How to Use this Site


Photograph portrait of Thomas Garrett, from A History of the Underground Railroad by Wilbur H. Siebert. (Digital Library)

This guide to the digital project "Family Ties on the Underground Railroad" will explain how to navigate this web site, how to interpret the different font styles in the document transcriptions, and how to search for different kinds of content.


Documents can be accessed by clicking on "Documents" in the top menu bar and then browsing through the full list of documents, which are arranged in chronological order. From this list, users can also search for a keyword, name, organization, or date range. Users can also filter this list of documents by genre or an interpretive tag.

Each primary source document includes a facsimile of the original alongside a transcription of the text. If a document consists of more than one page, clicking on the arrow in the upper right of the document box, above the transcription text, will navigate to the next page. Clicking on the document facsimile opens up a viewer that allows users to zoom in further on the image and intersperses images with transcription.

In the transcription, we have used a few methods of displaying added, deleted, and otherwise missing text.

Added text is rendered in green.

Deleted text is rendered using strikethrough.
Ex: Word

Text that cannot be transcribed with certainty has been encoded as unclear. It is rendered as italicized text appended by a question mark and enclosed within square brackets.
Ex: [word?]

Text that we know was part of the original document but which is missing or illegible has been encoded as supplied. Supplied text is rendered in italics, enclosed within square brackets.
Ex: [word]

For more detail about our encoding standards, please see our Editorial Method page.

People and organizations

screenshot of list of people mentioned in the William Still project

People and organizations, like documents, can be accessed through lists or searching. Lists of people and organizations are organized alphabetically, and in the case of people, alphabetically by surname.

screenshot of pop-up window of Frank Wanzer biographical information

People and organizations can also be accessed through documents. The first mention of every person and organization in a document is a link that will display a pop-up window containing information about that entity and a link to a full biography. The full organization or person biography will include a list of all documents related to that entity.


screenshot of relationship map for Emaline Chapman

Information about people can also be accessed from a relationship or social network map, accessible from the main menu bar at the top of the screen. Users can explore the social network map by clicking on the names of individuals and viewing their primary and secondary relationships. Individuals are color-coded based on their roles in the narratives from William Still's "Journal C" and The Underground Rail Road. When clicked on, an individual becomes the new focus of a network map. Users can return to viewing the previous, larger map by clicking anywhere outside the individual's network. While the main map lets users explore all of the relationships encoded in this prototype project, individuals' pages display only the relationships of that individual.


screenshot of events map and timeline for Alexandria, Virginia

Events are displayed on a geographic map that shows all events when accessed from the main menu bar. This geographic map also appears on the pages of individual people, where it displays only events related to that individual, along with a timeline showing the chronology of those events.


Users can search the entire exhibit by using the search box at the top of the screen. They can also limit their searches to only people, organizations, or documents by using the search box to the right of the people, organization, and document lists on their respective pages.

The minimum number of characters in a search term is four. Searching for keywords with fewer than four characters (i.e., "Sue" or "Ed") will return zero results.  People searches can be done "firstname lastname" or "lastname firstname." Do not include punctuation in your searches.

Please note that search results are ranked by how many times a keyword appears in a biography or document. The first result in a people search for William Still, for example, may not be his biography, but rather the biography that mentions his name the most.