Monday, February 8, 2010

52 Weeks of Amanuensis Monday

This week's transcription not only concludes the audiotape my grandfather and his siblings created in 1977, but it closes out 52 weeks of Amanuensis Monday. Some may recall I took a holiday on Labor Day, however in the first two weeks of this series I posted transcriptions from five separate testimonies in front of The Dawes Commission. So in the past year I have actually had 54 separate posts. All of them are indexed here chronologically. I made the index chronological to create a timeline so I could see at a glance what each limb of my family tree was doing during the same time period.

The most difficult thing to transcribe?

There's no question that transcribing the audio tape my maternal grandfather and his siblings created was the most time consuming. I felt ten minutes of tape created a reasonable sized post, but it took a lot longer to accomplish than transcribing a letter or other already written document. I also ran across the issue of not being able to understand occasional words spoken in Hungarian or Romanian, and spent some time attempting to research and find the words phonetically on the internet.

However, I am glad I did it, for all the information contained within. I've mentioned before that I don't remember things unless I write them down. Decades I listened to my parents and relatives explain over and over again how A was related to B. They handed me charts they drew. Neither helped. But once I drew the charts, the information remained.

The easiest thing to transcribe?

The Dawes Commission transcripts. I just fed them through an Optical Character Recognition program, and then went through and corrected the mistakes. Some may wonder why I went to the trouble of transcribing it, or other already typewritten documents. The image of the document can be opened and read by anyone. However, the image can't be searched for words. I can put a surname in my computer's search program, and it will return every word document where that surname appears. So if I want to find that letter I recall which mentioned a particular person, I don't have to rely on having given it a useful file name, or having maintained a list of file names and their annotated descriptions. If I transcribed the letter, I can search for it on my computer.

Has everything I've transcribed been posted?

Not everything. Some of it isn't appropriate for sharing on the internet -- either due to copyright issues, or I'd rather not embarrass/upset living relatives. I also like having a surplus of transcriptions I can dip into if I have a busy week.

How much more do I have to transcribe?

I've been amazed at the number of newspaper articles I've been discovering online, and my maternal grandparents saved over a hundred letters they exchanged over the years. I'm not through transcribing my great uncle Mandell's war diary, and I have a few more audiotapes I can transcribe. And that's just what I know about now; I'm sure new things will be uncovered. Let's just say I foresee another 52 weeks of Amanuensis Monday.


Apple said...

Congrats on sticking with this John!

Greta Koehl said...

I look forward to the coming weeks of Amanuensis Monday. I agree with you on the difficulties of transcribing the spoken word; I've done it (not much for genealogy, however) and it is surprising how time-consuming it is, even when it is all in our native language. The great thing will be the wonderful body of unique material that you create that others can access.

John said...

I wish I were a quicker typist. I'm pretty good for a non-professional(60-65 wpm), but if I could type 90 wpm or so, I suspect the transcription would go much more easily.