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Using Records about Slavery in the Southern Historical Collection: Searching in Boxes and Folders

This tutorial is meant to orient and direct users to materials that document the history of slavery in the Southern Historical Collection in Wilson Special Collections Library.

Searching in Boxes and Folders: Identifying Documents & Materials

Once you've identified your collection(s), use the following tactics to locate specific boxes and folders to begin your search. Remember that not every single document in a folder will be includued in the finding aid. We're only given a collection summary. If you're conducting a topical search, you'll have to consider a variety of factors that might dictate which documents will yield the best information. For example, if you're researching enslaved men and women who ran away, your document list might include runaway slave notices, but it also might include correspondence or diaries in which the author writes about an enslaved person running away. Some collections also contain jailer's bills of enslaved people who were captured after attempting escape. Secondary source reading can help you to identify these documents. 

"Control F" or "Command F" Searching 

Using the keyboard command: "ctrl-f" or "command-f" is one of the most effective and fastest ways to locate information within our online finding aid description, especially for large collections with lengthy finding aids. You can use this for any term in addition to specific individual or place names. Results should appear on the page in yellow. Remember again that the finding aid will at best only suggest what could be found in a folder of documents.

Documents and Date Scoping

Terms and other relevant clues are not always included in the finding aid description. Being familiar with the types of records that will reveal information about enslaved people will help you to navigate more easily and quickly to useful information. See the Key Terms section for a list of terms and gallery images associated with slavery research. Additionally, you'll want to use dates and other clues gleaned from secondary source reading and other contextual sources to narrow your search.