gabriel Johonnot of Boston. He was sent abroad for schooling under John Adams and later under Benjamin Franklin at Passy. Returning home several years later, he graduated from Harvard in 1783; practiced law in Portland, District of Maine; and became U.S. consul at Demerara, British Guiana, where he died. There was no George Beaufort aboard La Sensible on the voyage to Spain in 1779, but John Quincy Adams's journal of this voyage frequently mentions young Johonnot, and according to a note in Adams's hand at the end of the "Beaufort" journal, this manuscript diary was presented by Johonnot to Adams, presumably soon after the voyage.
Thomas Callender (1778-1827) was born at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and married Anne Maria Smith in New Orleans in 1808. She was the daughter of Reverend Samuel Stanhope Smith and the granddaughter of Reverend John Witherspoon of Princeton, New Jersey. Callender appears to have spent his mature life in Princeton and New York City. How Callender's memorandum book came to be part of the Adams family papers is unknown.
Thomas Baker Johnson diaries, 1807-1838
Thomas Baker Johnson (1778?-1843), the younger brother of Louisa Catherine Johnson (Mrs. John Quincy Adams), was a valetudinarian traveler. Little is known of him beyond these voluminous and disorderly diaries.
Elise Charlotte Otté (1818-1914), of Danish and English ancestry, came to the United States about 1840 to serve as schoolmistress and companion in the Grinnell family of New Bedford, Mass. She returned to England and achieved a reputation as a student of linguistics.
James Blake (1751-1771), of Dorchester, Mass., graduated from Harvard in 1769 and studied for the ministry with Reverend William Smith, Abigail Adams's father.
Samuel Tucker (1747-1833) was captain of the Continental frigate Boston that carried John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams to France on the former's first diplomatic mission early in 1778.
IV. Letters received and other loose papers, 1639-1889
This series contains letters received and other loose papers in a single chronological sequence, 1639-1889 (followed by undated material); a supplement of material arranged topically (ciphers, cipher keys, genealogical material, newspaper clippings, wills, deeds, etc.); and addenda consisting of portions of the diaries of John Adams, 1761, and Charles Francis Adams, 1820, 1824-1827, discovered too late for inclusion in Series I.
A. Chronological papers, 1639-1889
B. Topical supplements, 1765-1888
C. Addenda, 1761-1827
Microfilm edition of the Adams family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.