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.

As you transcribe, remember that one major goal is to provide text for searching. Full-text searching will be enabled within the Library of Virginia collections based on these crowdsourced transcriptions. Transcriptions also provide additional access to the contents of these documents for those who do not read cursive, both now and in the future. Those who are blind or visually impaired may use screen readers to access these documents via the transcriptions. Computer assisted analysis, as is used in digital humanities, is also enabled by this work. Thank you for joining us in making history! Please follow the guidelines below and feel free to contact us with any questions at makinghistory@virginiamemory.com.

Transcription Guidelines:
  • Save your work frequently. If you don’t save before you navigate away from the page, your work may be lost!
  • When you have transcribed all the words on the page, mark it “Done” by using the check box in the upper right corner.
  • Transcribe the text as is, including punctuations, misspellings and abbreviations. If you can’t resist correcting spelling mistakes, please enter the correctly spelled word in brackets after the misspelled word: Carlottesville [Charlottesville] or expand the abbreviation Wm [William].
  • You may come across outdated or offensive language in historical documents. Transcribe offensive language as it is written on the page.
  • If you aren’t sure of a word but want to guess, indicate with square brackets and a question mark, e.g. [town?]. If you can't make out a word at all, use [illegible]. If you spot [illegible] in an already started transcription, feel free to correct it if you know what the word is.
  • While you do not need to recreate the formatting of the original, we ask that you hit return at the end of the line.
  • Do not transcribe hyphens or spaces in words that occur at line breaks: type the whole word then hit return. Continue transcribing the next line starting with the first whole word.
  • For lines or rows of dots, you do not have to transcribe them all, since this adds little value to the searchable text. Type a single _ or . as needed, followed by the text.
  • For text that has been crossed out, if you can read it, type [[struck]: text]. If you cannot read it, type [illegible].
  • For words that are inserted above or below the line, add information in brackets within or near the line. For example: [[inserted above/below]: text]. When transcribing parts of the letter that were written around the edge of the paper or perhaps written cross-wise on the paper, add information in brackets to the end of the document. For example, add the transcribed information to the end of the letter and write [[written at the top of page 1]: text] or [[written across page 1]: text].
  • Consider the context. If you’re having trouble with a word or passage, read “around” it and think about what a likely word would be, or look for other letters and spellings in the document that are similar.

Additional Guidance for the Registers of Free Black People:

For transcribing an index, you can transcribe the line straight across the page from left to right. Don’t try to recreate the spacing, lines, or boxes. Or, you can also transcribe the left hand column first down the page and transcribe the second, right column after the end of the first.

Watch this video for tips on reading old handwriting!