A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
Adams Family Papers : An Electronic Archive

Display features

Help icon Key to Colors and Formatting

When viewing electronic transcriptions, click on the help icon to view a brief key to the colors and formatting used in the display. (The icon is located near the upper right of each transcription.)


Some names of places or people (or terms referring to people) appear in bold type. Rest the cursor over the name to view the regularized, or complete, form of the name, and, for selected names, additional information such as dates of birth and death.
See example:

Non-standard spellings

The transcribed text reflects the spellings (and mispellings) of words as they appear in the original document. Rest the cursor over the original spellings to view the regularized spellings, where available.
See example:

Cancelled text

Text which has been cancelled in the manuscript appears with a line through it.

When the cancelled word has been rendered illegible, it appears as [illegible] in the transcription. Please refer to the digital images of the manuscripts to further examine the crossed-out words.

Additions and insertions

Additions and insertions found in the manuscript written by the author of the document appear in gray and are positioned slightly above the adjacent words.

Additions written by someone else, other than the original author of the document, also appear in gray. A [note] (italic red text within square brackets) appears with information about who wrote these additions.

Supplied text

Occasionally, words have been supplied within the transcription in the place of missing or illegible text. These supplied words clarify, correct, or complete passages appearing in the transcriptions. Such words are presented in blue text within square brackets [as in this example]. A question mark indicates uncertainty: human [nature?]

Notes relating the electronic transcription to the original document appear in italic red text within square brackets. Notes written by encoders and editors of the source materials for the transcriptions provide information and explanations about the transcriptions and/or original manuscripts. Example: [The enclosed newspaper article has not been found.]


Within the transcriptions, [hypertext links to other documents] appear in bold green text within square brackets.


The transcriptions generally preserve Capitalization as written by the Authors of the Documents. However, some DATELINES within the diary appear in all capitals in order to improve readability.


Some original punctuation marks (commas and dashes appearing at end of sentences) have been replaced with periods, in order produce more readable and usable transcriptions.


The transcriptions have preserved the underlining of words as it appears in the manuscripts.

Superscript letters

Superscript letters (e.g. 1st, 2nd) have been brought down level with normal type (1st, 2nd).


Shorthand has been silently expanded in the transcriptions.

See examples:


The initial display of documents includes the text transcription and a miniature image of the original document. Click on the "mini" image to open the "small" image (600 pixels wide), which is sized to fit easily on most computer monitors. The small image often provides adequate detail for reading the handwriting on the original documents. For a large image, with even more detail, click on "small" image and view the "large" image (about 1000-1600 pixels wide). Note that the largest images may be several hundred kilobytes in size, and take several minutes to load over a dial-up connection.

Please see the "About this website" page for Tips for viewing large images.


The preferred citation for each electronic document appears at the end of the transcription. Information about the original manuscript and the source of the transcription is also provided.