Get Started Transcribing
Citizen Archivists must register for a free user account in order to contribute to the National Archives Catalog, by clicking on the Log in / Sign Up button. We encourage you to read our Citizen Contribution Policy.
Once you have a National Archives Catalog Account, you will need to login to your account to begin contributing. Click on the Log in / Sign Up button to Log in.
Need help with your Catalog user account? Please visit the Catalog Account section - Using the National Archives Catalog.
Find Records to Transcribe
For suggestions of records to transcribe, browse our webpage of curated missions organized by topic. Click on a topic that interests you, and it will take you directly to a list of those records in the National Archives Catalog.
At the bottom of the missions page, you will also see a list of featured records. Click on "Transcribe this record" to go directly to that record in the Catalog where you can begin transcribing.
The following instructions detail the process of transcribing records in the National Archives Catalog.
Once you find a record in the Catalog that you wish to transcribe, click on the title of the item to bring up the full record and description.
This particular record contains multiple pages. Thumbnail images of all the record's pages are shown to the right of the main image viewer. Next to the word transcription it says not started. This means the page is not yet transcribed. Click on any thumbnail to see the transcription status. Then click on the thumbnail of the page you would like to transcribe; typically this would be the first available page.
Click on Transcription to open the transcription panel.
Adjust the record so that you can view the text. Use the + and - buttons on the top left to adjust the size of the image. Click Start Transcribing in the gray transcription panel.
The transcription panel has now turned white and is ready for you to begin. You will also see Locked highlighted in yellow [circled in red here to show the location]. This means the page is locked for your exclusive use and another Citizen Archivist can not transcribe the page while you are using it.
As you transcribe, your work is automatically saved. You can see Saved in green at the bottom of the panel. When you complete your work or you are ready to stop, click Save and Close.
Now you can see the work you have completed. Let’s look at the features of this page.
- The Locked text has been removed and now you can see your username and when you saved/updated the page.
- You can review your transcription.
- If you see an edit that needs to be made, click Edit transcription to edit the page again.
- If you are satisfied with your transcription, Close the panel.
If you would like to transcribe another page, click on any of the additional thumbnails located to the right of the main image viewer, or use the “Prev” or “Next” buttons below the image viewer to navigate through the pages. Review the transcription status for the page and repeat the steps above to transcribe.
How to find a page to transcribe
In some cases, especially for records that are part of Citizen Archivist missions, you may have to look to find a page that has not been transcribed. You should now look at the thumbnails to see what pages you can transcribe.
Click on Show Details to see which pages have transcriptions:
In the Grid layout, look for the X which represents no transcription. Click on the transcription icon to begin transcribing that particular page.
In the List layout, look for Not Started. Click on Not Started to begin transcribing that particular page.
HINT: If you are still struggling to find a record with pages to transcribe in a Citizen Archivist mission - skip to the middle or the end of a list of records in a mission, often they have not yet been transcribed or tagged.
All documents are unique and may contain various aspects such as stamps, tables, or charts. Type what you see and follow the order and layout as best you can. Type words exactly as they are written in the document. This includes capitalization, abbreviations, names, dates, and even misspelled words. Don’t worry about matching the format and spacing (the words are the most important part!)
|You may include [crossed out] next to crossed out text to indicate its format, as it may provide information useful to the document.|
Compare similar letters in the document to help confirm that you are reading the text correctly. Letters will often appear similar or standard throughout a handwritten document by the same scribe. If you can’t make out a word, use [illegible]. If you’d like to make a notation about something you see in the record, do so in brackets. For example: [stamp in blue ink]. Do your best and use your best judgment.
|We ask you to type what you see, but you do not have to mimic the exact formatting. In this case you do not need indent each paragraph|
|If you want to indicate that a detail is in a different format, you can share this information in brackets. In this case you can add [handwritten] to your transcription.|
|If a word is hyphenated at the end of a line, you can remove the hyphen. This helps the search engine identify the correct word. In this example per-son would be transcribed as person.|
Columns and charts can be difficult to transcribe. We focus on the text rather than the format. We suggest using the symbol | to delineate columns.
White Pelican | 250 | 9/15 |
Find a record with unique or tricky features? Read our Transcription Tips guide for more examples and best practices for transcribing.
Thank you for your contributions! Every contribution helps make the records of the National Archives more accessible to everyone.
We encourage you to read our Citizen Contribution Policy.
Questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org