Glossary of Terms Commonly Found in Family Papers
In 2003, HSP undertook the Documentary Families Project, which focused on the access and preservation needs of some of the Society’s richest collections of family papers. This three-year effort enabled HSP to preserve and describe dozens of these important collections, which describe the founding and settlement of Pennsylvania, expansion into western counties and relations with Native Americans, and much more.
Project staff (Joanne Danifo, Katherine Gallup, Sarah Heim, and Leslie Hunt) created this glossary of terms related to collections of family papers. However, this guide may be helpful for anyone conducting research in manuscript collections from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries.
Types of Documents
Book containing autographs of famous or not-so-famous people, typically collected by an individual.
A manuscript or typed volume kept by an individual containing literary passages, quotations, recipes, poems, or passages from other sources that the individual thought worthy of recording. These tend to be highly eclectic, may or may not include commentary by the individual, and may or may not be on a common theme.
A manuscript or typescript kept on a more or less regular basis by an individual recording daily events, thoughts and opinions, the weather, or almost anything else.
There is no clear distinction between the terms diary and journal, though in general, diaries are considered to be more personal, while journals are considered to be more “objective” or impersonal. In practice, this has often intereacted with a strong gender bias, with women’s writings recorded as “diaries” and men’s as “journals.”
An exercise book is a distinctive form of material consisting of working out relatively standard sets of problems. May be qualified as mathematical exercise book; surveying exercise book, etc.
A bound volume containing retained copies of outgoing correspondence, copied by hand, by carbon copy, or by other means. More rarely, a bound volume containing incoming letters received by an individual.
A letterpress book is a volume in which the copies are made onto tissue paper by direct transfer of ink from the original by moisture.
A book containing recipes for food, medicines, paint, beauty products, or any number of other materials. May be qualified as medical receipt book, paint receipt book, etc.
Articles of incorporation
An agreement specifying the aims and conditions of individuals joining together in a joint enterprise.
A document, usually under seal, granting specific rights and setting forth the goals and principles of an incorporated body.
A legally-binding agreement by two or more parties to do (or not do) something.
Any of a variety of documents by which an individual or group of individuals conveys property, particularly real estate, to another. Deeds may be signed by both (or all) parties, but are fundamentally an agreement by one individual to convey property, as opposed to a contract, which requires action on both (or all) parts.
Recorded testimony given in a legal suit or trial.
An individual named in a will, then appointed by a court to settle the estate of the deceased.
Inventory of the effects of an individual taken after death for tax purposes or bequest.
1. any deed, contract, or sealed agreement between two or more parties.
2. (formerly) a deed drawn up in duplicate, each part having correspondingly indented edges for identification and security.
Power of attorney
A legal document authorizing an individual to act on another’s behalf in a legal matter.
A declaration of an individual’s wishes as to the disposition of his/her property, to take effect after death.