Genealogy Wise

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Shannon Bennett, Student with The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

These last two Methodology, Part 1 modules nicely wrapped up this course. They covered resources for research as well as explanations of record sets. While I was familiar with most of these I did like the variety presented and I picked up a few new ways to look at information.

                                                           Old Letters and Quill by Simon Howden/Courtesy of

Then I found the section on transcriptions, which made my day. This process is one that needs to be ingrained in every student of family history. Creating a correct transcription of a document not only will help your research but the research of those who come after you as well. A lesson that is often learned the hard way by those starting out in the field.

Many people feel that this is the easiest thing in the world to do. I am serious; all you are doing is copying words down right?  Well, not exactly. Plus, depending on the document, transcriptions can be very difficult.

Within the section on transcription there was a list of basic rules, shown below.

                                     Transcription rules from Methodology, Part 1. (c) The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

These guidelines clearly define what is important to have in your transcription. It isn’t just copying down words, it is making an accurate and faithful copy of an original work. The transcriptionist must be true to the original plus know how to insert their comments correctly. That in and of itself is a bit of meticulousness and an art form, both of which come only with practice.

When I first started out I was confident that I knew what I was doing. Sure, I had the right idea about what I was supposed to do and how things were to be written down, but I had no idea about the when you were to use square brackets or when/how to make comments. Over the years I have gone back to those early transcriptions and cringed resulting in me redoing most of them from scratch.

Needless to say this is one of those skills that we all need to practice. The more transcriptions you make, the more comfortable you will be and the better you will get. Your research and your conclusions are only as good as your sources and information. That right there should be an excellent reason for you to make transcriptions to the best of your ability.

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