Entry  About  Search  Log In  help (searching)


Clicking on Search produces a search form for the current publication, or the entire collection if Founders is selected. In this form, “Text” is used to enter one or more space-separated search terms. The “Names” section allows one to look for various combinations of author and recipient. Searches can be restricted to particular dates with the “Date Range” selectors, while the “Order by” selector controls the ordering of results. Each search must specify at least one phrase, author, or recipient.

Full-Text Search


“Scope” limits searches to documents only, notes only, or both combined. “All” is the default.


“All” is the default, but “French only” and “English only” are options that provide a language-aware search, restricting matches to documents of a specified language. For example, in Jefferson, a search on the French-English cognate abandon retrieves 7 French-language documents if “French only” is chosen, compared with hundreds of English-language documents if “All” or “English only” is selected. For any language other than French and English, please use the “exact form” switch; as stemming is supported only for French and English, you may need to use wildcards to broaden your search terms.

Exact form

By default the search broadens terms using word stemming, ignoring diacritics, among other things, to match on as many documents of interest as possible; however, you may wish to change this behavior to match on documents which contain text exactly as you enter it, effectively disabling word stemming, and making the search case sensitive, diacritic sensitive, punctuation sensitive, whitespace sensitive, and “unwildcarded”. For example, a search for Orduña normally returns documents containing “Orduña” and “Orduna” (as it was sometimes written), but with the “exact form” switch, the search will only match on “Orduña.” In another example, searching for tyranny using word stemming would expand to documents containing “Tyranny,” “tyrannies,” “tyrannical,” as well as other forms, but not if “exact form” were selected.


Searches are case-insensitive when you use lowercase letters. For example, if you search on chambers you will retrieve documents with rooms and chambers and David Chambers. Searches containing capital letters are case-sensitive: searching on Chambers will retrieve David Chambers but not rooms and chambers.

Automatic “and” queries

It isn’t necessary to specify and between terms, as the search returns a result only if it contains all of your terms. You can refine your results further by supplying more terms. For example, to research the punishment of deserters, try searching for guilty desertion to return documents containing both of those words.

Phrase searches

To restrict a search to an exact phrase, enclose the search term in quotation marks. For instance, “guilty of desertion” would retrieve only documents with that precise formula.


The search engine automatically expands nouns and verbs to match any form that derives from the word stem by a change in number, tense, or conjugation. For instance, goose will also match geese; fight will also match fights, fought, and fighting. Stemming is also supported for French-language documents: a search on permettre will find permet, permettez, etc.; a search on œil or oeil will match yeux.


Search terms may incorporate wildcards: an asterisk (*) matches zero or more non-space characters. A question mark (?) matches exactly one non-space character. For example, battle* matches battlefield. A wildcard search can be used to find matches that stemming will miss. For example, rebel* matches rebellion and rebellious but rebel does not.

Additional Search Paths

Automatic Completion of Names

Full-text searches can be narrowed to documents authored or received by a particular person. When you begin typing in a Name field and then pause, a drop-down box will appear beneath it with a regularized list of all names that start with the letters you have typed. For instance, typing “T” will display a list of all persons whose family name begins with “T” and typing “Taylor” will populate the list with people whose last name is Taylor. To browse a complete list of names, type “*” in a Name field. Names in the drop-down list can be selected using either the mouse or keyboard. Below a Name field is a selector to specify whether the person is an author or recipient of the document, or either. While searching Founders, the list will contain regularized names of all figures in the entire collection, otherwise the list is populated with names from the current publication only. In addition to constraining a text search, conducting a double Name search by itself permits viewing of what is essentially a conversation between those figures. For example, in a Founders search, entering “Washington, George” in Name 1, “Jefferson, Thomas” in Name 2, and choosing “Date, Forward” as the result order will display results containing a chronologically ordered exchange between them.

Date Range

The search form includes date range controls to allow a search for documents written on a particular date or within a range of dates. Dates can be entered manually (in the format YYYY-MM-DD) or selected using the calendar control that appears when you click on the input field or the button next to it. To specify a single day, enter its date in both the start and end date fields. (The calendar controls are coordinated to make this more convenient.) The date range fields can be used by themselves or combined with a query to refine a full-text search. In general, the narrower the date range of a search, the fewer the number of results returned. When searching Founders, the default date range spans documents from the entire collection, otherwise the default dates reflect the current publication.


When Founders is selected, a search can be restricted to select publications within the entire collection using a multi-select list box. The behavior of this form control varies depending on your computing platform: on Windows, select multiple items by pressing and holding the Ctrl key while you select items (You can select a consecutive group of items by pressing and holding the Shift key.); on Mac OS, select multiple items by pressing and holding the Apple (command) key while you select items.


Certain publications include additional search paths. For example, the Washington search form contains a section that allows results to be constrained by series, repository, and manuscript type.

Sorting Results

The default ordering of results is “Relevance,” which is calculated based on statistical information such as number of documents in a collection, frequency of search terms in a collection, and frequency of search terms in a document. Other options include chronological ordering (“Date, Forward”) and reverse-chronological ordering (“Date, Backward”).