Editorial Methodology


A major goal of the Indian Papers Project at Yale University is to create a vibrant, dynamic resource of immediate and continuing relevance to researchers, Native American tribal members, educators, students, and members of the public.  The resulting digital resource and web site will provide visual and intellectual access to significant historical knowledge for the purposes of teaching at secondary and post-secondary educational levels, for scholarly research, and for lifelong learning.

Materials to be included in The Native Northeast Portal will be compiled and edited according to rigorous scholarly, archival, and technical specifications, standards, and best practices.

Selection Principles

Editors will be selective in the repositories and collections represented in The Native Northeast Portal web application, but comprehensive with respect to including all Indian materials of a selected collection that meet the following criteria.   “Indian materials” means documents written about, for, or by Native inhabitants of the American Northeast and descendants, whether living in tribal relations or not.  This definition encompasses those Indigenous people living on reservations, in white settlement areas, or in non-reservation Native enclaves, and will extend to those Indian individuals who married into African- or Euro-American families.  As a consequence, the web application will include a wide variety of documentary evidence types, such as letters, memorials, reports, treaties, petitions, legislation, land records, newspaper clippings, photographs, and maps.  Lastly, the collection policy prioritizes (a) documents containing historical or cultural significance as determined by tribal representatives, (b) those that are fairly representative of what exists at a particular institution, and (c) rare or fragile items that may be otherwise inaccessible to the average patron at that institution

Transcription Formats and Principles


.Surveys of potential users during preliminary investigations revealed significant differences in preference for how the materials could be presented and organized.  Some scholars and Native American tribal elders prefer to read transcribed texts as they appear in original form, without textual editing or any change in relative text position.  To satisfy that requirement, the editors will offer a typographical facsimile transcription (Scholars’ Transcription) in which each line of a manuscript is faithfully preserved, with original spellings, contractions, and cross-outs intact.  Other researchers, as well as some educators, students, and members of the public, prefer a text that is modernized and easier to read.  To that end, the editors have attempted to preserve, whenever possible, the character and spirit of each manuscript document while at the same time adapting the writing into a text version (Annotated Transcription) that is intelligible to non-specialist modern readers. 

Since the Project’s goal is to provide critically edited and reliable texts, documents are transcribed according to the following principles.

  • Scholars’ Transcriptions

In creating Scholars’ Transcriptions, the aim is to reproduce, to the extent possible, an author’s original piece of work without corrections of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation.  Thus all proper names are left unchanged in the text of a document.  Abbreviations and contractions are not expanded.  Factual errors and slips of the pen will stand. 

Editors attempt to approximate the original format of a document.  Line and page breaks are preserved, as well as page numbering, even when subsequent docketing or cataloguing numbering or information that has been added to the document.  Blank spaces within a line of text are represented with a blank space in the transcription.  Text written in the margins appears in the margins of the transcription.  Text written sideways is displayed sideways and, when possible, text that is inverted is displayed inverted. An exception to this is when said text is the only text on the page.  In this case, the text is adjusted and presented as if its position were not rotated.

In order to indicate a transition from one side of the paper to another the convention [verso: is used.  When the verso contains no text of any kind editors indicate this with [verso: blank.  When a document continues beyond the verso onto an additional and separate page the term [folio 2: is employed.  In some instances, the verso of a document is not available because it has been used to draft a separate document or has been pasted down into a volume.

When recognizable, the long “s” is retained, (as displaying “diviſion” for “division”).  Original revisions in the manuscript are displayed as superscripted or crossed-out text, or both, as the situation requires.  If the words crossed-out are legible, editors insert them using a strike-through font where appropriate. If the crossed out text is completely illegible or seems to be comprised of incomplete characters then the convention [ crossout ] is used.  A similar method is employed for words that are erased.  If an erasure is legible, it will be noted within labeled brackets [ erasure: ].  For example, if in the passage “the land is currently not for sale,” the word “not” had been erased yet is still readable, the transcription would read: “the land is [ erasure: not ] currently for sale.”   

Occasionally a document displays an author’s marginalia.  Those that can be captured by typographic means, such as numbers, calculations, and words or names, are transcribed; so too are writings and cataloguing or docketing marks on the paper made by those other than the author. Marginalia that cannot be captured with transcription is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Physical conditions of the text or the manuscript paper that inhibit legibility are italicized and bracketed, as in [ torn ], [ worn ], [ hole ], or [ blot ].  Indecipherable passages, however, are treated with brackets and the term illegible as in [ illegible ] is applied.  When only part of a word is recognized, the undecipherable part is placed within brackets, as in “Wecquaes[ illegible ]k” for the place name “Wecquaesgeek.”  If the entire word is undecipherable, it is enclosed in brackets, as in “trespassed upon [ llegible ] land” Conditions of the text or manuscript paper that inhibit legibility are more fully  remarked upon within the document’s metadata on the Document Details page.

