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The importance of sharī‘a law-court registers as sources for the social and economic history of Syria/Bilād al-Shām in the Ottoman period has been recognized for some time. A number of studies based on them have appeared, but the registers are so vast that scholars have in fact barely begun to investigate them. The Historical Documents Center (Markaz al-Wathā’iq al-Tārīkhīya) in Damascus holds over one thousand volumes. Additional originals exist in Israel/Palestine and a large collection of Syrian and Palestinian registers is available on microfilm at the University of Jordan (Amman). Although it is difficult to use the Lebanese registers nowadays (and those of Sidon may have been destroyed) a volume of the Tripoli registers from the seventeenth century has been published in facsimile by the Lebanese University. Dearth of material, therefore, is not a problem. One obstacle facing researchers, however, is unfamiliarity with the manner in which the registers present information. Persons whose native tongue is not Arabic have the additional problem of language to overcome. Therefore, an orientation to the registers is helpful, and this article is written with that purpose in mind.