Complete a Transcription: History of a Canadian Refugee

December 16th, 2014

In an undated document, Benjamin Thompson set forth the history of his life during the era of the American Revolution. Although born in Boston, he was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to a merchant in Montreal. He recounts his efforts on the part of the American cause, prior to his departure from Montreal in 1776, all in an effort to qualify for compensation under the Act of Congress for the Relief of Refugees from the British Provinces of Canada and Nova Scotia.

The first eight pages of this document have been transcribed, but the last four (images 9-12) have not. Can you complete this transcription so its content can become part of the searchable archive of the Papers of the War Department?

Community Transcription – Forty-Three Months

December 2nd, 2014

November was the forty-third month since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We are still receiving regular requests for transcription accounts. Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for the month:

As of October 31, we have 2,049 users, with approximately 63 new transcribers registered since the last update. Those volunteer transcribers have made 14,072 saves to War Department documents, which is about 385 additional edits since the last update. The average number of edits before a document is saved continues to be three. We have had 217,451 total page views.

Among those who signed up to transcribe in the last month were public librarians, members of local historical societies, journalists, students at the graduate and undergraduate level, and members of the Cherokee and Chickasaw nations. Transcribers include teachers at every level of education, elementary to university. Those who specified an interest or focus mentioned the French colony at Gallipolis, Ohio, the treaties of Muskingum and Fort Harmar, the ratification of the Constitution, American Indian delegations and oratory, and James Swan. Transcribers also expressed interest in uncovering the history of American Indian tribes and nations which appear in the documentary record of the War Department, specifically the Lenape, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Potawatomi.

As we continue to move forward with the project, individuals may still register for a transcription account.

Community Transcription – Forty-Two Months

November 4th, 2014

October marked the forty-second month since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We are still receiving regular requests for transcription accounts. Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for the month:

As of this morning, we have 1,986 users, with approximately 33 new transcribers registered since the last update. Those volunteer transcribers have made 13,687 saves to War Department documents, which is about 355 additional edits since the last update. The average number of edits before a document is saved continues to be three. We have had 209,975 total page views.

Among those who signed up to transcribe in the last month were independent researchers, students at the graduate and undergraduate level, museum curators, and members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. Transcribers include teachers at every level of education, elementary to university. Those who specified an interest or focus mentioned Fells Point, Baltimore, gifts to the Indians, and conducting research for model scale building.

As we continue to move forward with the project, individuals may still register for a transcription account.

Help Complete a Transcription: Keeping Up Appearances at Fort Niagara

October 24th, 2014

In this Letter from Captain James Bruff to accountant William Simmons.  Bruff had recently assumed command of Fort Niagara after the British agreed to turn it over to the Americans as part of the Jay Treaty. He laments that his own government does not provide enough of an allowance for entertaining British officers, who are garrisoned just across the Niagara River at Fort George, while British government “makes an allowance for such purposes.”

This particular letter is cited in Eliga Gould’s 2012 work Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire.  Gould highlights Bruff’s perception that keeping up certain appearances with other Western nations was a sure sign of stature, sovereignty, and treaty-worthiness  “among the powers of the earth.”

What is that word?

October 14th, 2014

If you have transcribed a letter, rather than a bill or report, you might have come across a jumble of letters at the end of the letter, just before the sender’s signature. The most common would be “yr obt svt.” What does this mean?

Just as modern correspondence conventionally ends with “Sincerely” or “Best Wishes” (on paper, at least), there were phrases in common use for closing letters in the late eighteenth century. “Yr obt svt” is short for “Your obedient servant.” Sometimes letter writers used the longer “Your most humble and obedient servant,” which might get compressed to “yr most hmbl & obt svt.”

Abbreviations like these, as well as variations in handwriting, can be confusing for scholars and transcribers new to eighteenth century documents. Fortunately there are a number of resources to help decipher handwriting and become familiar with eighteenth century letters.

For paleography (the study of handwriting) visit DoHistory.org’s “How to read 18th century British American handwriting,” as well as Reed College’s Digital Collections study guide for Colonial American Handwriting and their letter matching game. For letter styles and conventions, Colonial Williamsburg offers a handout (pdf) for teachers to help students write their own eighteenth century correspondence. Read our post explaining just what, exactly, a letter book is. It also helps to read more letters, for which you can turn to modern print editions or this openly accessible online edition of the correspondence of major political figures of the founding era, provided by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission, part of the National Archives.

There are also a number of books on deciphering handwriting as well as the culture of letters and letter-writing in the eighteenth century. Talk to your local reference librarian to find out more.

