Transcribing Genealogy Records Correctly Helps Find New Clues
July 6, 2019 by Amie Bowser Tennant
Transcribing documents for genealogy may sound like a waste of time, but it isn’t! By properly transcribing a genealogy record such as a will or deed, you may find clues for your research that would have otherwise been overlooked. Take a look at these helpful tips for transcribing genealogy records.
Transcriptions and abstractions are suggested for a reason. In the book titled “Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians,” author Mary McCampbell Bell says:
“Skilled transcripts and abstracts are the very foundation upon which reliable research is built.”
There are rules dictating how proper transcriptions and abstractions should be made. When the rules are not followed, we may interpret the data and meaning of the document incorrectly. By not taking the time to transcribe a genealogy record appropriately, you may miss out on important clues to expand your research further.
What is a Transcription?
A transcription is a copy of a document word-for-word. This means all the spelling, grammar, and punctuation is to be copied exactly…even if it is “wrong.” An abstractionof a document is a summary of the information found within the document.
Though it is more time consuming, I prefer to make a transcription, rather than an abstraction, if at all possible. Like I said, transcribing a genealogy record is more time consuming, but when I go word-for-word, my understanding seems to be heightened and I find myself able to understand the record more deeply.
Tips for Transcribing a Genealogy Record
If you want to give it a go, here are some tips for transcribing a genealogy record.
1. Begin your transcription by stating that this is a transcription, include YOUR name, when you made the transcription, and a source citation of the document. I have received many transcriptions in which there has been no indication of the transcriber and no indication of whether the record was transcribed, abstracted, or extracted. Some transcriptions included no date! This important information indicates to the reader of the transcription the validity and credibility of the document. An example might look like this:
2. Indicate in a sentence or two a description of the document including problems such as tears, smudges, etc. For example, if the document is torn, you might say, “Though the record seems to be complete, there is a small tear in the bottom right-hand corner.” By indicating any problems with the document, the reader knows that you have considered any potential problems in the accuracy of your transcription. Other problems you might make mention of include: pen smears, faded writing, words in the margin or words cut off in the binding, and stains.
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