Search FAQs

What am I searching for?
The search engine locates elections that fit your criteria. An election is a race in a place, for an office, at a particular point in time.

My search is running slow. What should I do?

  • The keyword search function is examining over 23,000 elections in full text. It may take a few moments to process.
  • Try to narrow your search to a specific state. Searches within states are much faster than searches across the entire dataset.
  • Avoid keyword searches when more specific fields can be used instead. Prefer to use the candidate field, year field, office field, or the like on the advanced search page; searches using these fields will run faster.
  • Use browsing instead, if appropriate. You can browse by year, by state, by office name, or by candidate name. If you are looking for records that are grouped together in any of these ways, head to the home page to browse.
  • If you are having significant problems obtaining search results, please contact Tufts University.

Can I use Boolean searching?
Yes. The operators use punctuation instead of words or do not require a colon. Among these operators are OR, "" (the quote operator), - (the minus operator), and + (the plus operator).


The quote operator enables you to contain a string of words together. Search engines look at each word as a separate search and will bring back anything that matches in the results. To prevent the search engine from doing that, you can use the quote operator. For example, if you wanted elections only for John Quincy Adams and not for his father, John Adams, as well, the search would look like this:

"John Quincy Adams"

Without the quotation marks, you would get all elections where there was someone named John or Quincy or Adams.


The plus operator makes a search more refined or exclusive. Say you wanted only the elections in which John Quincy Adams ran for the Senate and you did not want the elections in which he ran for any other office. Such a search would look like this:

"John Quincy Adams" + Senate


To find elections that include either of two search terms, add an uppercase OR between the terms.

For example, here's one way to search for a candidate named either John Smith or Jonathan Smith:

(John OR Jonathan) Smith


The minus operator allows you to enter negative search terms. If your search term has more than one meaning (bass, for example, could refer to fishing or music) you can focus your search by putting a minus sign ("-") in front of words related to the meaning you want to avoid.

bass -music

Capitalization: Are the searches case sensitive?
Keyword searches are NOT case sensitive. Thus Senator, senator, and SeNaTOr will all yield the same results.

How do I search for a range of years?
Next to the word year, use the first drop-down box to indicate the first year of your range and use the second drop-down box to indicate the last year of your range. Thus, if you are looking for elections held from 1812 to 1816, use

1812   1816
For just one year put the same year in both boxes
1820   1820
The years will automatically default to the time period of these data, 1787-1825

How can I search by the type of office?
Use the office drop-down box and select the office name. The drop-down box contains a controlled list of office names for all of the states. The states had various different names for their legislative bodies. For example, one of New York's legislative bodies is called the Assembly. So if you search for New York and House of Representative you will not find any elections. For more information about the states and their offices, please browse the state pages.

How do I search by candidate name?
You can either browse by last name or search by keyword for the name. Please keep in mind that the names in the XML are entered given name first and family name last. Also note that the spellings of names were not regularized during this period in history. As a result, one newspaper may spell a candidate's name one way, and another source may spell the name in a completely different way. Whenever possible, we have tried to give the authoritative names for candidates.

How do I search by party?
The drop-down list gives a controlled list of party affiliations and coalitions. The party affiliations given in the election record are those that were recorded in the contemporary newspapers. Elections where Phil did not indicate the party affiliation of a candidate will not have an affiliation and will not be found in a search.

How do I search for elections in a certain place?
If you would like to search for elections held in a certain place, you have two options. You may type the name in the keyword box or use the state drop-down box. If you type in the keyword box, please be aware that the search engine will look for a match in all of the states, if you do not select a state. If you are looking for a certain place within a state, select the state. After you select a state, a drop-down box with the names of all the localities found in that state will appear. These drop boxes offer only the geographic names that are contained in our data. If the geographic name you are looking for is not included in the drop box, then either we do not yet have data available for that place or the place may have been gone by a different name during this time period. Much of the authoritative listing of historic geography still needs to be done. For information on historic geography visit the Newberry Library's Atlas of Historic County Boundaries website.

Why can't I find Somerville, Massachusetts or Manhattan?
The geographic names are those that were used for places at a specific time in American history. Somerville was part of Charlestown until 1842 and thus will not yield any results. Similarly, all results from Maine prior to 1820 will be found under Massachusetts. There will also be results from places that no longer exist such as Greenwich, Massachusetts which now sits beneath the Quabbin Reservoir or Dorchester, Massachusetts which was a separate city until being annexed by Boston in 1870. You may need to do some preliminary research to learn about these historic places.