When editors have chosen to transcribe only an excerpt from a larger manuscript, the editorial omissions are indicated by ellipses and noted both in the document detail summary and in the title of the document.  Excerpts from journals, diaries and account books, for example, are rendered in this fashion. 

Among the materials in The Native Northeast Portal are printed documents with handwritten additions, as in land deed forms and legal notices.  These printed forms are accommodated by presenting the handwritten text in italics in order to distinguish script from those words printed in small caps.

  • Draft Scholars’ Transcriptions

The editorial staff will, on occasion, make draft versions of transcriptions available for scholarly use.  Researchers are cautioned that these drafts, clearly marked at the start of the transcription, are preliminary and unedited for errors.

  • Annotated Transcriptions

Materials in the Annotated Transcription format require a different editorial approach.  In creating Annotated Transcriptions, the editors’ aim is to produce a more accessible, modernized and regularized text without overly disturbing the flavor and quality of the original.  As a consequence, they use an expanded transcription style with the following standards. 

Dates and Numbers

Any errors in the caption date of a particular document have been corrected.  In order to allow for accurate electronic searches, the editors have also standardized all “Old Style” calendar dates before September 14, 1752 where the start of the modern year (January 1) differed from the start of the civil or legal year (March 25). 

In those instances when the original manuscript employs a dual-date for this roughly three-month overlap, the editors retain this usage.  For example, a document bearing the date February 3, 1675/6 is left as is.  When a date is identified as “Old Style” or “O.S.” on its face, it is converted to the dual date convention.  Thus, “February 3, 1675, old style” would translate to “February 3, 1675/6.”  When the writer’s intent is unclear and the year is ambiguous—that is without the designation “old/new style” or the dual dating convention—contextual clues and editorial judgment are used to determine the proper designation.


Editors correct all punctuation and insert missing marks according to modern conventions.  A period is placed at the end of all sentences.  When the exact nature of a mark is uncertain or unclear, modern usage is the default.  When editors have chosen to transcribe only an excerpt from a larger manuscript, the editorial omissions are indicated by ellipses and noted both in the document detail summary and in the title of the document.  Excerpts from journals, diaries and account books, for example, are rendered in this fashion.  Particularly lengthy journals with non-sequential entries may be segmented into individual documents, as well as retained in their singular form, allowing for more accurate chronological based searching.  The same holds true for proceedings, legal documents and correspondence that contain minutes or proceedings of multiple meetings, or individual letters or enclosures.  While the integrity of the original document is maintained additional records may be created to incorporate this material and facilitate accurate searching.  In proceedings, headings will persist, left justified, with each separated document and the associated text will be indented.

Spelling and Capitalization

Misspelling of words and proper nouns are corrected according to modern usage, using standard printed reference works for the proper rendition of names and places.  Long “s” or “ſ” is converted to “s.”  All first words of a sentence are capitalized as well as all proper nouns, days of the week, and months of the year.  The following titles represent some of the core works from which corrections and regularization will be made:

Barbara Brown and James Rose, Black Roots in Southeastern Connecticut, 1650-1900   (Detroit,1980).

William De Loss Love, Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England (Boston,1899).

Arthur J. Hughes and Morse S. Allen, Connecticut Place Names (Hartford, 1976).

Dictionary of American Biography Onlinehttp://www.anb.org/articles/home.html.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Onlinehttp://www.oxforddnb.com/.

Oxford English Dictionary Onlinehttp://www.oed.com/.

Jesse A. Parsons, Connecticut Archives: Indians, Second Series, 1666-1920 (Hartford, 1944). 

Effie M. Prickett,  Index to the Connecticut Archives: Indians, 1674-1789 (Hartford, 1922).

Abbreviations and Contractions

The editors adjust all orthography where appropriate by lowering superscript letters and expanding abbreviations and contractions not easily recognizable to modern readers (e.g., Matie to Majesty but not Mr. to Mister), or bringing down to the line raised text into the appropriate place in the author’s work (e.g., “the ^seven wigwams on the ^left bank of the river to “the seven wigwams on the left bank of the river).  Deleted words or phrases are left out of the Annotated Transcription but, if deemed significant, are discussed in a footnote.  Cases in which personal titles that would otherwise be abbreviated are spelled out in the original (e.g., Mister instead of Mr. or Senior instead of Sr.) will be silently contracted by editors.  In general, all military and religious titles are expanded.

