Transcription Conventions

The goal of transcribing these registers is to index data. The information transcribed from these registers will be transferred as data points to the Virginia Open Data Portal and contributed to the Enslaved.org project making information about these individuals more searchable.

To align with our goal of indexing data, we have selected a spreadsheet-style format rather than our usual verbatim transcription method. This new format includes many of the functions of an Excel spreadsheet. You can copy & paste, insert rows & columns, or pull information from one cell down the page. You can change the viewer mode to have the ledger appear on the top, bottom, left or right-hand side of the screen.

The instructions for this collection have some important differences from other Library of Virginia verbatim transcription projects.

  • If a field is left blank or the information is not provided in the original document, leave it blank in your index. This includes gender.
  • Transcribe all non-drop down fields as you see it written on the page.
  • Do not supply or infer additional information. Include only what is provided from the text. For example, do not infer a person’s place of birth based on where they were emancipated. Do not infer gender based on name.
  • For Free Status, be as specific as possible in your selection from the drop-down.
  • Use a numeric value for age. For example, if "about seventeen" is written, enter the number 17. If a child’s age is written in months, write the decimal conversion. For example, “9 months” would be entered as .75.
  • For height, fractions should be converted to decimal points. Round to the nearest quarter inch.
  • When the word “ditto” or “d.o.” appears, write out the information to which the ditto is referring from previous lines. Remember, our goal is to create searchable data with all the information present in the original documents.
  • Type [illegible] for any words you cannot read.
  • For the Physical Description field, please include any information about marks and scars, hair, or speech.
  • Additional Information can contain any information about the individual that is recorded by the clerk but not captured in other fields. In particular, please enter any details about their mother, father, spouse, or children that are provided.

In some of the registers, an entry for one individual is divided between two separate pages. Enter all of the data into the transcription spreadsheet where the entry begins. This will require you to flip back and forth between the two images to collect all of the data from both pages into one row on the page where the entry begins.

Save often. When you have transcribed all the text on the page, click the Done button in the upper right corner.

Click here for an example page of a complete transcription.

Your work will be reviewed by a Library of Virginia staff member. You are also welcome to review the work of others, fill in any [illegible]s you can decipher, and collaboratively improve the quality of these indexes to the Virginia Untold: Registers of Free Black People.