US, District of Columbia—Freedmen's Bureau Letters, 1865–1870


Project Instructions



Read the Instructions

  • Please read these project instructions carefully before indexing any batches.
  • Review this page and the field helps frequently for updates to the instructions.
  • Click here for a summary of project updates.

How to Index Names

  • Index the given names and surnames of every individual on the image, including military officers.
  • If the same name was written more than once on a single image, index the name just one time for that image, and index the most complete version of the name that was recorded on the image.
  • Names may be located anywhere on the image. Please check the image thoroughly to find all names.
  • Do not include titles or terms, such as widow, Jr, or Mr, in the Given Names or Surname fields.
  • If a woman's maiden name and married surname were both recorded, index all surnames in the Surname field, with the maiden name first.
  • Do not expand abbreviated names. For example, do not change "Thos" to Thomas or "Wm" to William. Type the name or the abbreviation as it was written in the record.
  • If a surname was not recorded for an individual, do not assume the surname from the name of another individual on the image.
  • If alias names were included on a record, index all variants, separating each with the word Or. For example, if a name was written as "Georgios (George), George Broski, George Browzowski, or George Brzozowski," you would index the name fields as follows:
    • Given Names: Georgios Or George
    • Surname: Broski Or Browzowski Or Brzozowski

How to Index Individuals Whose Names Aren't Fully Recorded

  • If a family member is referred to, but the person's name or surname is not given, do not index the individual. For example, if the document says, "James Brown and mother" or "James Brown and brothers," you would index only James Brown. You should not assume that the mother or brothers shared the same last name as James Brown, and you would not create any additional records for the mother or brothers.
  • If at least part of a name is given for an individual, create a record, and index the part of the name that is given, except as follows.
    • If a record says, "James Brown and Mary," you would index two records, one for James Brown and one for Mary.
    • If the record says, "Mr Smith and Mrs Smith," you would index just one record for each event date, with Smith in the Surname field. Since there is no Titles and Terms field and no other information to distinguish the two individuals, the single entry is sufficient for both individuals.

How to Index Dates

  • For letters, index the date the letter was written. If no date was recorded, index the earliest date that was included in the letter.
  • For other kinds of documents, index the date of the event that was recorded.
  • If no event date was recorded, then index the earliest date that was included in the entry.
  • If a single image contains more than one letter, entry on a register, or document that mentions a person's name, index the most complete version of the name, along with the date of the earliest letter, entry, or document on the image.

Number of Records per Image

  • The data entry area is set at one record per image. If an image has more than one record, you will need to add enough records in the data entry area to match the number of records on the image. To add records:
    1. On the menu bar, click Tools.
    2. Click Records per Image.
    3. Click in the Number of records box, and type the number of records on the image.
    4. Click OK.
  • If you press Tab or Enter after you complete the last record on an image, a message will appear asking if you want to add one or more records to the image. If you have already indexed all the records on the image, do the following:
    1. Ensure that 0 (zero) is in the Number of records box.
    2. Click OK.
  • Be sure to examine the entire image for records. Many images in this project include two facing pages, and each page usually has several entries. Make sure you index all qualifying names on both pages.

Order of Indexing

  • For letters and other similar records, index the names in the order they appear on the page.
  • For registers, index any applicable names that appear in the heading of the document. Then index the names vertically down each column on the image, starting at the left column and working to the right.

What to Do When a Document Spans Two Images

  • Index names in the data entry area of the image on which they appear, regardless of whether the document begins on the previous image or ends on the next one.
  • To find the event date to index with the name, you may need to look at the previous image or, occasionally, the next one.

Handwriting Helps

  • Many of these records are handwritten. The handwriting resource on the data entry screen may help you decipher difficult handwriting.
  • To access this resource, click on the Handwriting Help icon (which looks like an inkwell with an orange feather quill).

Additional Information