When abbreviations are used for the first name or both first and last name and the individual has been identified by editorial staff, those abbreviations will be expanded ( J.F. expanded to Joseph Fish or Samll expanded to Samuel).

Ampersands are expanded to “and,” unless it is part of the official name of a business or product. The editors convert the terms “&c.” and “&ca.” into “etc.” and the words “ye,” ym,” “yt” as “the,” “them,” and “that.” Marks indicating duplication are replaced by “ditto” or the words they represent, depending on the context.

Legal Terminology and Latin Phrases

Editors translate into English and/or expand Latin phrases and nomenclature typical of legal documents.  Thus, for example Justis Pacis becomes Justice of the PeaceCuriam becomes by the Court and the abbreviation Ss. would be expanded to in the jurisdiction of.  Exceptions to this convention include commonly used abbreviations such as AD (anno Domini), a.m. or AM (ante meridiem) and p.m. or PM (post meridiem).  In fact, in Annotated Transcriptions, commonly used abbreviations, such as those listed above are contracted.  Other Latin words or phrases incorporated into the text of a document will be explained by way of a footnote. 

Forms and Printed Material

Among the materials in The Native Northeast Portal are printed documents with handwritten additions, as in land deed forms and legal notices.  Unlike Scholar’s Transcriptions, Annotated Transcriptions of these texts will be regularized with no distinction between type set and script.

Indecipherable Passages

While the editorial staff tries in every case to resolve puzzling passages, sometimes the handwriting of a particular person can be problematic.  Equally challenging are instances where the physical condition of an item results in missing, illegible, or mutilated letters, words, and digits. In some instances, the text can be determined by its context.  In such cases, the proper words are supplied silently.  In instances in which the context allows for some uncertainty regarding a supplied word or letter, editors enclose the supplied portion in square brackets.  Physical conditions of the text or the manuscript paper that inhibit legibility are italicized and bracketed, as in [ torn ], [ hole ], or [ blot ].  A blank left intentionally by the author is left in the text but mentioned in a footnote.

Censorship & Language Use

Readers should be aware that transcriptions of the documents are not censored for rude or improper language, nor for political, religious, or racial sentiment.  Offensive words and phrases are neither highlighted nor specially marked.  Instead, editors let the actual words of the original document reflect the era in which they were written.  However, the editorial staff is sensitive to terms that may be considered culturally offensive in the 21st century and will not replicate them in titles, annotations or commentary.

Marginalia and Notations

An author’s marginalia is printed after the full text of the document, indented and introduced by the caption Marginalia

All textual materials not written or presumed to be not written by the author, no matter where they are in the original document, are printed after the document, indented and introduced by the caption, Notation

Salutations, Closings, Addresses, Endorsements, Notations, and Postscripts

With respect to correspondence, the placement of salutations and closings is standardized to printing them flush left at the start and at the end of a letter.  All other textual materials such as addresses, endorsements (written comments supplied by the recipient of a letter), letter notations (written comments supplied by those other than the recipient) and postscripts, no matter where they are in the original document, are printed after the letter, indented and introduced by the category title in italics.

Signatures and Document Attribution

A wide range of attribution and signature types are represented in the documents.  While it is difficult to capture all the variations, some of the more common examples can be addressed within this methodology.  In instances in which a signatory has made his or her mark adjacent to their written name, the mark itself will not be replicated in the annotated transcription.  If the mark is accompanied by text such as “his mark” or “her mark”, that qualifying text will remain as an indicator of a signatory’s mark. In those cases in which there is only the mark and no qualifying text referencing the mark, editors will insert, in italic text, the word mark after the written name of the signatory.

Docketing and Cataloguing Information

Although all docketing and cataloguing notations in our Scholars’ Transcriptions are retained, this information is not printed in the exact place in the annotated version but rather documented at the end of the manuscript in a form similar to Notations (see above).

A list and brief description of these textual categories are as follows:

Attestation:   A statement affirming the correctness of a document’s contents or the existence of a document.  With respect to official governmental records, attestation is usually noted by the agency’s clerk or agent.

Witness:   Person or persons who validate or see a particular event, or are witnesses of record for a particular document (i.e., will, deed, testimony).

Certification:   A statement affirming the legal status of a document or of a legal procedure contained within the document or by the document’s existence.

Interpreter:   A statement indicating the presence of an interpreter or of the text having been translated into a language other than English.

Post script:   Additional material written after the close of correspondence or at a later date, sometimes as an afterthought or a continuation of the letter.  In most cases the author of the postscript is the same as the author of the correspondence.  Usually noted with the term “P.S.” (Cf. NotationEnclosure.)

