Exhaustiveness of Sources

Although this data base aggregates information from hundreds of manuscript documents, as well as hundreds of printed sources, it should not be imagined that it exhausts anything like the total universe of relevant manuscripts or print sources. Even within the archives where the Flints spent an aggregate of years of time, there is much left to identify and recover. That is in large measure because most archives do not have sufficient resources or personnel to contemplate cataloging their collections completely or describing individual collection items in the detail that would be required to guarantee retrieval of all or nearly all sources that reference any particular individual. Such a task would be impossible, even in the most favorable circumstances, except within very small collections of manuscripts.

Sixteenth-century and earlier manuscript documents (as well as many later ones) present particular complexities of lack of standardization in orthography, spelling, syllable and word division, general lack of punctuation, not to mention problems of ink bleed-through and fading, and deterioration, staining, insect consumption, and burning of the paper medium, as well as the disappearance of portions of documents (and of course, many, many millions of whole documents). With all of those problems, we nevertheless feel extremely fortunate to have available the huge array of documents that have survived the myriad vicissitudes of time. And we remain hugely grateful to the notaries, archivists, other officials, and governments and private entities responsible for the preservation and conservation of the collective human documentary patrimony. Our knowledge and understanding of our past owes its very existence to their often thankless and unrecognized work over the span of generations and centuries and millennia.