Community Transcription – Forty-One Months

October 1st, 2014

It has been forty-one months since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We are still receiving regular requests for transcription accounts.

Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for September:
 As of this morning, we have 1,953 users, with approximately 41 new transcribers registered since the last update. Those volunteer transcribers have made 13,332 saves to War Department documents, which is about 96 additional edits since the last update. The average number of edits before a document is saved continues to be three. We have had 205,244 total page views.

Among those who signed up to transcribe in the last month, there were living history practitioners, students in a course on public history, and members of American Indian nations that are present in treaties and other historical documents in our collections. Transcribers include teachers at every level of education, elementary to university. Those who specified an interest or focus mentioned Post Vincennes, southeastern Ohio, Georgia frontier scouts, and the Whiskey Rebellion.

As we continue to move forward with the project, individuals may still register for a transcription account.

Community Transcription – Forty Months

September 3rd, 2014

It has been forty months since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We are still receiving regular requests for transcription accounts

Here is a snapshot of transcription activity in the last month:
As of this morning, we have 1,912 users, with approximately 49 new transcribers signed up since the last update. Those volunteer transcribers have made 13,236 saves to War Department documents, which is about 111 additional edits since the last update. We also know that, on average, each document is edited about three times before it is finished. Moreover, we have had 198,422 total page views.

A wide variety of people have volunteer as transcribers, including independent scholars, genealogists, and military veterans. Transcribers include teachers at every level of education, elementary to university. Those who specified an interest or focus mentioned native peoples, trade goods, North Carolina, and Warren Township, New Jersey. There were also transcribers who were interested in the Papers of the War Department project and the potential use of primary sources in secondary education.

As we continue to move forward with the project, users may still register for a transcription account.

Community Transcription – Thirty-Nine Months

July 31st, 2014

It has been thirty-nine months since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We are still receiving regular requests for transcription accounts

Here is a snapshot of transcription activity in the last month:
As of this morning, we have 1,863 users, with approximately 21 new transcribers signed up since the last update. Those volunteer transcribers have made 13,125 saves to War Department documents, which is about 240 additional edits since the last update. We also know that, on average, each document is edited about three times before it is finished. Moreover, we have had 188,031 total page views.

A wide variety of people have volunteer as transcribers, including independent scholars, genealogists, and military veterans. Transcribers include teachers at every level of education, elementary to university. Those who specified an interest or focus mentioned the Delaware Indians, veterans from Maine, late eighteenth century syntax, military engineering, and the desire to use primary sources in secondary education, among others. Recently transcribed documents include a brief note from Alexander Hamilton to James McHenry and one from McHenry to Governor Sevier regarding the Cherokee Nation. Not yet complete, but nonetheless impressive, is transcriber Filis’ work on a 131 page document from 1791.

As we continue to move forward with the project, users may still register for a transcription account.

Help Complete a Transcription

July 7th, 2014

Judith Sargent Murray (May 1, 1751 – June 9, 1820) was an early American proponent of women’s rights and equality of the sexes. An essayist, playwright, poet, and letter writer, her belief that women were just as smart and capable as men was considered pretty radical stuff in the 1790s .

We have some of her letters because her brother Winthrop was a soldier (he fought under Arthur St. Clair in the disastrous Battle of the Wabash) and later a territorial governor.

Box of Books and Loss of Garden Seed

Safe Conveyance of Box

Forward the Enclosed Speedily

Conducting Myself Through the Vexatious Labyrinth

Location of My Brother’s Books

I Cannot Apologize for these Extra Commissions

Community Transcription – Thirty-Eight Months

July 1st, 2014

It has been thirty-eight months since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription., and we are still receiving regular requests for transcription accounts.

Here is a snapshot of transcription activity in the last month:

As of this morning, we have 1,842 users, with approximately 33 new transcribers signed up since the last update. Those volunteer transcribers have made 12,885 saves to War Department documents, which is about 360 additional edits since the last update. We also know that, on average, each document is edited about three times before it is finished. Moreover, we have had 179,488 total page views.

A wide variety of people have volunteer as transcribers, including undergraduate and graduate students, independent scholars, genealogists, filmmakers, and librarians. Transcribers include teachers at every level of education, elementary to university. Those who specified an interest or focus mentioned topics such as the Ohio frontier, Revolutionary War debt, the Harmar expedition, and the Whiskey Rebellion. A number of transcribers were interested in specific people, including John Graves Simcoe, Abraham M. Mordecai, Amos Stoddard, and John Watts.

As we continue to move forward with the project, users may still register for a transcription account.