Dating Documents

Some documents contain a variety of dates, and some have no date. The editors identified the document date as the latest date that appeared on the document, exclusive of endorsements and the file date. The file date is the date the document was filed, generally a clerk’s notation indicated the file date. If no date or only a partial date appeared in the document, the editors assigned a date from the context of the case. These assigned or conjectural dates always appear in brackets [ ]. If they could derive no date from context, the editors assigned the month and year in which the court rendered its final judgment. These assigned judgment dates always appear in brackets [ ]. The court clerks dated many documents, especially docket entries, with only the general date of the term of the court. For example, the March 1855 term of a particular court might actually have extended into April. However, only the March 1855 term date appeared on the page headings because the clerk made out the docket in advance. The editors reflected this general dating of some documents by the use of a “T” to represent a term date, as in 03/0T/55 for the March 1855 term.

Many entries on a docket page are separated by a date change when the court adjourned and then reconvened the next business day. When multiple docket entries for a particular case are separated on the page by a date change, the editors accessioned multiple images because each entry had a different date. In some instances, multiple entries for the same case are on the same page and there is no date change. In that event, the editors accessioned only one image of the page. Users should check each docket page image for multiple entries.

The editors were unable to provide dates for a small number of documents. These documents are either nonlitigation with no context, or a case document with one or more unknown litigants, or an unknown court. In these instances, the editors have left the date blank.