In order to hew as closely as possible to the original document, abbreviations are generally left unexpanded. For example, from “Weed.g Gang,” it is fairly easy to ascertain that “Weed.g” is an abbreviation for “Weeding.” However, abbreviations that are not clear are spelled out in brackets immediately following the abbreviation. Example: Indef.t [likely Indifferent]
In the instance of a superscripted abbreviation, the abbreviation is rendered with a period. Example: Gs Maria = G.s Maria.
In general, every effort has been made to follow the text of the original document where possible. This includes capitalizations that do not follow modern style, and vice versa. This frequently comes into play in the Occupation and Condition columns. For example: “Grass Gang” or “a Sore leg”
In order to facilitate database searches that do not adhere to the order of the original document, instances of a “Ditto” on the original document have been replaced in the corresponding cell with the thing copied. Example: If, in the Occupation column, Quaco is listed as a “Field Worker” and, directly beneath Quaco’s entry, Quamin’s Occupation is listed as “Ditto,” then Quamin’s occupation is listed as “Field Worker,” not “Ditto.”
When the thing copied is an overarching description, the original has been followed as closely as possible while still maintaining clarity of meaning. If the meaning is not readily discernible, a brief explanation is offered. For example, see Hope 1788: On lines 22 to 107, in the Age column, the age range 20-25 is given; this age range is fairly self-explanatory and so can be listed as is. On lines 22 to 55, however, only one condition, “mostly able” is given. Because “mostly able” on its own would be open to interpretation — the question of whether the individual is mostly able, or the overarching heading is “mostly able” — an explanation is given, in this case, the condition column reads “listed under the heading ‘mostly able’.”
Guesses regarding the interpretation and transcription of the manuscripts are indicated with brackets and questions marks; the question mark always precedes the guess except in the Standardized Name column, where it follows.
To indicate a guess regarding a letter or letters within a word or name, only the letter or letters in question are bracketed. For example: [?Je]mmy
In instances when additional information is added to a column, the entries are separated by commas. For example: In the Occupation column, Peter is listed under the general heading “Watch.” However, Peter’s entry in the ledger also notes that he is a watch “at the swamp.” The entry in the Occupation column, therefore, is “Watch, at the swamp”.
An enslaved individual’s name is always recorded as written, but where there are variants a standardized version is also given.
There is no separate entry for gender in the MSS. An individual’s gender has usually been assigned using some or all of the following criteria: the heading of the group in which s/he appears (e.g. ‘Field Negroes, Men’, ‘Girls’, etc); the customary order of listing, which goes from adult workers to the old, infirm or young, and from male to female; and his/ her name, since most names are gender-specific.
Ages are noted in the Age column only when an actual number is given. Otherwise, general ages are recorded in either the Condition or Notes column, according to the following models:
- “a boy, a girl, a child” = Note
- “Old, superannuated” = Condition
- “Young” = Condition
- “middle aged” = Condition
If information regarding age that would be considered a note is included in the Occupation, then the information is not repeated in the Notes column. For example: under Occupation, Jack Straw is listed as a “Doctors boy.” Jack Straw’s status as a boy is included in the Occupation, and so “Boy” would not be included in the Notes column.
There are two categories indicating provenance, both derived from inventories. A few inventories classify slaves as African or creole, based on the place of their birth. Others, under the heading Nation, indicate slaves’ ethnicity as it was understood at the time.
The Notes column has been used for information from the MS that does not fit elsewhere.