Address:   Person and place (e.g., Stonington) or specific location (Mr. Smith’s Tavern, or 39 Main St.) of the addressee, not the sender.

Return Address:  Name and address of the sender.

Postage:  Information from the postage mark stamped by the post office.  This could include date, place, and time mailed.

Endorsement:   Written notes, acceptance dates, comments written by the addressee or recipient of the item on to the original document.  (Cf. Notation, Post script

Notation:   Written notes or comments written on to the original document that were not written by the author or the recipient.   (Cf. Endorsement, Post script)

Enclosure:   Letters, etc. that are attached to the original document or document packet.

Diagram:   Sketches, text from illustrations

Map locations:   Geographic place names or information on maps

Legislative Action:   Specific notation or comments from the legislative bodies, e.g., Upper House (Senate)/Lower House (House of Reps), often a recording of its official actions.

Recording:   Used mostly for deeds or, in some instances, probate.  May be a different date from actual creation date of item.

Copy:   Notice of item having been copied, including date if given.

Docketing:   Numbering or information written on court documents that are made by someone other than the creator or addressee of an item.  Relates to some part of the legal process, i.e., the docket number or ID tag for a certain session of the superior court.

Cataloguing:   Numbering or information created by the institution’s archivist or librarian.  Most often the numbers involved within a certain specified collection.

Marginalia:   Writing on a document’s borders that serves a function, i.e., a gloss or summary of a text.

Miscellaneous:   Miscellaneous writing, decipherable scribbling, etc., often serving no utilitarian function.

Editorial note:   Editor’s comments helping to describe idiosyncrasies or anything else not covered with the above categories.  Also used with comments helping to link a chain of enclosures to one another.

Descriptive Symbols for Material

Documents are labeled with the appropriate descriptive manuscript symbol.

AD                   Autograph Document

ADS                 Autograph Document Signed

ADft                 Autograph Draft

AL                    Autograph Letter

ALS                  Autograph Letter Signed

D                     Document

DS                   Document Signed

DftS                 Draft Signed

L                      Letter

LS                    Letter Signed

MS/MSS           Manuscript, Manuscripts



Printed             (Newspaper articles, books, e.g.)

Printed Form   (Deeds, enlistment forms, e.g.)

Photo              Photograph


General Policy

Annotations offer students, educators, researchers, Native American tribal members, and the general public useful information within a well-researched and balanced context that is necessary to understand the complexities of the historical record.  While the digital images provide visual access to documents,  it is the annotations and the texts taken together that allows a much broader intellectual access and insight into to significant historical knowledge about Native Northeast peoples and communities.

Indian Papers Project annotations are written for laypeople as well as for scholars and subject specialists.  Editors follow the advice offered in Michael E. Stevens and Steven B. Burg’s Editing Historical Documents: A Handbook of Practice (Walnut Creek, CA, 1997), 162 regarding the scope of annotation:

Contextual notes include any type of editorially supplied information that helps readers more fully understand and appreciate the content of a document.  Contextual notes generally amplify or clarify the information in a document by providing historical background, biographical data, fuller descriptions of mentioned events, clarification of ambiguous passages or words, unstated outcomes, correction of erroneous information in the text, or other information about people and events that could not be found by reading the documents alone. 

Biographical/Geographical Database

Short biographies of authors, addressees, and all persons named within a document are available to researchers by way of hyperlinks embedded in the transcription.  The selection of a name or location creates a link to a biographical or geographical data set contained in an external relational database.  In addition to the aforementioned biography, there is information displayed about a person’s alternate names, titles, and nationality.  Also listed in the entry are the documents in which the individual is named, listed chronologically, and links to visual items such as portraits, prints, or photographs.  In a similar way, geographical information is provided on all the locations, using colonial, Indian, and modern nomenclature, mentioned within a particular item, as well as latitude and longitude designations when known.  Both biographical and geographical links are keyed to the first instance of a person or place within a document.  The database is a work in progress and will be updated frequently. 

Document Encoding

A customized Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) mark up is used to store, analyze and share metadata associated with each document.  Information contained within the following elements may be displayed on the output page of each documentary item. 

TITLE:   A descriptive title for each document.

AUTHOR(S):   The author or authors of a particular text

RECIPIENT(S):   The recipient(s) or audience of a particular text. 

ASSOCIATED NAMES:   Other individuals that are mentioned within, witnessed, or attested to, recorded, copied, endorsed, etc., the text.

PLACE OF ORIGIN:   The originating location of a particular text.

ASSOCIATED LOCATIONS:   Other locations mentioned within the text.

DATE:   The date of a particular text, corrected for Old Style/New Style usage. 

