Weekly Planner: Slow Down, Transcribe a Document

With the ability to click and add a record to my Ancestry tree, sometimes I find that I’m not examining the record closely enough. I make it a point to transcribe the records I find, either onto a blank form (e.g., the census) or into my word processor. By slowing down to manually transcribe the document, it makes me examine each piece of information, and I often find a clue that would have otherwise been overlooked. Try it!

7 thoughts on “Weekly Planner: Slow Down, Transcribe a Document

  1. Thanks for this great tip. Now that I think about it, when I have slowed down to transcribe census records, it has put things into better perspective for me. I’ll try to remember to do this more often. Thanks again

  2. I maintain paper files as well as computer ones as I find it easier to analyse information in paper form (being an oldie and needing a comfy chair, mug of coffee and pen in hand for my brain to work properly). When I add a record to my Ancestry tree I print out the census or other record as well to go in a plastic file folder and transcribe the record on to a sheet of plain paper to accompany it. I can scribble notes on that transcription sheet of things to follow up and the record of my thoughts at that time is still there for review later on.

  3. One benefit of transcribing is that you notice secondary names of neighbors, witnesses, etc. These names may “click” when you see them again in a census or marriage, and they may make an important connection.

    Another benefit is that transcribed documents are searchable. On my Mac, I use Spotlight, which searches through every file on my computer for a name so I can go right to it, even if I have forgotten where I saved it. And once I’ve transcribed a document, I can post it to a message board where others can find it.

    Transcribing is a great treatment for insomnia, too!

  4. I too take great care for adding to my files. I found out many years ago the short falls in not doing so. I never transfer files electronically anymore. Manual input and source are inputted together. No “Fact” is considered until I have at least three different verifications.

  5. I have been trying to find information on my Great Grandmother and her family. I only found a family that appeared to be ‘them’ in the 1850 census, but not in the state that I expected to find them. I found in an 1860 census just my grandmother (at first glance). Then I took a second look at the 1860 census – it told me that my gr-grandmother was listed as a ‘domestic’ of another family – that family just happened to be an older brother of my great grandfather. Another look and I noticed an entry with the same last name as my great grandfather – listed as ‘laborer’. I reviewed the 1850 census in the other state and the ages and age spread all matched. Since then I have matched up old ‘family pictures’ (first names only along with my great grandmothers name) with other in the 1850 census. This has also led me to think that my gr-grandfather met my gr-grandmother when he was visiting at his siblings home. Of course I will always look for additional verification. But, this has made me a ‘believer’ in combing over the census reports and every detail.

  6. I have watched for these little tidbits since I started genealogy research. They have led me to many discoveries that provided much more information for my research. It is nice to know that I am doing something correctly. I enjoy your articles and look forward to more.

  7. How true this is! I just finished transcribing 23 diaries written by my husband’s gr-gr-grandfather in the late 1800s. Had I made just xerox copies of the pages, I would not have made the discoveries I did. Somehow the information becomes more real when you can type each word as you read it. I am now in the process of making a name and place index to the diaries–even more discoveries are being made. For example in the printed copy of his Funeral Discourse mention is made of 30 grandchildren. My original list had only 20 names. But comments such as “Mary’s sickness” followed by talk of burying “Mary’s (unnamed) babe” has helped to fill in some of those gaps.

    I couldn’t find the 1900 census record for my paternal grandparents and their 2-year-old daughter. But I printed the one that came closest to a match although the parents’ ages and the mother’s name were wrong. Recently I looked again at the page and realized the scrunched writing naming the occupation of the father said “Officer Salvation Army”. YES!, this WAS my family. (Happy Dance #1) The “Don’t Knows” under their parents’ place of birth and the wrong ages were no doubt given by someone else when the census taker came by. Another discovery and confirmation: the last name of the family they were living with in 1900 was used as the middle name for my father when he was born 12 years later! I vaguely remember hearing stories of the name’s origin when I was younger. (Happy Dance #2). I should have transcribed all the information from the page earlier. Now I’m going to review more of my census printouts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *