The editors identified sixty-two roles for participants in a case, and only those individuals in the record are identified as participants. The various roles of participants in a case are defined in the Glossary. While the majority of participant roles are clear, in a complex case some litigants’ roles are not easily defined. For example, additional litigants that entered a case because of an injunction or a crossbill, could not be classified as a plaintiff or defendant in the original case. Editors identified such individuals as “additional pleading participants.” In cases involving businesses as litigants, the principals’ names, as well as the business name are identified as participants.
The editors identified those individuals central to litigation and the officers of the court as participants. All participants in cases and nonlitigation activities are further grouped under one of six major role headings: party to legal action, court official, attorney, nonlitigation participant, witness, and other. Within each major category are the specific roles:
Because of the Lincoln-centered nature of the database, editors have reserved some roles for Lincoln and his partners exclusively. These are clearly identified as “Lincoln and Partners Only.” They include many nonlitigation roles that are described in a later section. However, some roles within litigation are also reserved for Lincoln and Partners Only. For example, editors identified only Lincoln and his partners in the role of author or the signer of a petition for pardon. There are generally many signers to such petitions, and their role as signers of the document was captured in the database of names. However, editors have identified only Lincoln or a partner as signers of the petition for pardon, among case participants.
While the editors included only the names of participants that appear in the record, the record may also be misleading. For example, the clerks in the Sangamon County Circuit Court (and some other courts as well) routinely entered the attorneys in the judge's docket by the initials of the local partnerships. The clerk often entered L&H for Lincoln and Herndon, S&L for Stuart and Lincoln, and L&L for Logan and Lincoln. In some instances these clerk's notations are the only extant record of Lincoln's and his partners' participation in a case. Because it is impossible for the editors to know whether both partners in fact participated in the case, both partners are identified as participants based on the entry in the record. Even if case documents were seemingly written or filed by only one of the partners, if there was an entry in the record that named the partnership, the editors identified both partners as participants. Similarly, the office fee books kept by Stuart and Lincoln, and Lincoln and Herndon, do not make any distinctions as to whether both partners participated in a case. Therefore, the editors have identified both partners as participants on all the individual cases cited. (See Lincoln Case Definition for a description of the scope of the collection.)
All of the participants in all of the cases and nonlitigation activities produced a pool of approximately 38,000 names in the database. While these are discrete names, more than one individual may have the same name. Additionally, the editors have attempted to eliminate the duplication of individuals by various presentations of the same person’s name. However, it was impossible to eliminate all duplication. For example, T. L. Smith and Thomas L. Smith might be the same individual. Because spelling was very inconsistent in the record, the editors have also identified alternate spellings for some names. In determining the correct spelling of a name, the editors developed a hierarchy of options. The first option is the spelling in a signature. When there is no signature in the record, the second option is the spelling used by the attorney for his client’s name. The third option is the spelling used by the clerk. The asterisk (wild card feature) can be useful in searches for the different spelling of names. (See Using Wildcards in a Search) In some instances when only a surname was available, it was used alone. Although infrequent, editors used the same surname to indicate multiple participants for whom there is no further identification.
Although the editors could not research each of the 38,000 names in the pool, the sketches in the Biographies section of Reference provide basic information on some of the individuals that played a significant role in Lincoln’s legal career.