Transcriber Interview: Scribe of Poland

March 23rd, 2016

As a part of our celebration of the fifth anniversary of community sourced transcription here at the PWD, we reached out to one of transcribers, Scribe of Poland (SofP), to ask her about her experience transcribing documents for the project. Hailing from northeastern Ohio, Scribe of Poland is an active and prolific transcriber.

PWD: How did you discover the PWD?

SofP: My interest in crowd-sourcing began when I was working on my family tree. To return the favor for data I garnered from FamilySearch, I started indexing and reviewing genealogical data for that group. My curiosity led me to search for other groups who were transcribing historical records and I found PWD.

PWD: What motivated you to volunteer as a transcriber?

SofP: Transcribing is a far better hobby than gaming or watching television. It gives me a chance to employ my skills, and enrich my love of language, history, and civics, and carry out a mission to allow others to access information. When transcribing a document I generally search for other information on the subject matter and learn more about our country’s rich heritage.

PWD: Is there a specific document(s) you transcribed and found particularly interesting or memorable?

SofP: The most memorable is General Washington’s acceptance to become the Reserve Commander of the troops in 1798. McHenry writes on the eve of the acceptance that Washington is probably going to agree with provisions, but, he will be giving up the happiness that he enjoys in the “charming shades” of Mt. Vernon. Washington, now 66, who would die 17 months later, knows that his country needs his leadership and will again choose service to country over all else.

PWD: What is the most rewarding part of transcribing for this project?

SofP: We are providing free, searchable text for documents that were obscure before the advent of the digital age and crowd-sourcing volunteerism. It is also most important that we “translate” this beautiful penmanship into printed form. As our society moves away from teaching cursive script, these documents will appear as hieroglyphics to future generations.

PWD: How has transcribing for the PWD changed your perspective on the Early Republic?

SofP: I think more about the involvement of Native and African Americans in the Early Republic. The Native Americans must have been frightened by the intrusion. Through the Treaties and the writings of James Seagrove, appointed by Washington as an agent to live among the Creek tribes, we learn more of the negotiations for a peaceful resolve between the Native Americans and the settlers. The documents also define the contributions of Native and African Americans patriots. How many people know of the great spy, James Armistead Lafayette, or Crispus Attucks, who was killed during the Boston Tea Party, or the other slaves that fought and worked to create a great Republic, while they were living under oppression? These records will give people a greater perspective of their patriotism and their sacrifice.

PWD: Can you briefly discuss your background with respect to historical transcription?

SofP: I am a retired medical writer and editor. I spent years deciphering the cryptic handwriting of doctors. My vocation trained me for my avocation of transcribing. Additionally, historical transcription and research is in my genes. My great aunt, Elizabeth Bethel, worked for the War Department and one of her duties was to compile the War Departments Collection of Civil War Records. Through our volunteerism, we continue the important mission to document American history, making it readily available for the masses.

If Scribe of Poland’s account of transcribing for the PWD inspired you to transcribe, take a moment to read through our guidelines and sign up to become a transcription associate. You will be doing important work by adding to the historical record, and you never know what you will read!

Celebrate the Five Year Anniversary of Community Transcription!

March 17th, 2016

March 17, 2016

For Immediate Release: Celebrate the Five Year Anniversary of Community Transcription with the Papers of the War Department

Celebrate the five year anniversary of community sourced transcription with the Papers of the War Department 1784-1800 ( An ongoing innovative documentary editing project, the Papers of the War Department is comprised of 0ver 42,000 digitized manuscript documents made freely accessible on the web by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) ( In 2011, RRCHNM embarked on the effort to engage the larger community of citizen historians in the process of transcribing these important documents. By transcribing the digitized manuscripts, users contribute to the collection’s usability and searchability. March 17, 2016 marks five years since the launch of the community transcription project  Papers of the War Department and we are delighted at its success thus far.

After a devastating fire at the United States War Office in 1800, what has been considered the “national archive” of its time was thought lost. The collection was reassembled from scattered fragments found in over 200 diverse repositories before being transferred to the RRCHNM in 2006. These documents are invaluable sources of information on militia and army matters in the Early Republic. The War Department was responsible for frontier diplomacy, Indian affairs, veteran affairs as well as being a considerable commercial goods consumer.

Since inviting members of the community to assist with the transcription effort in 2011, the Papers of the War Department has amassed 2,538 registered users. These users come from varying backgrounds including genealogists, public historians, students and educators from all levels of educational institutions, and members of Native American tribes. With the help from these community transcribers, the Papers of the War Department now has over 1,500 documents transcribed, totaling 6,279 pages. Without the hard work and dedication of our community transcribers, the Papers of the War Department would not have been as successful. We are ecstatic with the contributions the project has received over these first five years and look forward to seeing its continued growth.

The Papers of the War Department was made possible through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media

Since 1994, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) <> at George Mason University <> has used digital media and computer technology to democratize history—to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences, and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past. The Center itself is a democratic, collaborative space where over fifty scholars, technologists, and researchers work together to advance the state of the art. RRCHNM uses digital media and technology to preserve and present history online, transform scholarship across the humanities, and advance historical education and understanding. Each year RRCHNM’s many project websites receive over 20 million visitors, and over a million people rely on its digital tools to teach, learn, and conduct research. Their work has been recognized with major awards and grants from the American Historical Association, National Humanities Center, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Council on Public History, U.S. Department of Education, Library of Congress, Institute of Museum and Library Services, American Council of Learned Societies, and the Mellon, Sloan, Hewlett, Rockefeller, Gould, Delmas, and Kellogg foundations.

Community Transcription – Fifty-Eight Months

March 1st, 2016

February was the fifty-eighth month since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription, and we continue to receive regular requests for transcriber accounts. Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for the month:

Thirty-eight new transcribers signed up last month, and as of February 29, the total number of transcribers was 2,523. These new transcribers come from a variety of backgrounds and included university students, members of the military, and genealogists.

The individuals who signed up to transcribe in February mentioned an interest in people and topics such as John Watts, James White, Henry Sherburne, John Murray, uniforms, music, the Navy, and Maryland.

Transcribed documents include George Washington’s acceptance of appointment as reserve commander of the army, a request for bell tents to store music and arms, the receipt for two music coats, construction of a frigate, delivery of musician supplies, Lincoln’s appointment as commissioner to treat with hostile Indians, and the pardoning of Jobe Harrington.

Our community of transcribers have added 204 transcribed pages to War Department documents, with the total number of saves being 16,944. Overall, we have had 328,226 page views.

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