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Indexing Project Updates: North Carolina--Freedmen Letters 1862-1870
Symptoms (Problems)

Please review the project instructions at the links below before you index batches from this project and when you have specific questions about how to index specific information.


Project Instructions:

Project Home PageProject-Specific Instructions | Field Helps

Sample Images

Answer (Resolution)

Additions to Project Instructions

The Freedmen's Bureau records for the period 1865-1872 provide the earliest information on many freedmen. Indexing these records will give researchers and descendants of emancipated slaves access to information that has not been available before. There are pages that do not contain any names, but these pages must be sorted through to find the valuable information that is contained in the collection. For more information on the Freedmen’s Bureau, click here.


Common mistakes being made in this project:

Most of the mistakes which are being made have to do with names. It is important to be sure to read the images carefully so you do not miss any names. Each name is considered to be one record. Please read the images carefully to extract all names that appear on the image. Many images have two pages; be sure to index both. If your image begins with a partial record or letter, index it. The following mistakes are being made.

  • Indexing only the first record on an image.

  • Indexing only the nonmilitary names.

  • Indexing only the names in the left margin.

  • Not indexing partial letters or records which continued from a previous image.


If there are overlays on any of the images you download, click here for instructions on what to do with them.


Indexing Names:


There are some names of government officials and Freedmen’s Bureau agents that appear often in the documents. Some of these names and signatures may be difficult to read. Following are the names of the major officials and agents. To find a much more comprehensive list,click here.

O. O. Howard, Commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau

Jonathan Worth, Governor of North Carolina

Allan Rutherford, Superintendent of Southern District of Freedmen’s Bureau

Col. Eliphalet Whittlesey, Assistant Commissioner for North Carolina, 1865–1866

Bvt. Maj. Gen. Thomas H.Ruger, Assistant Commissioner for N.C., May–June1866

Bvt. Maj. Gen. John C.Robinson, Assistant Commissioner for N.C., June–November 1866

Colonel James V. Bomford, Assistant Commissioner for N.C., November 1866–April 1867

Bvt. Maj.Gen. Nelson A.Miles, Assistant Commissioner for N.C., April 1867–October 1868

Bvt. Lt. Col. Jacob F.Chur, Assistant Commissioner for N.C., October 1868–January 1869

Bvt. Lt. Col. Charles E.Compton, Assistant Commissioner for N.C., April–May 1869

Rev. John W. Alvord, Inspector of Finances and Schools; Gen Superintendent of Education

F. A. Fiske, superintendent of schools for the Bureau in North Carolina, 1865–1868

H. C. Vogell, superintendent of schools in North Carolina, 1868–1870

Q. In what order should I index the names?

A. Index the names in the order in which they appear on the image. Index each name only once if it is repeated, but make sure to index the most complete version of the name.


Q. What is the word in the left margin of each letter on some images?

A. The word to the left in the margin is the surname of the person to whom the letter is addressed. In this case, it is to Jonathan Worth, the governor of North Carolina.


Q. My batch has a number of lines with what look like first names only, such as "Mary John Joseph" or "James Mary Robert." How do I index those? Are they individual names, or should I assume they are regular names?

A. There are some batches that include a type of census or records of rations given. The head of household was recorded on one line with other members of the household listed underneath. Often the surname was recorded for the head of household, but not for the others. In these cases, index the surname of the head of household as the surname of the other individuals, as we do in census records.

See the following example:



In this example, the third line would be indexed as follows:

· Given Name:Mary A Surname:Johnson

The fourth line would be indexed as three separate names:

· Given Name:James Surname:Johnson

· Given Name:Mary Surname:Johnson

· Given Name:Robert Surname:Johnson

The column headings give other clues that can help you know how to index the names in this example. The columns headings are:

Name - Residence - No (similar to House Number) - M (for Men) - W (for Women) - B (for Boys) - G (for Girls).


When there is a number in the No column, the name in that row will generally be the head of household and will be a full name. Additionally, the numbers in the M/W/B/G columns will show how many men, women, boys, and girls there were at that residence.



Indexing Dates

There may be more than one date in a letter, but only one date needs to be captured for each letter. The date to use will usually be found in the heading of the letter. Index the date for each person named in the letter.

Q. I am seeing a date range instead of a specific date. Which date should I use?

A. Use the first date in the date range.

Q. If there is a date on a page but no name, should I index the date only?

A. No, just mark the image as No Extractable Data.

· To mark the image as No Extractable Data:

  1. On the Header Data tab, click in the Image Type field.

  2. Click the down arrow on the right side of the field.

  3. Select No Extractable Data Image.

  4. Click Yes to accept this entry and proceed to the next image.

Other Questions about Indexing This Project


Q. What should be put in the Titles and Terms field?

A. A term or title which is used with a name as part of the way the person might be addressed or which is used in place of a name should be put in the Titles and Terms field, not in the name field. In the Freedmen Letters, it is not necessary to index all of the ranks and assignments which are listed with some of the Freedmen Bureau officials. See the examples below.



Q. Which place should I index when there is a place in the heading of a letter, but the person named in the letter is at a different place?

A. Index the place which is associated with the person named in the letter. In the example below, the place in the heading

of the letter is Portsmouth, Virginia, but the place which would be indexed for Mr. Jacob Hathaway would be Gates County, North Carolina.


Q. What should I do with large batches that I feel I will not be able to finish in time?

A. Finish as much as you can. When you close the batch or exit the program, your work will be automatically saved. If you cannot finish before the batch expires, your work will be kept with the batch and sent to the next indexer.


Q. What should I do with an index?

A. Because of the unique nature of this project, index all indexes.


Q. I have one long letter that covers three images. There is a date, place, and name on the first page and a signature on the last page, but the middle page has no names on it. Each page of the letter is one image. How do I index this?

A. Index the date, place, and name on the first image. Mark the middle image as No Extractable Data. Index the signature on the last image.

Q. What do I do if the first letter in my batch is only a partial letter?

A. Index any information for which there is a field from the partial letter on your image.


Q. I am in a batch where I see a reversed image, and I go to the previous image and it's reversed as well. What do I do with it?


A. Zoom out to about 25 percent so you can see the entire image. You should be able to see, on the right side of the image, a letter that is not reversed. The paper in this book is very thin, and so the reversed image is the bleed-through of the letter on the previous image. Ignore the reversed image, and index the page on the right.


Q. What instructions do I follow if the image I am indexing is not a letter?

A. The main goal of this project is to index every name on every image. Regardless of the record type, please record and follow the instructions as if it were a letter. With any document that you receive in your batch, do your best to index the first date on the page, and then proceed to index every name that you encounter. If you are not sure of the order to index the names in, refer to that question, and answer near the top of this page. Here are a couple of examples of other record types that you might see:






Extra time spent in Record Matching in this project will be essential to successfully arbitrating these batches. You will want to go to each individual image while you are in Record Matching to be sure that both indexers caught all the names on the image and to arrange them in the right order. (For additional instructions on how to do Record Matching, view the document titled How to use the Matching Records tab in arbitration.)

If you get partially into arbitrating the batch and find that both indexers missed a name, you do not need to go back to Record Matching to add the line (that will remove all the arbitration you've done to that point). You can add a line to the image using the following steps:


  1. Click on Tools.

  2. Click on Records per Image.

  3. Select the number of lines you want to have on that image.

  4. Click OK.

If one indexer left some names out, use your best judgment to determine whether or not to send it back for reindexing. The guideline to follow when making this determination is to make sure that you are acting as an arbitrator and are not becoming the second indexer. For additional guidance, review the document titled When should I send a batch back to be reindexed?


Answer not found above? Try this:




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