The instructions below have been borrowed, in part, from the Immigrant Ships Transcriber's Guild (ISTG) website with their permission. Their expertly written and well-tested instructions have been condensed and altered somewhat to suit the purposes of this site. Quite a bit of condensing was done here (roughly 8 pages worth of condensing), so, if you have any additional questions or need further clarification, please feel free to contact me. There is no such thing as a dumb question! (Please, do not contact ISTG with any questions you may have regarding a transcription for the Orphans' Home Website. Thank you!)
The instructions below are in detail and, in parts, are geared to those new to genealogy and new to examining the old handwritten records. There are two sections for the instructions. The first section is "Preliminaries: Requirements and Tips". The second section is "Step by Step Typing Instructions". Whether you are an experienced typist or a beginner, please read through both sections, since there are a few requirements that both new and experienced genealogists will need to know with regard to orphan transcriptions at this website. Feel free to make a printout to keep at hand. All the information you will need for transcribing and submitting a list is on this web page.
All transcriptions must be in black text, i.e., using a program such as NotePad, WordPad, (or "Simple Text" on Mac computers). No exceptions! Do not use any fancy fonts, fancy colors, or fancy formatting. This is the only way your columns will line up and the only way to have your list appear uniform for people using computers with programs different from those you have. Use of font "Courier New" is highly recommended! If you do not have this font, take a few minutes and search your font collection for one allowing "I"s, "M"s, "W"s, "O"s, the same amount of space. You can align these letters vertically to test them out.
Concentrate first on deciphering the list. Get a feel for the handwriting of the person who took the census. The use of a magnifying glass is often of benefit. Work back and forth between the names as the writer's handwriting becomes more familiar to you. If you have a word that you are stuck on, leave it and continue on. Many, many times when you go back to look at, especially as you become familiar with the handwriting, it will "hit" you smack in the face.
By the same token, do not guess about which letter it "must" be. Any letters or combination of letters about which you are not certain, replace the letters with question marks OR put an asterisk by that name and make a note accordingly in the "Transcriber's Remarks" section you will add at the end of the list.
Be mindful of the "leading s" where, in the old style handwriting, the double s appears to have been written as "fs". In this instance the loop on the lower part of the "f" goes backwards and not forward and while it may look like an "f" to the eye, it is actually an "s" and should be typed as such. Be careful not to apply this rule to Scandinavian names where a combination of "fs" may be correct, as in Gustafson.
Type the list exactly as it appears leaving only one or two spaces between columns initially (do not worry about forming columns at this stage). Type the names in the order in which they were recorded. Do not alphabetize the names and do not put the surnames in caps. If names were recorded last name first, transcribe them in this order, do not reverse the order of the names as given.
Do not "correct" any obvious (to you) errors. For example, sometimes an apparently wrong gender of "male" is given for an obviously female name (and vice versa). These types of discrepancies should be noted at the end and not altered in the list itself, i.e., "The spelling (gender, birthplace, etc.) given was recorded as such in the original document."
Examine the census listing "at a glance" to determine whether there are any columns where the entries are "common to all." Two examples of this would include: all those listed may have been born in the same state or province; OR, all information other than "name" may have been recorded in the census as "Unknown." There may be other examples. In these instances, you may want to omit those columns from your transcription. You are not required, however, to omit them. If you do omit them, you must make a note of this in the "Transcriber's Remarks" section at the end. If you do not omit them, please write out the information for each listing (i.e., do not use ditto marks in the columns). Using "copy and paste" may simplify your task if you choose not to omit any of the columns containing information "common to all."
Be sure to include all people listed with your institution. This includes all "matrons", "heads", "caretakers", "nurses", etc. in addition to the orphans. When you are finished, double check your list and the number of people on your list against those on the original document. Check the names on the original document prior to the list and just after the list, to satisfy yourself that no one was omitted from your transcription.
