This compilation was originally produced in Wordstar in the summer of 1986. The documents from most collections are arranged in the notes in chronological order, except for the House of Spirituality Records, which are largely arranged in the order they are found in, which chronological order by meeting of the House of Spirituality. As a result some letters and documents may be as much as three months out of chronological order, although generally they are within a month or so of where they should be. (Items three months out of order were received by the House of Spirituality three months after they were dated, either because of slow mail, or because they went through multiple drafts but retained the dating of their first draft.)
The files have been set up to make electronic searches using key words as efficient as possible. Occasionally I have even added a key word in square brackets to ensure that the text will be found. However, it is often wise to make multiple searches based on several key words in order to ensure that one has found everything that relates to a particular subject. For example:
Sometimes the names of states have been typed out; sometimes them have been given in the abbreviations standard to editors (e.g., Oreg, Mass., Wash., Col., Cal., Mich.); and sometimes they have been given their post office abbreviations (OR, WA, MA, CO, CA, MI). Those doing electronic searches would be advised to search for both "Oreg" (which would catch "Oregon" and "Oreg.") and "OR." It would also be a good idea to search for the names of major cities that might have had communities, and it may be worth your time to search the names of particular small towns in which you are interested. Bahá'ís were scattered among a remarkable number of small towns by 1912. Some cities have had their names abbreviated: "Los Ang." and "San Fran.," and searches for those cities should be made with that fact in mind. Indeed, "Los" and "San" would be adequate key words to find all references to the two, with only occasional discoveries related to "San Diego" to mar your progress. Washington, D.C. has always been abbreviated "Wash. D.C." and the state has never been abbreviated "Wash.," to make it easy to distinguish between the two.`Abdu'l-Bahá has been frequently abbreviated "`AB" (note, the "B" is capitalized). Bahá'u'lláh has often been abbreviated "BH." Accents common on Bahá'í words have never been included, except where transliteration was deemed essential; for example, when I entered into the file any notes that I actually took in Persian. Chase's title, "thábit" and the names of Persian consultative bodies (which were in Persian) are the two cases where transliteration has been used. Also, if a name occurs in a quote with an accent, it has been retained
For those searching for particular topics, searches on related key words would be advisable. These notes were set up with sociological and historical issues in mind, not theological ones; hence they may not be very good for the latter. Anyone wishing to study American Bahá'í women would be advised to search under "woman," "women," "ladies," and the same words with an initial capital letter. To avoid the problem of capital letters, search for the rest of the word (i.e., "oman" for both "Woman" and "woman.") The Bahai Publishing Society is always written out, but a search for "Publ" should find it uniquely. The Bahai Temple Unity is usually written out, or abbreviated BTU; whenever the term occurs, however, the initials "BTU" have been added, if necessary in square brackets. I have often added key words in square brackets to a record simply to guarantee that the entry will be found in an electronic search for the key word.
Searches for information on obscure persons should be done using alternative spellings of the last name, especially if the last name is rare; I can not guarantee I spelled everyone's name right. I have always abbreviated Isabella Brittingham as "Br-ham" but I have spelled out the last name for her husband, James. First names are frequently abbreviated to the first initial only; thus Thornton Chase is "T. Chase" or simply "Chase" throughout. Ameen Fareed, if abbreviated, has been shortened to Fareed; I have added the word "Sohrab" in brackets to entries that refer to him as Mirza Ahmad Esphahani.
A consistent possible misspelling, and one which my spell-checking program does not catch, is when I hold the capitalization key down too long and the second letter of the word gets capitalized as well. I have caught most of these, but there are undoubtedly a few lurking in the file and they will throw off most electronic search routines. This happened mostly when the first two letters of a word were near each other on the keyboard: IOas, POrtland. Inevitably, spell checking programs will not catch a misspelling that is a word itself: "Chase" might be spelled "Case, '"if" can become "of." If you spot any of these, please let me know. Corrections and additions of any nature would be welcomed.