31/07/2014
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Transcribe Scotlands Places transcription project interview

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We talk to Transcribe Scotland's Places project volunteer Soosie about her role in helping to transcribe thousands of historic records for an online audience.

Scotland's Places is a website that brings together the archives of different heritage databases including the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, National Library of Scotland and National Records of Scotland. The Transcribe Scotland's Places project has brought together over 3,000 volunteers who painstakingly create transcriptions of thousands of historic records. To date, more than 180,000 pages of records have been transcribed.

Here, Soosie talks about the challenges of the work and its ongoing importance: 

What made you want to get involved in this project?

As a community archivist I am very aware of the importance of crowd sourcing, of publicising and providing access to archival collections. The ScotlandsPlaces Transcription Project appealed to me as it combined these aspects. It enables members of the public to employ their individual skills and knowledge in making resources more accessible and raises the profile of wonderful collections. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity- to contribute personally to a national resource.

What’s the best thing about the work?

I find the work very rewarding. It is very satisfying to realise that my local knowledge places me in a particularly strong position to transcribe the O.S. Name Books (my chosen focus). I believe a place-name that is scrawled and out of context, for example, is more likely to be mis-transcribed by a stranger than by someone familiar with the area. Thus, I feel that I can personally bring something valuable to the project. I simultaneously learn a great deal through the archives, the training, the forums and the moderators.  To be part of this exchange of information is fantastic.

And the trickiest part of the job?

I find the greatest challenge is ensuring that I transcribe correctly and consistently. The guidelines are necessarily detailed and are updated as transcribers work through idiosyncratic papers. I find I must re-read them frequently. When I fail to do so I invariably forget key transcription conventions, or am unaware of new ones. It can also be difficult to interpret symbols, abbreviations, signatures etc. within the resources. However as moderators are always on hand to help, and as a fun discussion often ensues, this is usually an enjoyable challenge rather than a hindrance.

Have you discovered any records that you’d like to follow up later in your own research?

Whilst transcribing, I was interested to discover a school in my parish of which I had been unaware. The O.S. Name Books state that it was funded in part by the proprietor of the land upon which it was situated, and in part through fees paid by students. I hope to follow up this reference, to establish what became of this school and why it is not mentioned in the apparently comprehensive records the community archive holds on education within the parish.    

For more on the project, visit Transcribing Scotland's Places.


 
Read advice from genealogy expert Chris Paton as he explores law and order records, in the July/August issue of History Scotland, available to download or order as a print edition.









(Image courtesy of the British Library)


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