Look for other notations made by the census taker pertaining to that particular orphanage. For example, sometimes the census taker makes a note that this particular listing is continued on another page. If this should happen to you, and you do not have the additional page referenced, contact me regarding the discrepancy and then continue your transcription as though your list was complete. Do make a note, however, in the "Transcriber's Remarks" that the list is not complete.
Feel free to print out any of the orphan lists currently on line at this site to use as a guide for you as you work on your own list(s).
Please keep these 4 points in mind as you transcribe your list:
Do not attempt to form columns as you transcribe the list. You will save yourself much trouble by forming columns after you transcribe your list. If you discover part way through that you left out columns previously due to blank entries, do not try to correct it at this stage, just keep going through your list. You can either pick up those columns during the proofread or when you begin to align all columns, whichever is easier for you.
Do NOT use any formatting techniques such as the TAB key. Use only the spacebar. Do not type column headings and do not center anything.
Do not use any special characters such as ditto marks, umlauts, accents or superscripts. Umlauts, accents and other such characters should, however, be noted in the "Notes" section. For superscripts, such as "4th", or "Geo," you may either type as "4^th", or "G^eo", respectively, using the caret symbol, or simply Geo., 4th, respectively. You may use dashed lines, i.e., "-----", for blank spaces where nothing is written in the document for that entry, or just leave those spaces blank.
Do not type ages as fractions. If a child is "4/12" in age, type "4 months" or "4 mos."
Open a new document in Notepad, WordPad, Simple Text or any place on your computer where you can work in plain text. You must use a text program. The font, "Courier New", is the easiest to align and it is strongly suggested that this font be used. Most computers have this font. If yours does not, take a few minutes and search through your font collection vertically aligning capital letters such as "I", "O", "W", "M" to see which of your fonts allow all these letters the same amount of space.
At the top left, enter the census year, type of census (e.g., state or federal), locality of the orphanage (state/province, county, township, etc.), and the name of the orphanage. The order of this information is not important, but its accuracy is important. It will not be uploaded "as is"; it serves only to identify which listing you are transcribing and will be used by me in making the appropriate heading for the HTML page which will be uploaded.
Count how many people are on your orphanage list. You want to know in advance so that you can space your numbering accordingly and so that the higher numbers will not throw your columns askew later on. If you have fewer than 100 people but more than 9 people listed (i.e., from 10-99 names, inclusive), you want to skip a space before typing "1." (do the same for numbers 2-9 as well) If you have 100 or more on your list, you want to skip two spaces before typing "1." and so on. (some lists, not many, number over 1000 orphans, in which case you want to skip 3 spaces before typing "1.", "2.", etc. Be sure to allow an extra space if you intend to include the comma on such lists). The period following the number is optional.
SKIP TWO LINES
On this line, allow proper spacing for numbering, type in "1", skip two spaces and then, begin typing the first name on your list. Usually, the first names will be the matrons or heads of the orphanage; include these people. Type the name, skip a space or two, type the next entry for this person as it appears in the original document, skip two spaces and type the next entry for this person, and so on, until you have entered all information on that line for the first person on your list. (Reminders: USE ONLY THE SPACEBAR --- DO NOT USE THE TAB KEY. Do not worry about forming columns at this time.)
DO NOT SKIP A LINE. Start the entry for the second person on your list on the line directly beneath the first person. Follow the same directions above for this person and for each person on your list until all information has been entered.
SKIP THREE LINES
At the left margin, type "*Transcriber's Remarks", OR "*Transcriber's Notes", whichever you prefer. (DO include the asterisk, DO NOT include the quotation marks.)
Your first line in this section will be an explanatory note: "Columns above represent name, age, gender, birthplace of father, birthplace of mother,...", whatever columns are named in your census listing. List them in the order in which they appear from left to right. If you have omitted any columns, add the explanatory note for those as well; state which columns were omitted and why. For example: "Columns regarding marriage, gender, birthplace of father, birthplace of mother were omitted from this transcription. No one on the list was married; all children in this orphanage were listed as "female", birthplaces for both parents in each case was recorded as "Pennsylvania".
