About the Online Adams Catalog

Fun Facts:

  • 110,372 records and counting.
  • 5,823 records with links to online documents. See these.
  • 19,000+ individuals and entities indexed.
  • Using Apache's blazing fast search engine, SOLR.
The original paper slipfile: 1779-1781 drawer.

The Online Adams Catalog (OAC) represents every known Adams document held by the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) as well as other public and private repositories, as located by the Adams Papers Editorial Project at the MHS. The launch of the OAC allows the public online access to a searchable database of more than 110,000 records of documents related to the Adams family. Spanning the years 1639 to 1889, these materials cover three generations of Adamses, including John and Abigail, John Quincy and Louisa Catherine, and Charles Francis and Abigail Brown Brooks. The records primarily reference letters to and from members of the Adams family, along with diaries and other supplementary materials such as genealogical sketches, speeches, wills, and land deeds. Each record contains information on the author, recipient, date of the document, and the location of the original, if known. As an evolving database, the OAC is constantly subject to updates and changes as additional information becomes available about Adams family documents.

While these are catalog records that do not include the text of original manuscript material, there are hyperlinks to digital copies and transcriptions of some letters. These links include online versions of the Adams Papers Digital Editions, the electronic publications of Papers of John Adams, Adams Family Correspondence, and Legal Papers of John Adams. Digital copies of the pages of all fifty-one manuscript volumes of John Quincy Adams’ diaries are available, and both transcriptions and digital copies of the correspondence of John and Abigail Adams as well as John Adams’ diary and autobiography are accessible electronically. The corpus of the Adams Papers at the MHS was reproduced on 608 reels of microfilm, and citations for specific microfilm reel numbers are now available on the OAC. Please explore the online collection guide to the Adams Family Papers (Microfilm Edition) for information about the scope and extent of the collection of manuscripts given by the Adams Family Trust to the MHS.

This item-level catalog evolved over a fifty-year period as a color-coded paper control file housed in the offices of the Adams Papers Editorial Project. Records are identified by the colors pink, white, yellow, blue, and goldenrod. The Adams Family Papers manuscript collection, given to the MHS in 1956, represents the core of the catalog and is designated by the color pink. The Adamses often kept draft or duplicate copies in bound letterbooks, and these items from the Adams Family Papers are recorded on white slips. Records represented by yellow are known Adams documents housed in other manuscript collections at the MHS, public and private repositories, or the collections of private owners. The location of original manuscript items coded with the color blue is often unknown, but auction sales information or publication information for these documents has been captured. Rather than servicing as a record of a document, the color goldenrod indicates a cross-reference or supplemental information on manuscripts and individuals in the catalog.

The OAC was a collaborative effort between the Adams Papers Editorial Project, the MHS Library Collections Services department, with the assistance of the Reader Services and Publications departments. We would like to thank the staff for their participation in the development of this website and extend a special thanks to Project Manager Mary Claffey.

View our step-by-step guide for converting an archival catalog into an online database:
How Do We Get This Online? A Step-by-Step Guide to Converting Archival Catalogs into Customized XML for Online Presentation. Addenda: encoding checklist; reel schema (relaxNG)

This project was funded by grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the Packard Humanities Institute.