ASSOCIATED DATES:   Other dates mentioned or referenced within the text.

ID:   A document’s ID is its year followed by a two-digit month code, a two-digit day code, and two subsequent digits for multiple copies.  Thus, an item having the date July 31, 1773 will have the ID record number 1773.07.31.00.  Another document of the same date would have the record number 1773.07.31.01, and so forth.  Documents from a known year and month but not a known date will have .00 as their day-markers (July 1773 as 1773.07.00.00).  Similarly, when the month is not known, the numerical value will also be .00, as in 1773 (1773.00.00.00).  Dates for documents without an expressed day, month, and year will be determined and assigned by context.  If no proper context exists, the document will be assigned with the numerical year and month value of 0000.00 followed by a unique sequential value.

SUBJECTS:   List of themes contained in document, drawn from custom classification authority table.

CUE:   The first line or parts of the first line of a text.

DOCUMENT TYPE:   Taken from the Descriptive Symbols for Material above.

HANDWRITING:   The name of the individual in whose hand the document is written

REPOSITORY:   Name of the holding institution of a particular item and the collection from which the item comes.

HISTORY:   Listing of previous owners or holding institutions.

PUBLISHED:   Notation if item was previously published.

NUMBER OF PAGES:   The number of pages of a particular item.

DESCRIPTION:   Short physical description of a particular item, including placement of text (recto, verso), condition of document (e.g., worn, with holes, torn).

SIZE:   Measurements (cm) of the item.

NOTES:   Left for miscellaneous purposes.

SUGGESTED CITATION:   Preferred method of citing the particular item.

Short Titles

For the sake of economy, the editors have retained the traditional letterpress edition’s convention of using short titles to represent works frequently cited.  A current list may be found on the Project’s main website page.


Images: Rights to all images belong to the holding institutions.  Associated with each image is information regarding copyright and use, as well as, a link to the holding institution copyright and permissions web page. 

Transcriptions: Copyright on all editorial transcriptions, annotations, reconstructions, decipherings, introductions, textual and explanatory notes, identifications of people, places, and dates, produced by the Yale Indian Papers Project, is held by Yale University.

Digital Imaging Standards

The Indian Papers Project’s digital imaging standards follow the best practices procedures established within the documentary editing community  (For example, The Association for Documentary Editing’s “Minimum Standards for Electronic Editions,” The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Archival Materials for Electronic Access, 2004) and those articulated by Yale University (http://www.yale.edu/digitalcoffee).  Except for cropping, all alterations of a particular image will be documented.  It is the intent of the photography to present the most exact likeness of the document given the limits of technology and control.

Camera, in-house:   Hasselblad H3Dii 39

Camera, travel:   Nikon D300

Lights, in-house:   300w HID

Lights, travel:   Uncontrolled

Benchmark Card:   Kodak Q13 derivative

DPI:   300

Pix Depth:   8 bit

Channel:   3CH

MR:   100% @ 300 DPI

Color Space:   Adobe RGB (1998)

Format:   Tiff, uncompressed

In instances when text exists on the verso of documents that have been pasted down into volumes,  rendering it inaccessible, editors will work with archivists and conservators to determine the most appropriate method to reveal the hidden text.  Often this requires the use of a fiber optic light sheet used to illuminate the backside of the documents.  In such cases use of the color benchmark card is omitted.  These images will be clearly marked as being backlit.

Fiber Optic Light Sheet:   Preservation Equipment Ltd. with 12 volt 50 watt dichroic reflector lamp. Sheet width:  1.8 mm

There may be instances in which an institution provides images to the Project for transcription.  In these cases Project editors will share digital imaging standards with the institution with the understanding that expertise and imaging capabilities differ from institution to institution and some deviations from the aforementioned standards may be possible.

Editors may also make use of and publish, temporarily, images that deviate from the above-mentioned imaging standards.  These images will be used in cases in which the inclusion of the image and transcription provide necessary context to an important theme or set of materials already published.  Such images will be marked as temporary.

Cameras used to generate these temporary images:      

Sony CD Mavica

Olympus SP500UZ

Statement of Professional Ethics

We follow the best professional and ethical practices for culturally responsive care and use of American Indian archival materials as articulated in the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials and the NEH’s Code of Ethics for Research Relating to Native Peoples.  As a consequence, a critical component of our professional and ethical standards is the communication with and involvement of Native communities in the editorial process, especially to share information and to review documents for culturally sensitive information and evaluate them for final publication.

Since we regard tribes as sovereign entities, our professional ethics policy is to ask that questions coming into our office about their history and culture also be directed to the communities themselves to get a more complete historical perspective.