p. 2



Once you sign up for an account, a new Transcribe tab will appear above each page.

You can create or edit transcriptions by modifying the text entry field and saving. Each modification is stored as a separate version of the page, so that it should be easy to revert to older versions if necessary.

Registered users can also add notes to pages to comment on difficult words, suggest readings, or discuss the texts.

Transcription Conventions

  • Spelling: Use original spelling if possible.
    • You may correct a misspelled word by typing the correctly spelled word in brackets after the misspelling: werk [work] or Milwakee [Milwaukee].
  • Capitalization: Use original capitalization.
  • Punctuation: Use original punctuation.
  • Line Breaks: Hit return once after each written line ends. Two returns indicate a new paragraph, which is usually indentation following the preceding sentence in the original.
  • Illegible text: Indicate illegible readings in single square brackets: [Dr?]
    • If you aren’t sure of a word but want to take a guess, type your guess with square brackets and a question mark: [Galeola?].
    • If you have an idea about what the word might be but can’t make it out, indicate the type of word you think it is in brackets: [town?] or [name?].
    • If you can't make out a word at all, type [illegible]. If you spot [illegible] in an already started transcription, feel free to correct it if you know what the word is.
    • Mark pages with illegible text as Needs Review

Marking Illustrations

  • Indicate illustrations in single square brackets, e.g. [color illustration]
    • Use the term illustration for published images. Use pencil sketches or pen sketches for items that are hand-drawn.
    • Use the following vocabulary to indicate illustrations relative to where they are on the page:
      • [color illustration] or [color illustrations]
      • [black and white illustration] or [black and white illustrations]
      • [pencil sketch] or [pencil sketches]
      • [pen sketch] or [pen sketches]
      • [color pencil sketch] or [color pencil sketches]

How to transcribe two page images

  • Transcribe the left page and then the right page below that.
  • Add [Left Page] and [Right Page] at the top of each transcribed section.

Pages with Columns of Data or Newspaper Clippings

These are low priority and do not require transcription. Include a bracketed tag that describes the content, e.g. [Weather Data for 1843] or [Newspaper Clipping, title of paper, date, etc.].

Tips and Tricks

  • Zoom in on an image by clicking Fullscreen at the top left of the document workspace, or clicking the + symbol at the bottom of the image. Once you’ve zoomed in, you can click, hold your mouse, and drag the image to see details in the letter.
  • Toggle between views (side-by-side or over-and-under) with the Image at the left pull down menu on the upper left of the document workspace.
  • Move between pages of a letter by clicking the left or right arrows at the top right of the document workspace. If you encounter a blank page, which you occasionally may, check Mark as blank.
  • If your translation needs further review, you can check Needs Review.
  • The progress bar next to each letter indicates its status. Depending on the number of pages, the bar may indicate a combination.
    • White means a page has not been transcribed.
    • Light green means a page has been transcribed, but not reviewed.
    • Dark Green means a page has been transcribed and reviewed, and is ready to be added to our collection.

Linking Subjects

To create a link within a transcription, surround the text with double square braces.

Example: Say that we want to create a subject link for “Dr. Owen” in the text:

Dr. Owen and his wife came by for fried chicken today.

Place [[ and ]] around Dr Owen like this:

[[Dr. Owen]] and his wife came by for fried chicken today.

When you save the page, a new subject will be created for “Dr. Owen”, and the page will be added to its index. You can add an article about Dr. Owen—perhaps biographical notes or references—to the subject by clicking on “Dr. Owen” and clicking the Edit tab.

To create a subject link with a different name from that used within the text, use double braces with a pipe as follows: [[official name of subject|name used in the text]]. For example:

[[Dr. Owen]] and [[Dr. Owen's wife|his wife]] came by for fried chicken today.

This will create a subject for “Dr. Owen's wife” and link the text “his wife” to that subject.

Renaming Subjects

In the example above, we don't know Dr. Owen's wife's name, but created a subject for her anyway. If we later discover that her name is “Juanita”, all we have to do is edit the subject title:

  1. Click on “his wife” on the page, or navigate to “Dr. Owen's wife” on the home page for the project.
  2. Click the Edit tab.
  3. Change “Dr. Owen's wife” to “Juanita Owen”.

This will change the links on the pages that mention that subject, so our page is automatically updated:

[[Dr. Owen]] and [[Juanita Owen|his wife]] came by for fried chicken today.

Combining Subjects

Occasionally you may find that two subjects actually refer to the same person. When this happens, rather than painstakingly updating each link, you can use the Combine button at the bottom of the subject page.

For example, if one page reads:

[[Dr. Owen]] and [[Juanita Owen|his wife]] came by for [[fried chicken]] today.

while a different page contains

Jim bought a [[chicken]] today.

you can combine “chicken” with “fried chicken” by going to the “chicken” article and reviewing the combination suggestions at the bottom of the screen. Combining “fried chicken” into “chicken” will update all links to point to “chicken” instead, copy any article text from the “fried chicken” article onto the end of the “chicken” article, then delete the “fried chicken” subject.

Auto-linking Subjects

Whenever text is linked to a subject, that fact can be used by the system to suggest links in new pages. At the bottom of the transcription screen, there is an Autolink button. This will refresh the transcription text with suggested links, which should then be reviewed and may be saved.

Using our example, the system already knows that “Dr. Owen” links to “Dr. Owen” and “his wife” links to “Juanita Owen”. If a new page reads:

We told Dr. Owen about Sam Jones and his wife.

pressing Autolink will suggest these links:

We told [[Dr. Owen]] about Sam Jones and [[Juanita Owen|his wife]].

In this case, the link around “Dr. Owen” is correct, but we must edit the suggested link that incorrectly links Sam Jones's wife to “Juanita Owen”. The autolink feature can save a great deal of labor and prevent collaborators from forgetting to link a subject they previously thought was important, but its suggestions still need to be reviewed before the transcription is saved.