SKIP TWO LINES
On this line, type the address of the orphanage here. If the address is not given, type "No Address Given in Census." If the address is hard to read, give a brief explanatory note with the address. The street is usually written in the left margin (1900 census); the house number is the first of several boxes to the left of the first person enumerated.
SKIP TWO LINES
Starting with this line and on each consecutive line until you are finished, take each person listed for which you have entered a "?" or an "*" above, and explain why you have put these marks on their entry. Start each line with the number corresponding to the person's listing.
SKIP THREE LINES
On this line, type "CITATION" (without the quotation marks). Then, skip two lines and begin your reference at the left margin. The citation should include information from the microfilm's storage container: NARA (or Heritage Quest, etc.), Film number, Vol. #, Census and year, state (or province),... etc. In addition to this, include E.D., specific township, page number and/or sheet number.
SKIP THREE LINES
On this line, type: "Transcribed by (your name) for the Orphans' Home Website on [enter date you completed typing]". If you also located this list, then type: "Donated and Transcribed by (your name) for the Orphans'..." If someone else donated the list (i.e., found it, xeroxed it, mailed it in, etc.), type: "Donated by (that person's name, if you have it) and Transcribed by (your name) for the Orphans' Home Website on [date of transcription, only]". You can attach your e-mail address IF YOU WANT. You can also enter "Transcribed Anonymously for the Orphans' Home ....", if you would like to remain anonymous. It is entirely up to you.
Print a copy of your work and proofread it. If you would rather do the spacing first before proofreading (for some, this may be preferred), skip to the next item on the instruction list. If not, carefully compare the list you just transcribed with the document to make sure you have not omitted anything, that for each "?" and for each asterisk, you have a notation in the "Transcriber's Remarks" section. Double check that your numbers line up properly, etc. Make whatever corrections are necessary.
You are now ready to space your document. Start with the column of names and allow your eyes to scan that column. Pick out the entry with the longest name. Place your cursor at the end of that name and, using the spacebar (USE ONLY THE SPACEBAR), move as many spaces to the right as you feel appropriate for your list. Try to keep your page as tight as possible for censuses with many columns. Where you release the spacebar will be the start of Column 2. Line up all other second column entries based on the position of this particular entry. Next, look for the longest entry in the second column. If the second column is "age", "10 mos." may be the longest entry. Using the space bar again move as many spaces to the right as you feel appropriate for your list. Where you stop will be the start of Column 3. Line up each person's age according to this entry. Repeat this for each of your columns until you have finished. Save your list as a "text" file.
You may use abbreviations, i.e., "F" for "Female", "M" for "Male", "Y" for yes, "N" for no, etc. IF YOU DO ABBREVIATE such entries NOT abbreviated in the census, you must make a note of this in your "Transcriber's Remarks" section. For Nativity-type columns, please use at least a 3-letter abbreviation, i.e., Ire for Ireland, Penn for Pennsylvania, Mass for Massachusetts, Swe for Sweden, etc., and write a brief sentence in the Notes section that these abbreviations were made.
At this point, if you have not yet proofread your transcription, do so at this time. Always Proofread Your Work. Look through the list you just transcribed and the document carefully to make sure you have not omitted anything, that for each "?" and for each "*", you have a notation in the "Transcriber's Remarks" section. Double check that your numbers and columns line up properly, etc. Make whatever corrections are necessary.
When you are satisfied that you have completed the transcription, you can either send the text file to me as an attachment in an e-mail to me OR you can copy and paste the opened file to an e-mail and send it to me that way. If you plan to delete your transcription(s) from your own computer, please do not do so until your list is actually uploaded to the site. Obviously this is a safety measure should anything happen in transmission. My e-mail address is: OrphansWebsite@aol.com
Now you can pat yourself on the back if you haven't already, for -- A JOB WELL DONE! :^)